There are as many reasons to stock up on Oregon wines as there are bottles to collect. In addition to the obvious\u2014a global reputation for expressive wines\u2014the state\u2019s had a string of outstanding vintages starting in 2014. This has made the wines a hot commodity for both collectors with expansive cellars and those just getting started.\r\n\r\nConversations with some of the state\u2019s top vintners further solidify why these wines have such strong appeal to collectors. Ahead, meet the producers whose bottles are worth the hunt\u2014because isn\u2019t that part of the fun?\r\nTony Soter, Soter Vineyards\r\nAiming for Grand Cru-level Greatness\r\nWinemaker Tony Soter\u2019s r\u00e9sum\u00e9 spans four decades and includes consulting work at Napa stalwarts like Stag\u2019s Leap Wine Cellars, Spring Mountain Vineyard and Spottswoode. His own California brand, Etude, rose to fame for its Pinot Noirs, which led Soter and his wife, Michelle, to trade Napa for Oregon.\r\n\r\nThey started to plant the Mineral Springs Ranch vineyard in 2002 and launched Soter Vineyards in Oregon two years later. It focused their commitment to environmental and biodynamic farming, as well as sharpened Soter\u2019s vision for world-class Pinot Noir.\r\n\r\nUsing the classic Burgundies as a reference point, he says that he set out \u201cto make wine as from this property as convincingly great as any Grand Cru Burgundy. That\u2019s our ambition: to ferret out the great New World sites. I believe we have some here in Oregon. It\u2019s not a replication of Burgundy, but a wine you can pick out in a crowd.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nRarity or scarcity often motivates people to collect, but Soter says it\u2019s up to the winery and the wines to deliver something that makes the hunt worthwhile. There should be, he says, \u201ca demonstrated track record of being more than they ever were as young wines with the passing of time.\u201d\r\n\r\nSoter is convinced that Oregon Pinot Noirs are more ageworthy than those from California.\r\n\r\n\u201cI think it has to do with a degree of ripeness,\u201d he says. \u201cWhen grapes get too much sun, they lose their aromatics. They become more like raisins than grapes. But when just on the cusp of being underripe, some turn into wines with beautiful bouquets. Sometimes, the shoulder vintages, those in the shadow of the great vintages, are the ones that develop.\u201d\r\n\r\nIn pursuit of those goals, and as a gift to those who search for something rare, Soter\u2019s Origin Series (white label) wines are an ongoing experiment in the study of terroir. They avoid overripe grapes and heavy-handed oak treatments, and each is focused on a single appellation.\r\n\r\nThe \u201clay-down collectors\u2019 wine,\u201d says Soter, is the Mineral Springs White Label Pinot Noir. Farmed biodynamically on the estate vineyard, it\u2019s a dark, powerful wine, packed densely with black fruits, graphite and complex earth flavors.\r\n\r\n\r\nJim Anderson, Patricia Green Cellars\r\nAn Affordable Bonanza of Pinot Noirs\r\n\u201cThis Is Not A Corporate Winery\u2014Real People, Real Wines\u201d reads a T-shirt on sale in the tasting room of Patricia Green Cellars. Make no mistake, this producer cranks out a lot of wines: The winery released 27 different Pinot Noir bottlings just in 2017. But it\u2019s neither quantity nor quality alone that inspires Jim Anderson, the cofounder and winemaker.\r\n\r\n\u201cPatty and I weren\u2019t born with silver spoons in our mouths,\u201d he says, referring to cofounder Patty Green, who died in late 2017. \u201cWe had to build it up the hard way. In Oregon, there\u2019s a lot of respect for that. We wanted people who wanted the wines to be able to afford the wines.\u201d\r\n\r\nAnderson proudly points to the Balcombe Vineyard Pinot Noir, $36 when first released and increased just one dollar to $37 over 18 vintages.\r\n\r\nThe sheer number of bottlings, many limited to just a few hundred cases, means that tasting room visitors and wine club members have a wide range of options.\r\n\r\n\u201cThere\u2019s only a handful of Burgundy n\u00e9gociants who make more wine than we do,\u201d says Anderson. \u201cWe have ultraspecial wines, but also great individual single-vineyard wines under $40, and even less if you\u2019re in the wine club.