Oregon’s Revitalizing Raptor Ridge

Oregon’s Raptor Ridge and grilled salmon for your spring and summer grilling pleasure.

Fresh Copper River King and Sockeye Salmon from Alaska is one of my favorite foods on the planet– and I love it with pinot noir! It has a super short season; for King it usually arrives in stores between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day and no longer available as fresh from about Father’s Day to Fourth of July and then sockeye is around until August. And when it is in season we enjoy it several times a week — alsmot always with pinot noir!

I first heard about CRS on Memorial Day weekend fourteen years ago in Seattle Washington when the waiter breathlessly said they had it. The price made us wonder why anyone would pay that much — but the table next to us squealed in delight when they learned it was a special that night, and we ogled their plates with the bright red salmon when their dinner arrived.

When we later saw CRS in the grocery store on sale, we bought some and grilled it up. That’s when we discovered for ourselves why everyone is so crazy about it!

CRS is a rich, oily fish, so rich that it does well with some red wines including Washington Merlot and Pinot Noir.

That’s why when Raptor Ridge’s Annie Shull, co-owner and Director of National Sales, Marketing and Distribution, offered us as samples for review of three of their Oregon Pinot Noir, I immediately started thinking about Copper River Salmon, and kept my eye peeled for it so we could write about it during May’s Oregon Wine Month.

Unfortunately, the CRS season only opened a week ago Monday (May 21), the run has been low so far, and it just started picking up today according to reports.

That meant we had to make do with frozen CRS from last season for our Raptor Ridge Pinot Noir dinner — so we marinated it for 30 minutes in a miso ginger sauce which masked that it wasn’t as fresh as I’d hoped for. The marinade also gave it a nice glaze! We also included lox and smoked salmon on our cheese board. Another food that pairs wonderfully with Pinot Noir are mushrooms so we also emphasized that in our menu as well.


  • Cheese Plate:
    Goat Cheese Brie, Mushroom Brie, Aged Sheep milk, Castillo Blue, Cheddar with blueberries, Pate, Smoked Salmon, Lox
  • Quinoa stuffed portobello mushrooms
  • brown and wild rice mix
  • grilled salmon marinated in miso ginger sauce
  • sauted asparagus with mushrooms



2015 – Raptor Ridge – Shea Vineyard -Yamhill – Carlton AVA – 14.1% alcohol SRP $50
2014 – Raptor Ridge Estate Chehalem Mountains – Pinot Noir – 13.8% alcohol SRP $50
2014 – Raptor Ridge – Barrel Select – Willamette Vaalley – 13.8% alcohol SRP $30

Before we get into our tasting notes, let’s take a quick tour of Raptor Ridge.

As you can imagine from the name, the winery is located high above it all on a ridge in the Chehalem Mountains in the northern part of the Willamette Valley only 20 miles southwest of Portland. While they focus on Pinot Noir, Raptor Ridge also makes a gruner veltiner which we wrote about last week (pair it with oysters!) as well as Tempranillo — and a sparkling brut rose as well!

Raptors are birds of prey — and they like to be high above it all to see and hunt. Because of its location, raptors are naturally drawn there — and I’m sure i would too as the Raptor Ridge tasting room offers 180 degree views of the vineyards. Visitors can sign up for a $25 tour and tasting paired with charcuterie and cheese. Tasting alone is $15 per person so this is a great deal– and co-owner Annie is all about pairing food and wine.

Scott Shull founded Raptor Ridge almost 25 years ago to explore his passion for pinot noir. He started making wine from Oregon grapes in 1989, he planted grapes in 2000, and the tasting room opened in 2010. Primarily self-taught, Scott considers himself an “intuitive” winemaker — one who is also informed by classes and years of experimentation. These days he focuses on wine growing on their 18 acre estate vineyard of Pinot Noir named Tuscowallame which is an indigenous word meaning “where the owls dwell.”

