Born in Racine, Wisc., and raised in Idaho, Pennsylvania and Illinois, winemaker and winegrower Chris Berg didn’t always know he wanted to make wine. In fact, when he graduated from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, with a bachelor’s in English, he wasn’t sure what his future held, as far as a career. Meanwhile his parents, Chuck and Dian Berg, had decided to relocate to Oregon from Illinois with the purchase of a manufacturing company in Tualatin, Ore. Chris soon followed and helped his parents at the plant, as well as the other reason for the big move: planting a small vineyard.
In 1999, the Bergs planted seven acres of mostly Pinot Noir on the 20-acre property near Yamhill in the Yamhill-Carlton District of the Willamette Valley. Chuck and Dian built a small house on the vineyard, and Chris lived in Portland with his wife, Hilary, also a Jayhawk. The manufacturing business closed its doors in 2000, and the Bergs found themselves full-time winery folk. In 2001, Chuck and Dian moved to the sunny locale of Wickenburg, Ariz., to be near Dian’s parents. Chris and Hilary were then given the opportunity to move to the vineyard from Portland. In 2002, the Bergs picked their first harvest of a whopping three tons, which were made into 72 cases of Pinot Noir.
Today, Roots produces approximately 3,800 cases annually. Wines include the flagship estate Pinot Noir, as well as several single vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs, sourced mostly from neighboring vineyards in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Other wines include an estate Pinot Gris, Melon de Bourgogne, Viognier, Syrah and a Méthode Traditionnelle sparkling named after their son, Theo. All these wines are made in small lots and handcrafted using indigenous yeasts. Roots’ reserve Pinot Noir label, Racine, honors the town in which Chris was born. (The name means “root” in French).
In homage to one of Chris’ favorite artists, Roots’ second label, Klee (named after Paul Klee), makes up the largest portion of the case production with 2,000 cases made annually. The artwork is their own adaptation of a Klee painting. Roots’ other second label, Sheboygandy — a play on words combining Sheboygan (another Wisconsin town) and Burgundy, the ultimate Pinot Noir region. Both Klee and Sheboygandy are made from premium Pinot Noir fruit.
Vintage notes: The 2014 vintage in Oregon may be remembered as the vintage of a lifetime. From bud break through harvest, growers and winemakers experienced an almost ideal growing season, delivering a record amount of exceptional, balanced fruit. Root’s own estate and its family of growers were no exception. The growing season, and ultimately harvest, was an average of two weeks ahead of schedule. With mostly dry and warmer-than-normal growing conditions throughout the spring and continuing through summer, the 2014 vintage broke the previous record for heat accumulation set in 2006. Chris was able to harvest in almost pristine conditions with no signs of disease and minimal fear of pest or bird effects.
Farming/winemaking practices: organic. Indigenous yeasts only. The wines are not fined (except the whites, with bentonite) and are vegan.