\u201d\r\n\r\nThough a few selections cost $75 and up, there are plenty of less expensive choices made with the same care, and club members can pick and choose what to buy. Anderson operates what he calls a \u201cfirst right of refusal [wine] club,\u201d meaning that members get first crack at bottles like the Bonshaw Block, whose price remained steady at $60 after the 2016 vintage became the first Oregon Pinot Noir to be awarded 100 points by Wine Enthusiast. Club wines that don\u2019t sell out are offered to folks on the waiting list as a reward for their patience.\r\n\r\nThe winery has built a loyal following. Some fans go back to the 1990s, when Patty and Jim worked together at Torii Mor Winery.\r\n\r\n\u201cPeople were really drawn to her,\u201d says Anderson with fondness. \u201cShe was one of the first full-time women winemakers in Oregon, who transitioned from working at a winery to owning her own start-up.\u201d\r\n\r\nBut as real as the people and wines have always been, the business itself is a bit piecemeal in nature. \u201cNo other winery would look at our business model and think \u2018That\u2019s a really good idea!\u2019 \u201d he says with a chuckle.\r\n\r\n\r\nClare Carver and Brian Marcy, Big Table Farm\r\nArt on the Label and in the Bottle\r\nYou won\u2019t be the first person drawn to the wines of Big Table Farm when you set your eyes on the illustrated, letterpress labels that depict life on their property.\r\n\r\nClare Carver, who designs the labels and manages the 70-acre farm, says painting was her first passion, closely followed by the \u201cgreat joy\u201d of working with her team of draft horses.\r\n\r\nHer husband, Winemaker Brian Marcy, creates a selection of Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs here that have quickly earned cult status.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe labels are more collectible than the wines in some ways,\u201d says Marcy. \u201cThey are so unique, and the response that we get from people\u2014they may not know anything about wine, but they love the labels.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cThey reflect what\u2019s happening on the farm, and that vintage,\u201d says Carver. \u201cJust as Brian\u2019s wines reflect, optimize and illustrate the vintage. So there\u2019s a really nice connection with the art being an expression of the vintage just like the wine\u2026 That\u2019s why you collect things, because you want to remember something special. You want to hold on to a unique thing that happened at that moment.\u201d\r\n\r\nCarver and Marcy work closely together. Marcy has the final say on label design, and Carver joins in on the blending of the wines. \u201cWe affirm each other in our creative process,\u201d she says.\r\n\r\nThe couple moved to Oregon from the Napa Valley, where Marcy worked and apprenticed at Turley Wine Cellars, Neyers Vineyards and Marcassin, among others.\r\n\r\nStarting with their first Oregon vintage in 2006, they\u2019ve built a loyal following, not only for the wines, but also the farm\u2019s produce, pasture-raised pigs, eggs and honey. Along with her award-winning labels, Carver\u2019s oil paintings have been exhibited throughout the San Francisco area, the Northwest and Australia. Many are available for purchase on her website. And those fabulous labels? They\u2019re free on every bottle.\r\n\r\n\r\nChristophe Baron, Cayuse Vineyards\r\nAgeworthy Wines Leaving No Stone Unturned\r\nCayuse Vineyards checks off every box that might appeal to collectors: high scores, unique wines, scarcity and supreme ageability. That last claim has been somewhat controversial, due to the acidity and alcohol content of Christophe Baron\u2019s Syrahs, Cabernets and Tempranillos. Sit down and taste a selection of back vintages with Baron, Cayuse\u2019s founder and self-described vigneron, and Elizabeth Bourcier, his assistant vigneronne, however, and it\u2019s clear these wines are built to age. Even those that are nearly two decades old haven\u2019t reached their limits.\r\n\r\nBaron, his unruly, chopped hair showing streaks of steel gray, becomes even more animated than usual when asked about the importance of making ageworthy wines.