Winemaker Joe Dobbes is happy to once again have purple-stained hands. He’s back with a new winery called Iterum Wines, an estate vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills named Orchard House and a new lease on winemaking life. It also doesn’t hurt that his first Iterum wines are stunning.
In Latin, “iterum” means “again, a second time or afresh.” It is an appropriate name for Dobbes’ new venture. The accomplished winemaker is back in a big way after a hiatus from his ownership duties at Wine By Joe and Dobbes Family Estate in Dundee.
Dobbes’ wine journey began before he could even legally drink in Oregon.
“My dad used to bring red grapes up from California to make his home wines. My formal introduction to wine was jumping into the 50-gallon trash cans to tread the grapes by foot,” Dobbes said.
While still in college, Dobbes helped his parents plant Marquam Hill Vineyards on their Molalla farm in 1982. While Dobbes helped with moral support, he was never part of his family’s winemaking operations. Marquam Hill Vineyards closed in 2008, and the property is now home to Alexeli Vineyard + Winery.
Along with early stints apprenticing and working harvests for wineries in Germany and Burgundy, Dobbes spent 15 years working for Oregon wineries such as Elk Cove Vineyards in Gaston and Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner.
In 2002 Dobbes broke out on his own by opening Wine by Joe and Dobbes Family Estate in Dundee. He would spend the next 15 years building the two brands into nationally recognized powerhouses.
In 2017, ready for a break, Dobbes took a step back from wine production to focus on his burgeoning wine bottling business, Dundee Mobile Bottlers. Dobbes continues to own 50% of Wine by Joe and Dobbes Family Estate in partnership with Bacchus Capital Management.
The break from running a large winemaking operation allowed Dobbes the time to evaluate Willamette Valley wines made by other winemakers and revisit his own wines of yesteryear. The reflection motivated Dobbes to “get small.”
Starting a small “purple hands-on” winery appealed to Dobbes after years of large-scale winemaking.
“Iterum is all about getting back to my roots and being highly focused, and I am right where I want to be. I’m back in the vineyard getting dirty, farming organically and calling on my years of experience and creating,” Dobbes said in a press release.
The key to the Iterum project was Patricia and Joe Dobbes’ acquisition of a specific piece of land located near Salem in 2018. The 21-acre Eola-Amity Hills property in question contained a vineyard started by previous owner Greg Cost. The first six acres of pinot noir were planted in 2000, followed by chardonnay and sauvignon blanc plantings in 2016 and 2021. The vineyard now totals 11.98 acres.
Dobbes was familiar with the quality of the site, having made wine for the Costs and their Cost Vineyard label for a few years. “Purchasing the estate was the realization of a dream because we loved the property and had a long history with it. I had even leased it at one point for Dobbes Family Estate,” Dobbes said.
Iterum makes small-batch wines with estate fruit from Orchard House and a handful of vineyards that Dobbes calls “old friends.” Dobbes said that after all these years, he felt like he still had “the opportunity to make wines which I had never made before with regard to organically grown from the vineyard and made in a less interventional manner.”
I recently tasted three of Iterum’s debut wines: the 2019 Orchard House Vineyard Clone 114 Pinot Noir ($75), 2019 Orchard House Chardonnay ($75) and 2021 “Old Friend” Oak Grove Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc ($50). I may have written the word “zowie” a few times in my notebook.
The chardonnay is fantastic, and the pinot noir is one of the best I’ve had so far from the 2019 vintage. Both will be making appearances at my family’s upcoming holiday dinners. The “old friend,” however, was a big surprise.
Iterum’s sauvignon blanc combines a creamy mouthfeel with bright, crisp acidity. The wine’s fresh aromas and flavors of pineapple, lemon sorbet, honeycomb, chalk dust and fresh-cut grass use tangy telepathy to keep you coming back for another glass.
Dobbes said he was out to prove that Oregon sauvignon blanc could be as excellent as our state’s chardonnay and pinot noir. Based on this “old friend” from Oak Grove, I’m not betting against him.
By appointment only, 5917 Orchard Heights Road N.W., Salem, iterumwines.com or 503-779-8840.
— Michael Alberty writes about wine for The Oregonian/OregonLive. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read more of his coverage, go to oregonlive.com/wine.