Marcus Goodfellow: Smart all over
It takes about, oh, 20 seconds of listening to Marcus Goodfellow to realize that this is one whip-smart dude. It’s not too long after that that I tumbled to how wise the Matello winemaker is. Wise, as in:
• “The vineyards I work with are all owner-operated. I want it to not just be what I want. I distinctly choose independent-minded growers. They may not be the smartest people about how grapes work, but they are the smartest people about how their grapes work.”
• On why he makes 15 wines a year: “Part of this is the idea that wines don’t just spring up fully grown. The best way to learn is to make different wines every year..
• “There are two kinds of winemakers. The ranchers are basically trying to create a prize bull and working on every little aspect — colors, tannins, everything. The wildlife photographer walks out with a camera and says, ‘let’s see what goes by.’ It’s not my universe, it’s the universe.”
Happily, Goodfellow does not take himself too seriously. He has been known to write haiku on the back of labels (as a tribute to growers), and his winery bears the name of the Italian word for “little fool.
Even more happily, Goodfellow’s wines are as thought-provoking (and often as yummy-sound-provoking) as the man crafting them. He’s got a masterful touch with whites, from viognier to chardonnay to pinot gris, his Fool’s Journey is about as beautifully northern Rhone-ish as U.S. syrah gets (and a steal at $33), and of course he has a pretty good idea what to do with Oregon’s signature grape, pinot noir.
And he’s still learning. Goodfellow has a few strong beliefs: in avoiding irrigation, in maximum time on the vine for physiological ripeness, in whole-cluster fermentation, in native yeasts (“Every two to three years I will inoculate, maybe just to see why I hate it”). But he hates dogma as much as he loves working with farmers. “The best thing about my job is talking to the growers. ”
Some of his greatest lessons came in, of all places, cocktail bars, where he concocted drinks for years. “I definitely was vocationally trained,” he said, “but all the years of bartending really helped train my wine palate. If you figure out elegance in cocktails, that really goes a long way.”
Still, perhaps his favorite lesson came from the wine world, some advice a renowned Burgundian gave to his son. “I like what Rene Lafon (left) said to Dominique: “˜Sometimes you have to have the courage to do nothing.’ “
• Matello Willamette Valley Pinot Gris: vibrant, tingly, lots of lift.
• Matello Bishop’s Creek Clover Pinot Gris: big nose but light at mid-palate, gorgeous fruit and minerality.
• Matello Richard’s Cuvee Chardonnay: ripe fruit but rippin’ acidity, lush mouth-feel with tension.
• Matello Deux Vert Vineyard Viognier: classic apricot, plenty of texture and depth.
• Matello Whistling Ridge Vineyard White (left): lovely, layered fruit, citrus then pear, rich finish.
• Matello “Caprice” White: pleasant but not profound, easy-drinking.
• Matello Willamette Valley “Hommage” Pinot Noir: tobacco, brambly, not as cherry cola-ish as most Willamette pinots, rustic and rich.
• Matello Winter’s Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir: riper, hint of smoke, softens out, nice stuffing.
• Matello Fool’s Journey (83 Syrah/17 Viognier): wild herb, black and white pepper, earth/fruit combo nailed, emdless.