“Our land is our life and our life is our wine:” Biodynamic Cooper Mountain Pinot Noir Paired with Duck #WinePW #OregonWineMonth


Located just 10 miles west of downtown Portland, Cooper Mountain Vineyards is located in the far northern reaches of Oregon’s Willamette Valley on Cooper Mountain next to the vines that Dr. Robert Gross and his wife Corinne planted in 1978; Corinne was from the area, and they wanted their three children to grow up there too.

“Our land is our life and our life is our wine.” Cooper Mountain’s Motto

After 10 years of growing grapes, they decided to make their own wine by turning an old horse barn into a winery. By the early 1990s, they evolved to grow organically (certified by Oregon Tilth in 1995) and biodynamically (certified by Demeter in 1999).

Back then there were only a handful of wineries and a few vineyards; today there are over 500 wineries, with many of them making world class Pinot noir and as of 2015, more than half of them (52%)  are certified sustainably farmed with a significant number of them biodynamically farmed (about 2500 acres in 2015 with more added just this year from Troon and possibly others). See below for links to discussions of many of these biodynamic wineries)

Why biodynamic? The proof is in the glass they say:

  • wines are more lively and balanced
  • the wines are less subject to flaw such as oxidation, microbiological attack, etc
  • they express the notion of terroir: authentication with our style and profile
  • they are healthier

What makes a wine biodynamic? According to Cooper Mountain Vineyards, a biodynamic wine is:

  • made from Biodynamic Grapes
  • made with native yeast and bacteria for fermentation
  • uses a maximum 100 ppm Total SO2 added from the primary fermentation to the bottle
  • does not allow acidification, chaptalization, or corrective additions

Cooper Mountain  also practices carbon mitigation because “the threat of climate change through global warming could drastically alter the landscape of grape growing in the Willamette Valley.” Pinot noir requires a cool climate and global warming threatens these Oregon vineyards. They see it as their “duty to lead the agricultural business to neutrality.”

Cooper Mountain follows these seven rules:

  1. manage the vines in such a way that they will live up 90 years
  2. do not irrigate the vines (dry farm)
  3. seek to prevent problems, not repress them
  4. see disease as having a domino effect
  5. follow the law of the minimum
  6. use homeopathic remedies
  7. test and taste the wines to hear what they are telling them in terms of management

In other words, a biodynamic vineyard:

  • DOES NOT apply synthetic and outside fertilizer sources
  • DOES NOT apply synthetic pesticides and fungicides
  • DOES apply fertilization from their own compost which received biodynamic preparation
  • DOES use herbal preparations in order to create a natural balance in the vineyard
  • DOES maintain an ecosystem within and around the vineyard in order to develop the use of predators and biological life in the soil
  • DOES spray in accordance to the solar and lunar calendar

Today founder Bob Gross and daughter Barbara run the business and manage their 185.6 biodynamic acres as Cooper Mountain Vineyards celebrates over 40 years in the business in what is now known as the Chehalem Mountains AVA.

  • Cheese plate with duck pate, double cream brie, roasted truffle almonds, duck liver
  • Strawberries over fresh greens with fresh mozzarella, Great Basin Bakery nuts, and champagne vinegarette.
  • Roast duck with roasted organic russets, sweet potatoes, carrots, and broccoli
2017 – Cooper Mountain Vineyards – Life (no sulfites added) – 13.8% alcohol – SRP $40
sample for my review consideration
Although sulfites occur naturally in the fermentation process and are commonly added to help preserve a wine, the National Organic Program mandates that organic wine contain less than 10ppm of sulfites in the final product. Like most wineries, Cooper Mountain adds minimal sulfites to all of the wines except this one where they have been working to add additional sulfites “by increasing the level of antioxidants that occur naturally in the grapes. The natural antioxidants essentially become the preservative in the wine and makes the reliance on sulfite additions obsolete. Recent analysis have demonstrated the higher level of antioxidants in our current ‘Life’ Pinot Noir.”
Can I get a lipstick in this color?
Color: Fuchsia, bright, very effusive and full of life; I want a shirt or lipstick in this color! Judy pointed out that it looks like a candied apple. When swirled around in the glass, we see pretty variations of pink.
It smells like Oregon…
Nose: Rhubarb, strawberry, golden delicious apple, earthen mushroom, duff. It reminded Judy and I of the duff from the floor of a late spring redwood and Douglas fir forest.
Sue: “Oh my God this wine is so delicious!”
Palate:  Cranberry, rhubarb, fresh wild strawberry, plus I got a little huckleberry; the acidity of fresh bright fruit. Mouthwatering and wakes up the palate. Finishes clean. Young fresh bright wine. This wine is created to enjoy young. Love this wine, there is life to it and it could be layed down under the right circumstances (correct cellaring). There is a bit of Dr. Pepper and cherry cola on the finish.
There is more going on than just fresh fruit, but the fresh fruit is so fun in the wine.
Pairing: Good with the strawberry salad, but not perfect, it liked the strawberries, but the fresh mozzarella made it too earthy and flat. The wine liked the potatoes with the duck fat. The duck legs for me were just phenomenal — I gnawed on them both while tasting this wine! The fat of the duck mellows out the high fruit and acid in the wine.  Last year we paired this wine as well as their Chardonnay with salmon… While this wine was a sample, I have a bottle of the 2016 in my cellar, and even though it does not have added sulfites, I am not worried, and while I am looking forward to drinking it, I am in no rush– it should be fine for several years.
2016 – Cooper Mountain Vineyards – Pinot Noir – Mountain Terroir Meadowlark – Willamette Valley – Oregon, Biodynamic – 13.9% – SRP $60
sample for my review 
Planted in 1982, Meadowlark Vineyard Pinot noir grows on the southern slope of Cooper Mountain.
  • Color: Blood red, cherry, platinum rim,
  • Nose: Earthen funk, river moss, flinty, strawberry, rhubarb; Judy got red flame table grapes.
  • Palate: Rhubarb, strawberry and bright red cherry, super fresh with nice acidity. There is more earth on the nose than on the palate, but those earthy truffle notes are still present. You could definitely lay this wine down for a few years which would mellow the tannins.
  • Pairing: We love pate and brie together with a nice Pinot Noir, but with this wine, it doesn’t want the brie, it just wants the duck pate with all the different spices. This wine responds to truffle flavors so well. The truffle marcona almonds are so fabulous with the wine that it was one of the evening’s best pairs! Good with the salad, it does not bring out the brightness of the strawberries, but likes the fresh mozzarella. The rich fattiness of the duck SO enhances the flavors of the wine, bringing out nice fruit and a beautiful mouth feel.

