It has been raining cats and dogs and more cats in the AVA for the past few weeks. Good news if you compare it to the ice storm and blizzard that we had in January, and the snow storm in December; bad news if you don’t like puddles in your driveway and lakes in your front yard. We were tempted to stay inside until, oh, mid-March, but then we heard that Rebecca Moore of Monks Gate Vineyard & Winery was up to her usual Valentine’s Day tricks, so we braved the tempest and went to visit.
As Rebecca’s loyal customers know, besides making fine Pinot Noir, Riesling and Rosé from her estate-grown fruit, Rebecca also makes one heck of an excellent brownie, once a year, for Valentine’s Day. These brownies are so good that she packages them up, a dozen to a box, pairs them with a case of Pinot Noir and ships them off all over the country. Sometimes, if the weather is too cold to safely ship the wine, her customers call and ask her to just send the brownies. They’ll hold off on the wine. Although the tasting room usually sits out the winter and doesn’t open for regular visiting hours until the spring, an exception is made for Valentine’s Day, when customers come for the first Rosé of the season…and brownies. Decorative gift boxes are prepared with a bottle of ’13 or ’14 Pinot Noir and four brownies, and they go fast.
As we can personally attest, these are some brownies. The secret, Rebecca revealed, is that she soaks dried cherries in Pinot for a solid week, purees them, and then swirls them into a triple-chocolate (and highly proprietary) brownie recipe. “This does not happen overnight,” she says proudly.
Nor did the winery, for that matter. Her parents, Ron and Linda Moore, purchased the property in 1998. They moved up from Napa, but weren’t in the wine business there – Ron was a cargo pilot who flew massive C-130 airplanes and Linda was a software consultant in the Bay Area. They were from ranching families in Colorado, and the rolling hills of Yamhill-Carlton reminded them of Gunnison, where Rebecca grew up.
It took two and a half years to clear the hillside property, removing some 35,000 trees, with massive burn-offs of the stumps, as well as blackberries and everything else a forest offers. Twenty acres were planted in 2000, mostly in Pinot Noir, with a little Riesling, and the label was launched with the third leaf in 2003. The Monks Gate is an actual passage on the property that monks from the Trappist Abbey, across Abbey Road, use on their meditative walks.
Shortly afterwards, Rebecca was feeling a severe burnout from her years of working as a litigator in the Bay Area, and living and working at a little country winery held enormous appeal. She joined her parents, took classes in the wine program at Chemeketa Community College, pruned the vines and assisted with the making of the wines, and when her parents were ready to retire, she was primed to take over the business.
Brownies and all. The secret to making Pinot Noir brownies? “Never cook with a Pinot Noir that you wouldn’t drink,” she offers. “Always start with a decent bottle of wine.”
And, we would add, be ready for a crush of visitors when the brownies come out of the oven and are ready to go. Brownies and wine are a winning combination at Monks Gate.