A Marriage of Sun and Earth: Maysara Winery

by Becky Garrison

Despite Maysara Winery’s size as one of the largest indoor and outdoor venues in Oregon’s Willamette Valley wine country, this stone and wood winery gives off an intimate, almost sacred ethos. A Persian rug hanging in the center of the room speaks to Moe Momtazi’s spiritual connection to the fruits of his labor.

Since escaping Iran after the hostage crisis on a motorcycle with his pregnant wife Flora, he’s transformed an abandoned wheat farm near McMinnville, Oregon, into a 532-acre biodynamic paradise replete with livestock, birds, butterflies, worms and beneficial insects that keep his farm in balance with nature.

Adopting the natural winemaking practices he learned from his father and grandfather, Momtazi planted the first 13 acres of vines in 1998. Over the years, Momtazi and his team (including his wife and three grown daughters) grew the vineyard to about 260 planted acres through the use of biodynamic principles, such as the use of teas and tinctures sprayed in conjunction with the moon and harvest cycles.

When Western winemakers talk about wine, they reference terms like tannins, flavor, body and nose. Moe Momtazi views the nature of wine from the dual perspective of a modern-day conservationist and an ancient Zoroastrian philosopher. While pouring a glass of pinot noir, he opines about how Persians refer to wine as a living spirit that sprung from the marriage of the sun and the earth.

“The grapevines that can go down several hundred feet into the soil make this plant a prisoner of the earth that depends on the soil for substance,” Momtazi says. “But a grapevine is also a dreamer of the sky with its vines reaching toward heaven and its flowers opening around the summer solstice.”

Most of the vineyard is planted with pinot noir grapes (86 percent) with small amounts of pinot gris, pinot blanc and riesling. Currently, he produces about 10,000 cases of biodynamic wine sold under the Maysara Winery label (Maysara is the Persian word for “wine house”), including an NV Sparkling Pinot Noir Rosé, described as “a stunning sparkling rose made with 100 percent pinot noir grapes balanced with high tension acidity and minerality. The fine bubbles keep the aromatics tight with a clean finish of dried cranberries, pomegranate and wild strawberries.”

Currently, Momtazi sells pinot noir grapes to around 21 other wineries, with founder and winemaker Mark Vlossak from St. Innocent Winery in Jefferson, Oregon, having the distinction of making the first Momtazi Vineyard designated pinot noir that sold nationally. Other winemakers producing award-winning wines from Momtazi’s grapes include Corollary Wines, Day Wines, Dobbes Family Estate, Fullerton Wines, Nicholas-Jay Estate and Spoiled Dog Winery.

When asked why they prefer Momtazi’s grapes, Jay Boberg, co-founder of Nicolas-Jay Estate says, “Our Momtazi grapes create wines with structure and concentrated red fruits—wines that have tension and balance. Now nearing 25 years old, these vines are starting to really create wines of distinction.”

Sarah Pearson, Chief Executive Officer of Dobbes Family Estates, concurs, adding, “Beyond any of the fruit qualities though, we relish the opportunity to work with such a dedicated grower and a delightful human being.”

Currently, reservations are required for wine tastings. Consider pairing your tasting by pre-ordering a locally curated charcuterie board. Reservations can be made at maysara.com. Plan your visit to McMinnville at visitmcminnville.com