Robert Morus was a pilot for Delta Airlines. He’d decided to open a winery, but it had to be within a 90-mile radius of Portland International Airport.
“There was no vineyard here at the time,” he told Gorge Magazine, speaking of the hillside property on Hood River’s Westside. “Just land and a lot of welcoming by the wine community, which was smaller then.”
Fast forward 30 years – Morus is founder and owner of Phelps Creek Vineyards, producing some of the most prestigious and expensive wines in the world.
He started with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, two Burgundian varietals that the region was already known for producing.
Things picked up for the winery shortly thereafter, namely with two major additions to their team: the first was Irineo Magana, who’s been with the winery now for 20 years and has grown the business sevenfold in his time; the second was Alexandrine Roy, a fourth-generation French winemaker who was previously a contributing consultant and now is the director of winemaking.
Since it’s inception in 1989, the vineyard has taken over two different operations and thus expanded several new varieties, including Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Viognier.
They’re excelling, too. Phelps Creek continues to garner recognition both locally and internationally for their winemaking. Their Pinot Noir won the inaugural Columbia Gorge Wine Competition, Magana won Vineyard Excellence Award in 2016 from the Oregon Wine Board, and Roy will be on the platform with four other world-famous vignerons at the 2017 International Pinot Noir Celebration Grand Seminar.
Visiting the vineyard is an absolute treat. The tasting room sits on Hood River Golf and Country Club, so you have views of both the back nine as well as the surrounding area. Tours can be arranged from May to October that walk the visitor through the actual rows of vines, something rather unique to a vineyard tour.
Morus again told Gorge that visitors come away with “a deeper appreciation of intimacy of winemaking”, and most comment that they’d “never been so close to the wine”.
Phelps Creek is one player in the surging wine community of the Columbia River Gorge. It’s a relatively new community altogether, as winemakers didn’t start planting wine grapes until the 1970s. Now, there are over 30 wineries and 45+ vineyards along the Columbia River.
At USA River Cruises, we celebrate these communities by offering tours specific to sampling the finest wines in the region. Phelps Creek is just one of many for our wine itinerary, and certainly one of our traveler’s favorite spots.
For more information about wineries in the region, contact one of our agents today.