April 2024 - McKinlay Winery Feature

April 2024 - McKinlay Winery Feature

April 2024

Willamette Valley

Winery Spotlight


McKinlay & Jacob Martin


This month we are excited to spotlight a single family winery for our wine club. The McKinlay winery is one of the last remaining true ‘hidden gems’ of the Willamette Valley. Founded in the late 80’s, the winery has had all of the opportunities to become a behemoth, however has intentionally eschewed growth in an effort to remain in-touch with their land and themselves. The Kinne family’s humble ideals and refreshingly nonconformist attitude has kept them on a path towards honesty and authenticity rather than growth and profit. We appreciate that and are immensely honored to be able to showcase their wines this month. Below is their family history, as told by their son Jacob Martin Kinne when we toured the property and tasted the wines in late March.


The McKinlay story begins in the late 1970’s. Matt Kinne and his future wife Holly were attending University of Oregon together. They both dropped out mid-way through their studies. After a while, Holly moved home to Stockton, CA and Matt, head over heels, had no choice but to follow her down there. As they dated they began to get into wine and learn more about vineyards in California, France, and beyond. With a renewed interest, Matt enrolled in UC Davis’ viticulture and enology program. After graduation he briefly worked at Gallo, then locked down a fledgling winemaker’s dream job - a position at California Pinot Noir legend Hanzell Vineyards. With a few vintages under his belt at Hanzell, Matt and Holly returned to Oregon to explore the potential of starting their own winery (and perhaps a family). 

At that point, Oregon was still a bit of a backwater wine region. While some of the early pioneers (Eyrie, Adelsheim, Ponzi, Erath, Coury, etc) had begun to become established, it severely lacked the infrastructure that California had. The Kinne family was a part of the ‘Second Wave’ of Oregon winemaking, standing alongside names like Argyle, Beaux Freres, and Ken Wright. When discussing the finer points of the winery and vineyard history, like where a certain clone came from or when a piece of equipment was borrowed, Jacob would casually throw these names like we may throw around the names of old family friends (which they are to them). 

(A brief interlude of editorialization) The difference between McKinlay and these other names is that today, many of these wineries are either (a) massive, producing affordable wines for mass-market retailers across the nation or (b) boutique, making high-end wines that fetch high-end prices and line the cellars of well-heeled collectors. McKinlay is neither, yet both. It is boutique yet still makes humble, affordable wines. Their top Pinot Noir is roughly $50, yet (in my opinion) would hold its own against, say, Beaux Freres wines at 5x the price, or many Burgundy producers at 3-12x the price.

After Hanzell, Matt and Holly moved to Oregon (with a young son and one on the way) and founded McKinlay Cellars in 1987. The name is a reference to Matt’s ancestor, George Angus McKinlay, who was a minister at the Zena Church (northwest of Salem) and a farmer in his own right. George farmed these lands over 100 years ago. While the lands are no longer in the family, Matt named the winery after him as an homage to their long history in Oregon. The first two vintages of McKinlay were made in Portland while they found and built their dream home/winery - where the couple still lives today. They located a piece of property in the very southern part of today’s Chehalem Mountains, a stone’s throw from the shores of the Willamette. In 1990, they moved their young family to the property and spent the next decade expanding the vineyards and making wine each fall. 

The property is indisputably a family home rather than a commercial property. Instead of staff working about and a sales-driven tasting room, there are kids toys tucked away, guitars propped up in the living room, fresh baked bread on the kitchen countertop. Jacob and his brother were raised in this house, and the grandkids (who live just down the way) come play in the yard while dad works in the cellar. Jacob points out to the vineyards and talks about the posts he and his older brother helped put up in grade school, or the vines they learned to prune as teenagers, or the vineyard he helped his dad plant just a couple years ago, down in the old horse field. 

The winery itself is actually located underneath the house. From the open kitchen/living room, a quick walk through the laundry room brings one to a half-circle stairway leading down into the cellar. To the left and down half a flight is the crush pad/driveway, which allows them to gravity feed the unfermented grapes into the fermentation vessels below. One more half flight down is the cellar, which smells of earth and mustiness similar to many of the European cellars I have been in. This time of year, it is full of barrels with unfinished, aging wine inside. In September and October, the room would be packed with open-top fermenters full of Pinot Noir. Out the big wooden barn doors of the winery (once again reminiscent of European cellars), a small concrete pad leads out to the vineyard that the family planted in the 90’s.

