John Thomas is a bona de legend in the Willamette Valley. Everyone has heard him, but few people have met him, and fewer still have tasted his wine which, because of the size of his vineyard (just over 1 hectare, farmed like a garden), is made in microscopic quantities. Mr A and I had seen his wines on restaurants’ lists for upwards of $500 a bottle; intrigued we asked around to see if anyone knew him. Doug Tunnell chuckled when we first mentioned his name and said he knew him but didn’t have contact information. It was Mike Etzel who once again came up trumps for us, introducing us to John Thomas’s girlfriend, Amy, and she promised to get John to contact us…if he was interested in meeting.
A few weeks later an email landed in our in-box from John; he had no wine for sale but, if that didn’t bother us, we could come and taste
On our 2018 trip we drove up the gravel track – marked only with an empty bottle of Thomas’s wine on a gatepost – and into another world entirely. John’s 3 acres of vines are in a single block next to a hand-built winery of cottage-size proportions. Behind the walls is a tiny barrel cellar housing the previous vintage in cask and a couple of tanks for fermentation. There are no other vineyards nearby as, while this of cially is the Dundee Hills AVA, John’s estate is low lying and away from the main area of volcanic soil where most of the Dundee vineyards sit. John’s terroir is volcanic too but alluvial, washed down from the original volcanic deposit making this an extraordinarily singular site. On our first visit, we tasted John’s magical 2016 from cask – a wine of blue-fruited brilliance and uncommon re nement…we were smitten. We stayed in touch over the months, asking John if he could find us some wine until, finally, bingo! Now, don’t get excited; quantities are barely worth mentioning but the wine is sublime.