Wine making duties have been passed down to Shannon Gustafson who graduated in Food Science/Winery Production from California State Fresno (Cum Laude) in 2003.  She has made wine now also on three continents, including a 10-year stint on California’s Central Coast working for small family wineries.

The lovely, airy tasting room and deck is open daily and doubles as a space for yoga on select Tuesdays as well as meditation classes taught by co-owner Annie Shull. In fact, this Saturday, June 2, a small group of fortunate folk will enjoy a vine side morning of yoga and meditation that concludes with light and nourishing bites paired to Raptor Ridge wines. Annie’s been a practicing meditation for over ten years, and she studies under Mindfulness Northwest’s Tim Burnett. Her soothing voice and this magical space will make for a memorable morning for those who have already registered for this sold out event. We really enjoyed talking with Annie at the Oregon Wine Trail event — I felt like she was a kindred spirit — and I would love to take one of her classes! Subscribe here to find out about similar future events.

Raptor Ridge’s tasting room; photo courtesy of the winery

Raptor Ridge also offers an innovative growler program. To celebrate their LIVE Cerification they developed a Frequent Flyer Growler Program where you can fill and refill your glass Raptor Ridge growlers up to ten times between now and August 31 and receive a $20 credit towards your next purchase. In rotation you’ll find 2017 Barrel Fermented Grüner Veltliner, Rosé and Pinot Gris.

2015 – Raptor Ridge – Shea Vineyard -Yamhill – Carlton – 14.1% alcohol SRP $50
fewer than 500 cases

  • Destem: 100%
  • Cold Soak: 4 days
  • Skin Contact: 18 days
  • Yeast: Commercial strains BM-45, WS
  • Oak: French, 11 months, 33% New

Color: Semi-translucent, bright cherry

Nose: Super peppery, cherry, menthol. While the wine is 14.1%, Rasika pointed out that it didn’t burn her nose hairs and while I got the alcohol, when combined with the cherry fruit, it was balanced.

Palate: Bright acidity is present on the front of the palate with plentiful cherry, rhubarb, and raspberry. The oak is subtle and not overbearing which allows the really nice fruit to shine. This is somewhat light in body. We really enjoyed the nice bright fruit on the front of the palate with lingering strawberry essence on the back of the palate.

Pairing:  Went well and liked the saltiness of our kalamata olive spread on bread, and was also nice with our crab, bacon, cheddar dip..

Then there was the OMG moment of swishing wine, then taking a bite of the mushroom brie with a little of pate on a thinly sliced fresh baguette. Seriously OMG.

We have talked about this in the past. There is nothing like a Pinot and Pate pairing. This wine was actually quite nice to go back to with our meal. The easy drinking appeal of this wine shined even more with the menu.

When we tasted this wine at the Oregon Wine Trail, we found it to be rather heavy and rich compared to the other wines we’d been tasting. But tasting it at home with a fresh palate and with food we were surprised to find out that it is so very graceful and light on its feet.

According to the winery, “Raptor Ridge has been sourcing fruit from Dick and Dierdre Shea since the 1996 vintage, making us one of the longest running producers of Shea Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley. The vineyard is located north of highway 240, between the town of Yamhill and the Chehalem river valley. In the early days, we sourced own-rooted Pommard and Wadenswil from the original 1989 plantings; these days, after working with several parcels, we’ve settled on Block 11, providing us 115 and 777 clones of Pinot Noir. Shea is a perennially warm site, giving surprising richness and texture in cool years, and muscle and opulence in warmer ones. Shea’s fruit profile is highly typical of the larger Yamhill-Carlton AVA – brambly red and black berry fruit, with a loamy complexity and notes of licorice.”