The Kinne family home and winery.

The vineyards, which they now farm 32 acres of, are a combination of clonal material from Hanzell as well as other wineries in the Willamette Valley. Most vineyards are between 35 and 20 years old, with the majority of plantings happening in 1990 and 1998. These vines are own-rooted, which means they are not grafted to American rootstock (Vitis Americana) resistant to phylloxera, but rather rooted on their own native Vitis Vinifera rootstocks. This is common in some areas of the world with sandy or volcanic soils that the phylloxera louse cannot live in, however it is almost unheard of in Oregon. The reason this is possible at McKinlay is not the soils, it is actually more of happenstance that they’re in a bit of an island where no other vineyards are close enough to theirs that the louse could make it over. So it is rather a matter of ‘not yet’ than ‘not possible’. While they make efforts to combat this by having picking/pruning crews disinfect their boots and tools before setting foot in the vineyards, it is only a matter of time until phylloxera slowly starts to eat away at their vines. Because of this, they’ve started to plant some new blocks on American rootstocks as a bit of an insurance policy for the future generations.

In the winery, the winemaking is rather simple yet focused. While low-intervention is a great buzzword in today’s wine world, Matt has always held these ideals close. After picking, grapes are 100% de-stemmed but not crushed (whole berry fermentation). If the grapes are picked cool enough, they’ll be given a natural 1-2 day cold soak (some wineries chill down grapes picked warm, McKinlay does not). During fermentation, the wines are punched down 2x/day until the cap starts to sink, then they’re largely left alone. After fermentation, the wines are racked to neutral barrels and left to age undisturbed for 10-12 months. They use native yeast to ferment the wines, minimal amounts of sulfur when necessary (not dogmatic) and don’t add anything else, simply because the grapes don’t need it. This is wine made in the vineyard, with careful attention at harvest time, and gentle coaxing to go from grape to wine.

The McKinlay lineup consists of 4 wines -

  • Willamette Valley Pinot Noir - a broad and general look at the estate and their winemaking style. 
  • Ladd Hill Pinot Noir - a single vineyard wine made from a nearby vineyard of 50+ year old, own-rooted vines.
  • Special Selection Pinot Noir - the winery’s take on their ‘License to Blend’, showcasing key barrels, artfully blended to create the finest expression of their estate.
  • Rosé of Pinot Noir - a small production Rosé for the warm summer days.

We could say that you’re tasting ‘European style’ wines when you drink McKinlay, but that’s not really accurate. What you’re experiencing when you open a bottle of McKinlay Pinot Noir is actually more akin to ‘Old Oregon’. It is a wine of the region’s short but rich history; one that is unadulterated by technological advancements, or wrapped in layers of new oak in an effort to score high with the critics, or dogmatically following some trend to be ‘natural’. The wines have a throughline of driving acid and pure fruit. There is classic Oregon Pinot cherry, spice, cola bark, and earthy rusticity. The wines are made with no veil, nothing for their farming to hide behind. At their core, these are just really really good Oregon Pinots, made like they have been since the 80’s.

Matt Kinne and Jake Kinne, father and son winemaking duo.


Jacob Martin

Jacob ‘Jake’ Martin Kinne grew up in the vineyard and winery, but his young passion was actually Water Polo. After high school, Jake left Oregon to attend Long Beach State and play NCAA Division 1 Water Polo. Once his sporting career was finished around 2010, Jake returned to Oregon to help his father in the vineyard and winery. While Matt urged his son to go back to school for viticulture & enology as he did, Jake remained steadfast that he could learn everything he needed under his father’s nearly three decades of experience. (In his words - “I went to college to play Water Polo, not to ‘go to college’. Why go back?”) This seems to have been a smart move, because Jake is as knowledgeable as any winemaker I’ve met, yet continues to bring fresh concepts and perspective to the family winery without a prejudice towards or away from any extreme schools of winemaking thought.

