We learned the story of the their humble beginnings and how Moe and his wife Flora’s journey truly defied the odds beyond any winery story we’ve heard to date.
They fled their native Iran on motorcycles during the revolutionary period of the early 1980s seeking political asylum in the United States. As they outran Iranian authorities they initially reached Madrid, Spain; Flora 8 months pregnant with their eldest daughter Tahmiene. That daughter is now the winemaker at Maysara since 2007. A mother herself to two young children, Tahmiene Momtazi’s journey in both wine and parenthood has now come full circle.
“It was just my mom, my dad and I when we came to the United States, so I pretty much started with them with nothing.” They initially moved to Texas, then Georgia, and after years of building a successful business in engineering and manufacturing, Moe had a strong intuition that the pacific northwest would see a construction boom as more people migrated to the west coast.
That intuition paid off and in 1996 he purchased a property in Amity and started clearing it. But when he saw the property that is now home to Maysara winery, he sold the Amity land to purchase it in 1997, planting its first 13 acres in 1998.
A year later, Tahmiene was still in middle school, headed to high school when Moe planted 100 more acres. She graduated high school in 2000 with a plan to go to local Linfield University focusing on math and science. A terrific background for working in a winery, but not the career she had initially intended to pursue. It was her advisor at Linfield who strongly suggested that she consider the wine industry given her aptitude for science and the family business.
She agreed to work a harvest at Maysara in the lab and that’s where she fell in love with winemaking. She transferred from Linfield to Oregon State University where she graduated with a degree in Beer Master & Winemaking.
Together Tahmiene and Moe decided on a 5-year plan before she was to take the reigns as winemaker. That 5 years was designed for her to gain experience in different regions and see what other wineries were doing. After working a harvest at Kim Crawford in New Zealand, she was returning to the US to do another harvest in California when Moe asked her to come home.
Things had changed and with it so did the plan. The winemaker her father wanted to hire during that 5-year period explained to Moe that it didn’t make sense for him to accept the position when Tahmiene would be returning in a couple of years to take the helm. Moe took that feedback to heart and offered her the position at the not so ripe old age of 24. “I had to grow up a lot quicker than a lot of others. I really wanted to stick with the plan because of course I was freaking out a little, but after talking with my mom and sisters and really thinking about it, I finally accepted…and then he [Moe] took 2 weeks to confirm it to give me a taste of my own medicine!”.
Everyone knows that working with family comes with its own set of challenges so just how would the father/daughter relationship work in the real world?
“He told me what he wanted for the winery and we had to merge our ideas together because he’s my father and I’m his daughter. But in the vineyard, he’s the farmer, I’m the producer and we have that nice relationship in the sense of…I can understand him with what he’s trying to say to me not because he’s the farmer, but because he’s my dad, I know what urgency is and the verbal tone that is set in that way. So, I think I have a better relationship in that sense being raised by him.”
Where Moe & Tahmiene are in complete lock and step is to make a true expression of Pinot Noir.
“I’m going to respect what the fruit is and I hate the idea that some people think Pinot is supposed to be a big grape variety where it’s not a big grape variety. It’s actually lower than Gamay. It’s a light, delicate, fragile, finicky, fruit to play with so maybe the advantage was that I was lucky to grow up on the estate to see the fruit with the other winemakers and what they did and thinking ‘oh I don’t like that style’ or tasting other people that used [Momtazi fruit], and saying ‘oh what did you do’ and figuring out what we would like.”
She doesn’t punch down her wines at all except when using whole clusters, and she does pump overs and pulse airs two times a day, always being careful given the fruit’s fragility. Tahmiene has great respect for the work done in the vineyards and feels her main job is to feature the vineyard team’s hard work.
“Each vintage tells you a story, and what we want is to showcase what the acidity is, tannins and alcohol. I always think if you get those 3 right, then you have a balanced wine…[Pinot Noir] is supposed to be light and delicate and you can taste the fruit and a little bit of the earth, and the acidity needs to be there.”
Tahmiene has indeed ‘grown up quickly’, and as she prepares for her 17th harvest, her desire to challenge herself as a winemaker is stronger than ever. “Every year I try to do something totally different and unique. I don’t want to fall into the norm.”
The most recent example is a wine she barreled in 2021 that she didn’t top, then threw in some river rocks from the property (washed clean of course). It’s something she read about that made her curious to see what it might look like given the terroir of their land. That wine is still in its 3 barrels and will be removed this month (June 2023).
