Monday, July 7, 2014

Talk Wine with Me: Rebecca Pittock-Shouldis of Ghost Hill Cellars

In this on-going interview series, I will introduce you to a different Oregon winemaker in the hopes that as you learn more about them, you'll also be interested in learning more about their wines. You might discover how and why they came to make wine, you may gain a better understanding of their palate and how it influences the wines they craft, you might get some great new ideas for what and where to eat, what to drink, or you might get a glimpse of the future. Whatever you take away, I hope includes a deeper appreciation for the notion that behind every bottle, behind every brand, behind every decorated or undecorated label, stands a person with a unique vision and a personality all their own. Let's step back and discover how those characteristics intertwine with and become that memorable wine in your glass.

Q. What was the first wine you ever drank?
A. This horrible little bottle of something red on the British Airways flight from San Francisco to France (via Heathrow) as I departed for my Junior year of High School as an exchange student. They asked if we wanted wine with our meal… so of course we all said yes…it was terrible! Thank goodness my host father in Arcachon, Gilbert, insisted on changing my mind about wine!

Q. What was the first wine you ever enjoyed?
A. I think it was a gradual process. Gilbert would put a little of red Bordeaux in my glass at dinner and then water it down. Each night he put a little more wine and a little less water until I was able to enjoy a small glass of wine with the family at the evening meal. It was important to him that I was able to understand and appreciate the role that wine played in their culture and their lives. I think the first night I had a glass of wine with no water was a life changing moment; even though I didn’t realize it at the time and wouldn’t see the impact of it until more than a decade later. Today I am so grateful for that experience and how it helped lead me to where I am today.

Q. Tell me about your aha wine moment. Either when you realized you wanted to make wine, or when you gained an understanding of the beauty and complexity wine offers.
A. See above… Other than that… maybe the night at a Rotary International dinner in a winery outside of Bordeaux when I realized that the wine I was drinking and that everyone was floored by was older than I was!  I wish I could remember what the wine was. But I do know that it was from 1973 and it was 1992 when we were drinking it

Q. What's your favorite part about being a winemaker?
A. Creating something that makes people happy. 

Q. What's your harvest kickoff soundtrack?
A. Changes every year… but I love to blast classical violin in the winery when there alone late at night.  The acoustics at Scott Paul Wines where I make the wines for Ghost Hill and Gypsy Dancer (and my own) are incredible. It is really a sanctuary; Kelley Fox (of Scott Paul Wines) and I often refer to it as "the Cathedral." 

Q. What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
A. Ghost Hill Cellars Pinot Noir Blanc or WillaKenzie Estate Pinot Blanc and fresh oysters either from OR or WA – favorites are the little Kumomotos or Shigokus from Washington or extra smalls from Netarts Bay in Oregon.

Q. You're celebrating the end of a busy week, what's your go-to drink?
A. BUBBLES!  Even better if it’s a rosé champagne. One of my favorite go-to is the Rosé Champagne from Marc Chauvet imported by Scott Paul Imports.

Q. Full fridge or empty fridge?
A. It fluctuates a lot. This time of year it is pretty full with the great stuff coming out of my garden!  J  During harvest… you might find condiments. LOL

Q. Is there a wine you hate to love?
A. Barolo – Because great ones are so darn expensive!

Q. Is there a wine you love to hate?
A.  California Cabs – There is always an exception to the rule… but high alcohol, over extracted and over-oaked Cabernet Sauvignon is not something I enjoy at all; that and over-oaked Chardonnay are two things I can’t stand.

Q. What's your guilty pleasure?
A.  Scotch – neat, and the older the better.

Q. What are you working on right now that excites you?
A. Finally releasing my own brand! I'll be releasing a Syrah from the North Willamette Valley and a Viognier from the Applegate Valley. The brand is “A La Main” (pronounced “a la man” – which means “to be done by hand”). It should be available for purchase in July.

Q. Favorite wine - variety, region or brand.
A. This is tough! It depends on SO many factors and variables. I have always loved the Alliette Pinot Noir from Willakenzie, and that started way BEFORE Thibaud.  ;)  I have a strong adoration for the lovely Rosés from the south of France and am inspired by true cool climate Syrah, such as the incredible ones from the N. Rhone Valley. In truth, my favorite wine is the one I am drinking at any given moment with family and friends that will forever be cherished for both the memories it will leave imprinted on my heart and then brought back each time that wine is enjoyed again.

Ghost Hill Cellars, in the Yamhill Carlton AVA is owned by the Bayliss-Bower family. 15 acres of Pinot Noir is planted on Willakenzie soil to produce in what is my opinion to be some of the region's finest and most elegant estate wines. In 2005, Rebecca Pittock-Shouldis, winemaker for Ghost Hill Cellars, Gypsy Dancer and now her own label A La Main, left a career as an F-15 aviation technician with the National Guard, to pursue a her passion for making wine. According to Rebecca, "Pinot Noir should be listened to  and gently encouraged to reveal its beautiful, haunting and ethereal flavors." A busy mother and winemaker, read more about Rebecca here in 1859 Magazine.