After several years of working under his dad and helping make the McKinlay wines, Jake started to explore some ideas of his own (like all kids inevitably do). He convinced Matt to let him prune back some Chardonnay vines that they had grafted Pinot Noir onto. This allowed the wines to send out Chardonnay suckers, which they then trained into the primary producing cane. After a couple years, these vines were producing usable Chardonnay grapes and Jake made his first wine from it. Matt, who you probably can assume by now is a bit stubborn, said something along the lines of “You made a nice wine but you’re not putting my name on Chardonnay.” Thus, Jacob Martin was born. 

Today, Jake’s wines offer a fun, exploratory side to the McKinlay brand. This label is an opportunity for him to explore new vineyard sources around his childhood stomping grounds - from West Linn to the Rogue Valley - while also honing techniques that may not be common in Pinot Noir winemaking.

Jacob Martin Wines (currently) consists of 6 wines -

  • Three exceptional Chardonnays.
    • Willamette Valley Chardonnay (multiple sources).
    • Dundee Hills Chardonnay (single vineyard, purchased fruit) 
    • Chehalem Mountains Chardonnay (estate fruit)
  • Pinot Noir - from the family estate and one or two other vineyards.
  • Gamay - from a young vineyard in Canby.
  • Syrah (sometimes with Viognier) - from Southern Oregon’s Rogue or Applegate Valleys.

While Jacob’s wines are reminiscent of his father’s and follow the same rigorously simple principles in the winery, they remain singular. To take creative liberty, I’d say that the McKinlay wines focus on tradition and showing respect to the family’s ideals, while the Jacob Martin wines have a certain liveliness and edge, lending a new creative spark to the decades of tradition they rest upon. All of the wines are unique expressions in their own right. While McKinlay is an elaborate exploration into the nuances of Pinot Noir from this small part of the Willamette Valley, Jacob Martin is an energized expedition into discovering what we may be drinking ten or twenty years from now. And they’re still really really good wines.

Own-rooted, 30+ year old Pinot Noir vines.

Jacob Martin, Chardonnay, Willamette Valley 2020

In the midst of a pandemic and wildfire smoke, Jake decided to make about 6 tons of Chardonnay into wine… for the first time. Well, to be honest he made that decision several years prior and just got lucky. 2020 was actually a lovely vintage for Willamette Valley whites (and some reds). The whites were harvested before the historic wildfire smoke tainted most of the vineyards in the valley. It was a warm, but not hot summer with a cool finish that allowed for even ripening and bright, driving acidity. Jake made three Chardonnays that vintage - Dundee Hills Chardonnay from L’Alongo Estate, Chehalem Mountains Chardonnay from the McKinlay Estate, and Willamette Valley Chardonnay, from the less distinctive barrels from those two sites. 

All Jacob’s Chardonnays are whole cluster pressed and settled in tank for a few days before moving to neutral oak to barrel ferment with native yeasts. He doesn’t block malolactic, preferring the ample acidity that Oregon provides to soften a bit and make the wines more approachable. After 10 months of aging in barrel, the wines are moved back to steel tank for 2-3 months to tighten back up before bottling.

This wine is incredibly bright and fresh, with notes of green apple, lemon, and white flowers. The wine has bright, driving acidity and a touch of creaminess on the medium-weight palate. It doesn’t require food, but it wouldn’t be out of place on the dinner table with spring vegetables.

McKinlay, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley 2022

This wine will need no introduction if you’ve read the lengthy history above. I’ll pose this question - can you name a $21 Oregon Pinot that is truly good? Now how about one that is made by hand by the winemaker and his son? And from grapes they’ve tended to over 30 years? If you can name another, please do share your secrets!

In all seriousness, this is such a lovely wine at ANY price point. The entry-level Willamette Valley Pinot is composed of both purchased fruit from long-time contracts that the Kinne’s give farming input to, as well as the estate vineyards they farm themselves. Winemaking is the same as all of their other Pinots, whole berry fermentation (no stems, no crushing), neutral oak aging, minimal additions. 

On the nose, it is a bit herbal and wild yet absolutely clean. It has classic red fruit notes like cherry and pomegranate, with a plum spice that adds to the savory character of the wine. Bright acidity and a medium weight body may as well be the hallmark of the Kinne tribe, and this wine has it in spades. It is a fantastic ‘weeknight’ Pinot that us normal people can actually afford to drink on a weeknight.


The current McKinlay / Jacob Martin lineup, minus the Rosé.

Original Pinot Noir vineyard at the McKinlay Estate.

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