Poppie and James met during the harvest of 1997 while working together in the cellar at a custom crush house in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. Shortly after, they had fallen madly in love, married, and began plans for a new endeavor: a vineyard of their own.
They relocated their home to the Columbia River Gorge, lured by the stark wildness of the mountains and whitewater rivers. Here, passion for Rhône and sparkling wines led them to explore the emerging potential of vineyards in Washington State.
Inspired by the early efforts of Rhône and Burgundy varietals sampled from Washington vineyards, Syncline’s first vintage in 1999 consisted of 76 cases of Celilo Vineyard Pinot Noir from vines planted in 1973. In the following years, production was gradually increased to include Syrah and Grenache from Eastern Washington. At the same time, they began working with winegrowers to plant Mourvedre, Cinsault, and Carignan.
They purchased land in the Columbia Gorge AVA ideal for planting vines in 2003 and began building and cultivating what is now 17 acres of producing estate vineyards and a boutique-sized winemaking facility.
They have built a strong reputation as a creative, limited production estate winery with a determined vision of creating world-class wines while maintaining biodynamic estate vineyards, green building practices, and innovative winemaking. Production is kept under 5,000 cases annually to ensure intimacy with each barrel and vine.
From the first conception of the winery, we have believed in the uniqueness and potential of a sustainable, small family farm in the Columbia River Gorge. We have built a winery and planted vineyards based on the simple designs and demands of a wine-growing family with the intention behind every decision that our farm will become a multi-generation estate.
We have slowly grown from three barriques of wine to our current size of just under two hundred barriques, which has allowed us to remain autonomous throughout the lifetime of our business.
In addition to our estate vineyards, we work with a select group of winegrower partners who collaborate to deliver expressive and exemplary grapes. As community members, we believe in providing meaningful employment that is healthy and rewarding.
First and foremost is the vineyard. Great vineyards create outstanding wine when thoughtfully farmed with well-chosen varieties. We have established relationships with a select group of winegrowers who have allowed us to become intimately involved in their vineyard management. In addition, we have introduced new rootstocks to Washington state to best match sites with varietals.
For over 20 years, we have gathered data and nurtured a diverse native plant cover crop as we have expanded our estate vineyards. We continue to push new viticultural limits, planting one of the rockiest sites in the cooler Columbia Gorge AVA. All of our estate fruit is farmed with Biodynamic practices. We use organic compost additions and neighborhood wood chips to manage the soil for optimal water retention, fungal activity, and carbon capture, with dry farming potential for our estate vineyards. In addition, the native plants create extended biological activity, feeding soil microorganisms throughout the year.
All grapes are handpicked, brought to the winery, and partially destemmed, with a large portion kept as whole clusters. Fermentation in French concrete fermenter tanks and large upright oak vats occurs for all of our finest lots of grapes. Native or ‘wild’ yeast fermentations are cultivated. Each lot is either foot trod (pigeage à pied), manually punched-down, or pumped-over.
Free-run juice is kept separate for our top bottlings. Gently pressed and free-run juices are separately matured in older French oak, oak vats, or concrete tanks. We have sworn off manipulating the wines and have chosen to blend instead of fining. Wines are bottled either before the next harvest or the spring following. Our focus is on each vineyard’s unique expression of place.
Following seven years of world travel, university study in New York City and Amsterdam, Poppie moved to Oregon from Provincetown, MA in 1997 to become involved in the farming and production of wine. She went on to work harvests at a custom crush winery, as well as vineyard labor at Benton Lane, and practiced Biodynamic farming at Wintergreen Farm.
Originally from the Midwest, James graduated with a degree in Microbiology and Organic Chemistry before moving to Oregon to pursue winemaking. First hired as a cellar master in 1994, James worked his way to Winemaker of Custom Crush production, where he was exposed to a wide variety of winemaking styles; from Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and Walla Walla Merlot to Northwest Sparkling wine.
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