Don't be alarmed if you encounter a pre-schooler swirling his sippy cup like it's a fine pinot noir - you may be in the presence of a future winemaker. Alex Fullerton's teachers may have been startled by his precocious milk swirling, but his wine-loving parents knew that he was simply emulating their actions. Today, a grown-up Alex is the winemaker for his family's boutique winery, Fullerton Wines, in Oregon's Willamette Valley.
Founded in 2012, Fullerton Wines is truly a family affair that celebrates the beauty of wine and honors their northern European heritage. Eric, the patriarch of the family is of Danish descent and Susanne, the matriarch, is from Sweden. The family's journeys through Old World wine regions such as Bordeaux, Champagne, and Burgundy had a profound impact on Alex and he officially started his career in winemaking as a cellar hand in Oregon for Penner-Ash Wine Cellars and Bergström Wines. Currently finishing his viticulture and enology degree at Oregon State University, Alex is also getting plenty of hands-on experience in the family business. "Chardonnay is my love. Pinot is my other love," said Eric, and the Fullerton portfolio beautifully showcases these varietals.
I recently had the pleasure of tasting several wines in the Fullerton Wines portfolio with Eric and Alex over a dinner of modern Scandinavian cuisine at Aska restaurant (two Michelin stars) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. But you don't have to indulge in haute cuisine to enjoy Fullerton Wines - their unpretentious elegance pairs just as beautifully with home cooked meals.
Three Otters Chardonnay 2014 ($20)
Drawing inspiration from the three otters that have rested prominently on the Fullerton family crest since the 13th century (and as a tattoo on winemaker Alex's upper-arm), Fullerton's Three Otters wines are fun and fruit-forward. Produced with grapes from Northern Willamette Valley, this vibrant and crisp Chardonnay dances across the palate with fresh flavors of green apple, citrus, and a hint of herbs.
Five FACES Pinot Noir 2013 ($33)
Displaying impressive finesse and texture, this elegant Pinot Noir balances flavors of fresh cherry and strawberry with a thread of earthiness that adds depth. Vibrant acidity and soft tannins add additional complexity to this superb sip. FACES is an acronym for the five Fullerton family members (Filip, Alex, Caroline, Eric, and Susanne).
Croft Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 ($45)
Taking their love of Pinot Noir to the next level, Fullerton also produces several single-vineyard selections. My favorite of the evening was this silky, intense, juicy, and peppery sip from the Croft Vineyard. A beautifully balanced and supple wine with an approachable complexity, Croft is rich and refreshing with layers of flavor and lively acidity.
Momtazi Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 ($60)
Momtazi is no meek little Pinot Noir. Like an opera diva, Momtazi boldly hits all the notes and is impossible to ignore. It is often said that Pinot Noir is unsurpassed in its ability to express terroir and the Momtazi Vineyard has imprinted its essence on these grapes and imbued them with astounding complexity. Rich flavors of Persian spices, black truffle, licorice, and green olive interact beautifully with this Pinot Noir's intense red berry and currant flavors.
Meet the Fullerton family - Filip, Susanne, Eric, Alex, and Caroline.
image courtesy of Fullerton Wines
Not even 30-years-old, Alex Fullerton brings impressive maturity and passion to his winemaking. Alex's talent combined with the experience and support of his family are a powerful combination. I look forward to following the Fullerton family's wine adventures for many years to come!