She’s also made a Pinot Gris using a red wine treatment. It consisted of almost 2 tons the first year and was a big hit easily selling out. And, in 2011, she made a 100% Pinot Gris in concrete much to the initial chagrin of her father, until he tasted the result. She continues to make it using 2 concrete vats.
As we learned with Moe last year on the viticultural side, Biodynamic practices are at the very heart of everything the Momtazi family does. Both the vineyards AND the winery are Demeter certified, and while many people are somewhat familiar with biodynamic farming, the standards for biodynamic winemaking is less clear.
“I’m very heated and passionate about this because…there are 2 standards right now in the making of the wine; you can say ‘made with biodynamic grapes’ and the consumer just assumes that they made it biodynamically too, but they’re just saying the fruit was done biodynamically. Then when it comes into the production port, they can do whatever they want, and they’re not being monitored.”
At Maysara, they’re making the wines biodynamically which means no added commercial yeast, no chaptalization (no added sugar), no changing of the sugar levels, or changing acidity levels.
“Really, we’re not doing anything. We’re making the raw product make itself. So biodynamic wine, that term, is totally natural. And I would like to say ‘raw’ but then there are a whole set of ‘raw’ standards.”
Biodynamic farming principles aim to create a symbiotic relationship between the land and its ecosystem, and, in the case of Maysara Winery, that connection is deeper than most. It seems beyond felicitous that the winemaker just happens to be someone that grew up on the land so meticulously tended by her family for more than a quarter of a century. The result is a lasting legacy of consistently great wines that are among the very best being produced in Oregon.
2022 Maysara Pinot Gris
Raised entirely in stainless steel, this is a very refreshing Pinot Gris with medium+ acidity, good body and classic notes of green apple, pear and hints of grapefruit. The aroma is pretty and shows hints of white flower along with the fruit.
2022 Maysara Pinot Blanc
Notes of apple, lime and hints of orchard fruit come across in a very approachable way with this wine. Pinot Blanc can sometimes suffer from being a tad “simple” but there is plenty going on with this wine. Medium body and acid provides a smooth texture. The finish is long and mineral infused.
2015 Maysara Jamsheed Pinot Noir
The 2015 Jamsheed is full of black cherry and plum flavours that pick up additional complexity from subtle notes of baking spices and black pepper. A bit of swirling plum notes join the mix. Terrific mouthfeel that shows power and elegance together.
Excellent (USD $32 at the winery-particularly good value for this quality level)
2013 Maysara Jamsheed Pinot Noir
Tasting this back vintage alongside the current release (2015) allowed us to see not only how the Maysara wines develop, but also the respective vintage characteristics. 2013 was a cooler vintage and this shows in the cranberry/cherry profile of the wine. There is a lovely earthiness to the wine that reveals the vineyard. The finish is long showing definition and minerals. Wonderfully complex!
2015 Maysara Cyrus Pinot Noir
Cyrus would have to be the most seductive of the Maysara line up. Soft, beautifully textured, very approachable with rounded corners and no hard edges. Cherry flavours intermingle with wet stones, plum notes and hints of spice. This has a supple texture that is instantly inviting. But of course this is Maysara, so further development in the cellar will no doubt take place, if you can manage to keep your hands off it!
Excellent+ (USD $45 at the winery)
2015 Maysara Asha Pinot Noir
Wonderfully complex, this year’s Asha is another wine that wants to be at your dinner table! This wine has it all: balance, complexity, depth of flavour and a finish that goes on and on. Moderately tannic with good acidity this wine shows sophistication and breed. Cherry, raspberry and hints of plum go well with the fresh forest notes. Delicious!
Excellent+ (USD $58 at the winery)
2007 Maysara Delara Pinot Noir
This library wine is from the cooler and somewhat controversial 2007 vintage. The vintage received poor reviews for many wines that showed tart and underripe characteristics. But in the hands of skilled winemakers, and with the benefit of time, this structure allowed the wines to age gracefully permitting the fruit to develop and to integrate the structural components. Lovely in its elegance, this wine has medium body, medium+ tannin and medium+ acid. On point with today’s preference for elegant wines.
15765 SW Muddy Valley Rd
McMinnville, OR 97128
T: (503) 843-1234