\r\n\r\n\u201cAgeability has always been crucial, paramount to the project from the start,\u201d he says. \u201cThis being said, when you start from scratch, the first vineyard in the stones [planted in March 1997], you are dealing with young vines.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe potential is there, but you still need to open up all the gates of terroir one by one by one, experimenting, focusing on the style of wine you want to create. It\u2019s the legacy of each project. You have to have wines that are better with age.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThough Cayuse wines have about an eight-year waiting list, they\u2019re available on the secondary market, and there are several newer projects that are worth the effort to find.\r\n\r\nBaron\u2019s Horsepower wines, for instance, come from several high-density vineyards worked with draft horses. While his newest project, Hors Cat\u00e9gorie, continues Baron\u2019s exploration of off-the-radar Eastern Oregon sites. This one comes on the north fork of the Walla Walla River, with slopes up to 60 degrees that must be harvested with a winch.\r\n\r\nMeanwhile, Bourcier\u2019s pet project, La Rata, is another venture to look out for. It\u2019s inspired by a lunchtime bottle of Clos Erasmus and modeled after Priorat. And the No Girls wines, which she also oversees, are built from a newer vineyard, La Paciencia, with terroir described as \u201csandpaper\u201d soils.\r\n\r\nAll of the wines are grown and vinified in Oregon and carry the Walla Walla appellation.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe talk about the wines losing baby fat with time,\u201d says Bourcier. \u201cIt\u2019s not just about what is the best wine right now, it\u2019s how will we build this wine now for the future. It\u2019s about managing tannin, oak treatment, picking decisions. We\u2019re in a hot region here, making wines that are balanced and fresh, but have enough tannins to age.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\nDick and Deirdre Shea, Shea Wine Cellars\r\nEstate Wines from an Iconic Vineyard\r\nSince its first harvest in 1989, Shea Vineyard may well have the most sought-after grapes in Oregon, even if Dick Shea would never make that claim. But among the 21 wineries fortunate enough to obtain this fruit, almost all feature the name Shea prominently on their labels, some since the mid-1990s.\r\n\r\nSavvy collectors understand that these grapes have been identified as exceptional by numerous vintners. So why not turn to the estate winery to find the most collectible gems?\r\n\r\nFounded in 1996 by Dick and his wife, Deirdre, Shea Wine Cellars now uses about 25% of Shea Vineyard\u2019s production for proprietary wines.\r\n\r\n\u201cOur fundamental philosophy is to maximize the expression of Shea fruit,\u201d says Dick, who was also the original winemaker. \u201cIt seems to want to get really ripe, lush and opulent here, so we run with that in a way that brings layers of flavors and complexity. These marine-sediment soils are austere and drain incredibly fast.\r\n\r\n\u201cIn Dundee, they love soils that retain the water. Here we love it that they don\u2019t. We ripen early, often beat the rains. We have different clones, different elevations, different age vines and different rootstock. So there are five or six unique spots within the vineyard, which makes a big difference in the finished wine.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nShea knows them all, and the estate winery offers an interesting range of single-block and single-clone wines, as well as a reserve called Homer.\r\n\r\nCollectors can assemble single-vintage flights of Shea Vineyard wines from many different producers. It illustrates how the fruit can serve different styles and winemaking techniques.\r\n\r\nThough the winery doesn\u2019t have a club, son Peter Shea says that mailing list members get first access to special wines like Neli, a four-barrel blend (neli is the Estonian word for \u201cfour\u201d). Deirdre points to some other one-off specials like the 2008 Last Hurrah, made from the last of the self-rooted vines just before they succumbed to phylloxera.\r\n\r\nShea celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, which just might inspire another mailing list special in the early 2020s.