Cooper Mountain also grows and makes Chardonnay as well as other white wines; they even have one that’s under $20 that was featured in the New York Times in 2017 where Eric Asimov described the organic and biodynamic Cooper Mountain Vineyards Willamette Valley Cooper Hill Pinot Noir 2015  as elegant, with floral and herbal notes, a meatier character, and “a deliciously savory edge.”

Looking for more Oregon biodynamic wines? Here’s a list:


Columbia Gorge

Columbia Gorge AVA

• Analemma Wines

Willamette Valley 

Dundee Hills AVA

• Winderlea

Eola-Amity Hills AVA

• Brooks

• Keeler Estate Vineyard

Ribbon Ridge AVA

• Brick House Vineyards

Willamette Valley AVA

• Cooper Mountain Vineyards (also Chehalem)

 Johan Vineyards

• King Estate

• Montinore Estate

Southern Oregon

Applegate Valley AVA

• Cowhorn

Rogue Valley AVA

• Upper Five Vineyard

NEW: add Troon

The month of May is Oregon Wine Month, and the Wine Pairing Weekend group of wine writers is celebrating Oregon wine by focusing on biodynamic wines, particularly those of the Willamette Valley. Below is a list of the dishes and wine pairings that are in store this month for Wine Pairing Weekend’s Biodynamic Wines of Oregon event. These recipes will go live before this Saturday’s May 11th Twitter chat at 8am PT. Follow #winepw as we discuss the behind the scenes of our recipe pairings and share thoughts on these amazing wines.


Cheers to Oregon Wine Month! Stay tuned for more Oregon Wine Adventures here on Wine Predator!

28 thoughts on ““Our land is our life and our life is our wine:” Biodynamic Cooper Mountain Pinot Noir Paired with Duck #WinePW #OregonWineMonth

  1. I’m going to have to keep an eye out for this wine and, as always, I am drooling all over my keyboard from your photos and descriptions of the pairings.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Pork Loin, Mushrooms, and Fiddlehead Ferns Meet Biodynamic Pinot Noir from Bergström Wines (#WinePW) – The Swirling Dervish

  3. Pingback: Biodynamic Willamette Valley with Brick House and Harissa Chicken #WinePW | foodwineclick

  4. I love your tasting comments and yes we should be able to get a lipstick in that shade. So glad you enjoyed the wines and wow what a spread!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great summary of the biodynamic farming rules! Love the tasting notes and pairing recommendations you wrote for the Cooper Mountain Vineyards 2017 Life Pinot and the 2016 Pinot. Also pairing Pinots with duck is spot-on!


  6. Interesting how both pinots paired so differently to the same foods. Just shows how unique pairing must be to the individual wine. Really like the truffled Marcona almond and roast duck suggestions!


  7. Pingback: Alaskan Salmon with Herbed Ricotta and Oregon Pinot Noir #WinePW - Always Ravenous

  8. Duck fat roasted potatoes might be the perfect dish for any wine! (Well, in my opinion, anyway.) You and Sue always manage to come up with a stunning variety of pairings, all of which are creatively delicious. Cheers to keeping it fresh and lively!


  9. I almost had my hands on that Life Pinot but someone else got it and bought it before me! I look forward to trying it in the future. I love the idea of these wines with duck!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A thorough, informative and fun read Gwen. I loved the Cooper Mountain Wines. Wish I had know the TR was just 10 miles from Downtown Portland. I definitely would have stopped by last weekend! Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise…next time!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh my gosh! Yes so close and yet not close enough! I know the feeling — we drove by it several times but as I was on a press trip, I couldn’t say — hey wait!! We drove by Johan also and it was all I could do to not jump out of the van! I was only able to get to Montinore on a side trip because someone else who had rented a car wanted to go there because they have some unusual Italian varietals and I was able to tag along! I’m going to get to Oregon again this summer– so much to see and do!

      Liked by 1 person

Please Comment! I'd love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s