Native Flora: Blowin’ in the Wind of Change in the Willamette Valley

By Published On: October 5, 2023

Credit: Mick Hangland-Skill

Raised in an Italian household about 25 miles outside of the iconic Napa Valley, Scott Flora’s love for wine coursed through his veins from the start.  He has been a wine collector and consumer his entire adult life starting at the age of 18.  When life led him up to the Willamette Valley, a transformation began to take root.  It was the spark of inspiration that eventually led him down the path of establishing a vineyard and crafting wines of distinct character. The name “Native Flora” is derived from Scott’s last name, Flora. Having endured “Flora and Fauna” jokes his whole life, he opted to have a little fun back.

Also playing a pivotal role is Denise Flora. Not only Scott’s wife, but also his business partner and co-owner of Native Flora. She did not grow up around wine, but Denise developed a passion for it later in life. She is involved in many aspects of the winery, from the vineyard management to the hospitality. She enjoys sharing their place and their wines with visitors, who are treated to a private and personalized experience.

The winery is located in the Dundee Hills of the Willamette Valley.  The vineyard was highly controversial when planted in 2005.  The winery settled on a high altitude, north-facing site, which was unconventional at the time.  The thought was vineyards should be south-facing so that the sun’s heat could ripen the grapes. However, from their perspective, sugar production is a function of photosynthesis, which is powered by light, not heat. At their latitude, they get more sunlight in the summer facing north. It is completely counterintuitive but mathematically sound. The vineyard is complicated and presents numerous farming challenges but produces a wide spectrum of what Pinot Noir can be.

Scott’s vision transcends the mere creation of exceptional wines. As you delve deeper into his ethos, the concept of “sustainability” takes on a richer and more profound meeting. He’s not content with mere sustainability; instead, his guiding principle is “improvability.” This entails a relentless pursuit of improvement, year after year, not just the quality of his wines, but in the entire ecosystem that surrounds them.  Scott envisions his farm as a single interconnected organism where every element plays a pivotal role.  Take, for instance, the vineyard, which not only produces exquisite grapes, but also serves as a source of geothermal energy for the entire estate.  Beneath the vineyard’s surface lie 10,000 feet of geothermal piping, harnessing the Earth’s natural heat and cold to power the heating and cooling systems of their buildings, with no forced air conditioning in sight.  In return, the farm’s buildings act as a monumental rainwater harvesters, preserving the rain’s bounty for later use throughout the property. This approach limits their reliance on groundwater, reserving it exclusively for human consumption. For Scott, it is an ever evolving commitment to enhancing their environment, their vineyard and ultimately, the quality of their wines.

Denise and Scott Flora. Credit: Janine Soltman

Undoubtedly, the Willamette Valley has witnessed a profound transformation over the past two decades, a shift that is impossible to ignore.  Climate change has cast a formidable shadow, causing temperatures to soar and the land to grow increasingly parched.  Scott measures these changes through various lenses. Whether it is the alarming surge in days surpassing 90 degrees Fahrenheit, prolonged periods devoid of precipitation, or the subtle alterations in winter daytime temperatures.  Every metric underscores the undeniable truth: the Pacific Northwest’s climate is evolving, and it is becoming notably drier especially during the summer months.  In navigating the new landscape, the strategic advantage of the north-facing site becomes further evident.  

In Scott’s quest for experimentation and the cultivation of less conventional grape varieties not commonly found in the Willamette Valley. In 2005, they strategically planted extensive rows of Syrah and Malbec, essentially serving as their “canaries in a coal mine” to gauge how these varieties would fare in the evolving local climate. It was not until 2012 that these rows began to yield intriguing changes. They consistently bore fruit, ripened earlier, and developed captivating flavor profiles.  By 2015, Native Flora had crafted its inaugural batch of “PMS”, a playful response to GSM blends, composed of Pinot Noir, Malbec and Syrah, hence the acronym. This blend has become a fan favorite among their wine club members balancing the fine line between both adventure and delight.  Malbec has thrived remarkably well at their site, outperforming even the Syrah, contrary to expectations.  In 2019, they decided to expand their horizons further by introducing Nebbiolo and Chenin Blanc.

They also make a Pinot Gouge, a unique grape variety with origins tied to Burgundy’s Henri Gouges.  In 1936, a Pinot Noir vine in the La Perriere Vineyard underwent a rare mutation, changing from black to white.  Henry Gouges propagated this grape, leading to its presence in the Native Flora in the estate vineyard today.  Oregon got its own Pinot Gouges in a clandestine manner in the late 1980s.  After an initial planting and removal due to dissatisfaction, these grapes found new life when a vineyard owner saved cuttings from the original planting.  Now thriving in the Dundee Hills, they produce the world’s only “Pinot Gouges” wine, known for its unique guava and passionfruit characteristics.

Credit: Mick Hangland-Skill

Growing up in a family where wine brought friends and family together, Scott Flora cherishes the joy it brings. Their hospitality approach is deeply-rooted in this ethos, and they refuse to let go of the sense of delight and irreverence that wine should invoke.  At the “Dundee Hills Wine Sanctum”, the folks at Native Flora offer a truly intimate and educational experience for wine enthusiasts. This is a sanctuary away from the outside world, where privacy and exclusivity reign. They have always operated by appointment, ensuring that every visit becomes an immersion into the world of wine. As for the future of Native Flora, they dare to dream big.  They respect and appreciate the land Native Flora stewards, finding joy in the little things– the wines they create, and those with whom they share their life’s work with.

The wines featured in the Wine Recommendations section were provided by the winery for the purpose of review. The selection and tasting of these wines were independently conducted. No compensation or incentives were provided for inclusion in the story.  As always, the top priority is to provide the readers with informative reporting.

Wine Recommendations

2018 “The Heretic” North Face Pinot Noir-notes of raspberry, black cherry intermingle with the subtle intrigue of exotic spices. Embracing  a deeper, more full-bodied profile, yet it does so with a grace that maintains perfect balance, leaving behind a lingering finish.

2018 “PMS” Red Wine- a blend of Pinot Noir, Malbec, and Syrah takes shape. It unfolds on the palate with the notes of cherry and raspberry, followed by a gentle crescendo of black pepper, and a subtle backdrop of creamy vanilla.

 2020 “Ruby Primo” Red Wine- a deeply textured and dense Rosé. Its vivacious character showcases with the brightness of ripe strawberries and crisp apples. This wine, excellently structured, presented itself as a truly unique and splendid expression of the winemaker’s artistry.

About the Author: Joe Campbell

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Located out of the Sierra Foothills of California, Joe Campbell provides color commentary as well as insight within the wine industry both from the lifestyle consumer and business segments of the industry. He can be reached via email at : .