2014 – Raptor Ridge Estate Chehalem Mountains – Pinot Noir – 13.8% alcohol

color – very translucent, ruby, plum

nose – Rhurbarb, and strawberry with forest floor. “I almost feel like a rebel,” said Rasika,  “a knight when I am accepting the strength of the wine.”

palate – The front of the palate there is a very earthy quality of slate and saline.

pairing – The lox went really well with this wine according to Rasika, she also really liked it with aged sheep milk cheese. I liked the brie and pate combo with this wine better than the brie alone with this wine. Sue liked the salinity that the smoked salmon enhanced the viscous qualities in the wine. I could see this wine with roast lemon, rosemary, chicken or even a duck with a bright fruit glaze. This wine went beautifully with the salmon.

This wine seemed to Sue to be the spiciest of the three. It loved the salmon and the rice. the stuffed portobellos were amazing, especially with the marccona almond crunch. It did not tame, but enhanced the arugula salad. It was crazy how well it went with the asparagus, even the more stemmey, less succulent part of the asparagus works well with this wine. This is an amazing pair, with the asparagus it has a lot of tang.

Like so many others, this wine is amazing with certain food pairings.

2014 – Raptor Ridge – Barrel Select – Willamette Valley – 13.8% alcohol SRP $30
Vineyard Selections: 25% Estate, 17% Goodrich, 10% Meredith Mitchell, 10% Crawford Beck; balance from select other vineyards. 4700 cases 

Color – translucent, ruby – gold

Nose – spicy cinnamon, violets and forest floor, Gwen “violet pastilles, it is at the top, at the bottom is the forest floor”

Palate – this wine has a lot of minerality in this wine, there is a bit of oak, very earthy, dirty, mushroom,

Pairing – Just smelling this wine made me want to bring on the pate! It brings out the brininess of the salmon. Beautiful with our mushroom brie, the minerality of the wine cuts through the creaminess of the brie, and the mushroom in the brie, brings out the earthiness of the wine. This was a perfect combo. Res made us mix the mushroom brie with our smoked salmon, Sue and I were skeptical, but it was amazing. So, Sue continued by stating that if you had a smoked salmon, mushroom, cream sauce on fettuccini, it would be over the top. working through all of our wonderful cheeses, pate; it kept us imagining dishes that would go well with this wine.The crab, bacon, cheese dip was also a hit.  This wine even handled our Castillo blue — which surprised me so much I told Sue that I had to sit down for this, because you would never think that this was going to work. The wine tames the cheese and the cheese brings out the fruit in the wine. It is a brilliant combination; it leaves you lingering with pleasure.

This is a beautiful wine, and most probably our favorite of the evening because it is so interesting, versatile with food, and an amazing value. Hard to believe it is only $30.

Rasika found this to be the stand out wine of the evening. It paired with so many things and was pleasing to almost all of the things we paired them with this. As someone who doesn’t usually spend a lot of money on wine, she could see why someone would spend so much money on wine. It is an experience.

According to the winery, “Our Barrel Select Pinot noir is our most diverse and complex blend of 100 percent Pinot noir from our Estate Vineyard, and multiple vineyard sites throughout the Willamette Valley.   Our winemaking team “tunes” and “tweaks” various trial blends comprised of percentage-wise mixes from over 200 barrels hand-picked from our cellar before arriving at each years decision for the Barrel Select blend.  Our intent with this wine is to craft a modestly-priced, excellent Pinot noir that is expressive of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.”

  • Harvest dates:  September 16-October 11
  • Brix: average 23.9 (average)
  • pH: average 3.66 (average)
  • TA: average 3.95 (average)
  • Destem: 99%
  • Cold Soak: 4 days
  • Skin Contact: 15 days
  • Yeast: Commercial Strains BRL 97, BGY 71-B, WS, BM-45
  • French oak, 25% new oak, barrel-aged 9 months

One thought on “Oregon’s Revitalizing Raptor Ridge

  1. Agree with you 100% about the Copper River salmon Gwen, hard to find better salmon. And a very interesting article! I tasted the Raptor Ridge Pinot Gris but none of their Pinot Noir. My tasting list for the next trip to the US is getting long!


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