In Search of A Story ~ From Sorella to Maysara

This week, we— your faithful Thirsty Kittens— had no plan in mind for what to write about when Friday rolled around. So we did what we typically do when we need good ideas. We trekked to a local retailer and played the game we like to call, “Tell me a story!”

Actually, I was shopping solo on Friday on behalf of the two of us and felt quite lucky when I walked into Sorella Wines in downtown Minneapolis and was steered to Mike for help. I knew I was in good hands when he didn’t bat an eye or think it odd that I was looking for “a red wine with a good story.” In fact, Mike had no shortage of ideas. He acquainted me with so many interesting, family-owned wineries in Washington and Oregon that I walked out with an armful of choices.

Breathless with excitement about all the new wines, I told Kip (aka Dear Darling Spouse) a short vignette about each wine and winery whose bottles I’d brought home. The choice of which to open was not easy but we finally settled on the 2008 “Jamsheed” Pinot Noir from Maysara Winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Moe and Flora Momtazi founded Maysara in 2001. Natives of Iran, the Momtazis left Tehran in 1982 during the turbulent era when Khomeini came to power. We learned from The Prince of Pinot that the couple escaped by motorcycle, with Moe driving and Flora riding on back, pregnant with their first child. Once in the U.S., Moe began a successful civil engineering practice.

The couple, who share a passion for farming, began to dream of producing wine using only holistic, naturopathic practices. Together they built Maysara from the ground up. Today, they run the winery with their three daughters, now grown. Tahmiene Momtazi is winemaker, having learned the craft in wineries in both Oregon and New Zealand. Sister Naseem handles the winery’s sales and marketing, while the youngest, Hanna, though still in college, takes care of hospitality at the winery.

Maysara’s commitment to environmentally friendly farming caught our attention right away. They’ve used sustainable, biodynamic practices ever since they bought their 532-acre property in McMinnville in 1997. Very simply, they believe these practices are not only good for the earth, but good for the quality of their grapes, as well. [Biodynamic farming, for those who are unfamiliar, is organic farming kicked up a notch and is very thoughtfully explained by Moe in an article on Maysara’s website.]

So what about the wine? The Jamsheed Pinot contains grapes from every block of the Momtazi’s vineyard and blends Dijon and Pommard Pinot clones. We adored that the Momtazi’s honored their cultural heritage by naming this wine after legendary Persian King Jamsheed who was said to be able to see his entire kingdom by peering into a full glass of wine. [We wish we had this talent. No wonder he was King.]

We found the Jamsheed to be silky smooth and balanced— an elegant wine with subdued cherry-cranberry flavors on the front and a delightful tartness on the finish. Kip even detected a bit earth in the sip, as well, he said. The 2008 received 90 point ratings from both Robert Parker and Wine Spectator. “Supple, friendly, and easygoing on the palate, it has excellent depth of flavor…and a lengthy finish with no hard edges,” said the Spectator. With Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Rosé and Riesling also in their line-up, we look forward to sampling more of the Momtazi’s wines.

So this week, we toast to the search for stories, which isn’t really a very difficult search at all. Because, as we found, all you have to do is ask. With a single question, we turned up a pretty fascinating tale of a family who left their home country, made a new home in the U.S., and created something lasting and meaningful from their dreams. The point is that every bottle of wine holds at least one great story. And every person you meet has at least one, as well. So on the eve of Thanksgiving and the gatherings of families where there is the luxury of time together, we wish you all good stories and good times together. Cheers! (P.S. Did we mention Pinot Noir goes wonderfully well with turkey? :)

14 replies »

  1. We love the small, family-owned wineries, too. Adore Oregon Pinot Noir but don’t know nearly enough about Willamette Valley yet. So many wonderful wineries, so little time. Cheers!

  2. Great review! I’ll be on the lookout for Maysara Pinots. Hope you guys have a great holiday, and of course, some great wines to boot!


  3. I have had wines from other producers that source the fruit from their vineyard, but I have never had their own wine. What do you think about biodynamic practices? I love the sustainability part, but the mysticism…..

  4. Thanks! We’d love to hear what it’s like in person if you get there. Friends in the Willamette Valley tell us that the Momtazi’s are lovely people. Appreciated your notes on your Chelan trip. Cheers!

  5. Hi TDC, thanks for stopping by! Can’t say we’re experts on biodynamic farming. We appreciated Moe Momtazi’s explanation of it on the Maysara site and have read bits and pieces elsewhere. Mr. Momtazi seems to say that the criticism along the lines you reference is based on misconceptions of the practice. We’d jump at the chance to sit down with some biodynamic winemakers and learn more because they certainly invest more time and money to farm this way. We love that they tread so lightly and respectfully on the earth and, so far, in our tasting of biodynamic wines, we can say the results have been very tasty in the glass.

  6. Hey Lucy, just had a 2005 Pinot Noir from Robert Sinskey that you would’ve enjoyed. It’s Vandal Vineyard from the Los Carnos region and was very nice. See if you can find it. Sheryl Walker

  7. Thanks, Sheryl! We will be on the lookout for Sinskey’s Vandal Vineyard Pinot! Also, when you have a chance, please remind us of the name of the new CA wine region you and Bob have fallen in love with. Cheers!

  8. Hello Thirsty Kitten,

    Hanna here, thanks for the nice review of our wines and practice! I am glad to hear that you enjoyed our wines and if you ever come out our way we would love to tell you more about our practice and taste you on our current lineup! BTW, try a cranberry and cilantro quinoa salad with all your favorite veggies with our Jamsheed Pinot Noir, ITS AMAZING!!!

    Best Regards,
    Hanna Momtazi

  9. Thanks so much for your very nice note, Hanna. We would adore the chance to taste in person at Maysara and sample more of your wines, not to mention to hear more about your family’s amazing story. The cranberry cilantro quinoa salad idea is making my mouth water as I type this. Sounds like a beautiful pairing with the Jamsheed Pinot. We look forward to an Oregon tasting trip sometime in the near future and will certainly stop in while we are there. Cheers!


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