Jesús Guillén, one of the Willamette Valley's most exciting winemakers, joins us as our "homeless" guest without a tasting room of his own. His breathtaking Pinots reflect his story:
With the idea of learning a little bit of English, Jesús Guillén arrived in Oregon in 2002 with a degree in Computer Systems Engineering from Universidad Autonoma de Chihuahua in hand. Having a passing interest in wine, he began to explore, visiting vineyards and tasting rooms. Sampling many wines helped develop his palate and increased his appreciation for finer examples. After completing two terms of study in English, Jesus had to decide if he would like to stay in the United States with his father and family or return to Mexico.
As he pondered the decision, he happened to taste two of his “epiphany” wines: 1999 Archery Summit Arcus Estate and 1999 Adelsheim Elizabeth’s Reserve. These two wines forged in him a desire to remain in Oregon and pursue a career in wine and attempt to make wines of comparable quality. It was a scary decision at first. He didn’t know anything about winemaking and his English – let alone the language of wine – was not as polished as it would need to be. At the time, the goal seemed almost impossible.
Guillén‘s wine career began as a vineyard worker for Patricia Green Cellars and later for White Rose Estate, alongside his father. The owner of White Rose Estate saw his interest in wine, and offered him a job in the cellar. There he met consulting winemaker Mark Vlossak, who became one of his mentors. By 2004, Jesus had become he cellar master for White Rose. In 2006, an opportunity arose for him to make a wine under his own label. During that hot growing season, White Rose was farming a block from neighboring Vista Hills vineyard that had suffered a severe mole infestation, damaging approximately 1,300 vines. As harvest approached, the owners decided not to harvest the fruit from the vines, just rip them out and replant. Instead, the owner allowed Jesus to vinify the final harvest of those damaged vines.
The wine turned out so well that the owners of Vista Hills offered Jesus an ongoing contract to buy grapes for his own label. His relationship with Vista Hills vineyard continues today.
By the great vintage year of 2008, Jesus became the head winemaker at White Rose Estate. Two of his wines from this his first vintage earned 2 of the top 5 scores from The Wine Advocate. Just one year later, one of Jesus’ 2009 vintage Pinot Noirs attained a 96 point score in The Wine Advocate – one of Oregon’s all time highest scores in that publication.
While continuing as White Rose Estate’s head winemaker, Jesus has been growing Guillen Family Wines. As of 2014, production stood at 460 cases. To the great Vista Hills vineyard in the Dundee Hills, he added new vineyards to his lineup, including Meredith Mitchell in McMinnville, and Flânerie on Ribbon Ridge. He also received fruit from Domingo vineyard, a vineyard named after his grandfather that his father planted at the foot of the Dundee Hills.
Jesus uses old world minimal manipulation techniques to make his wines, including the use of whole cluster fermentation with indigenous yeasts and also sur-lie aging. His is a detail-oriented approach that focuses on making wine that inspires an evocative experience, by achieving a high level of complexity and harmony.