Franchere Wine Company brings the spirit of exploration to Woodburn

Michael Hinds’ desire to explore new winemaking techniques and grape varieties is hereditary. His great-great-great-grandfather Gabriel Franchère arrived in Fort Astoria from Montreal aboard the merchant ship Tonquin in 1811. Hinds named Franchere Wine Company in honor of his ancestor’s three years exploring the Oregon as part of the Astor Expedition.

Franchere Wine Company is best known for: I expected Hinds to say “minimal intervention wines that reflect the soil”. He blinded me. “Franchere is best known for wine, ‘for heaven’s sake, stay put here,'” Hinds said.

“For Heaven’s Sake” is an extended skin contact “Orange Wine” made with Pinot Gris, Grüner Veltliner and Pinot Blanc. Hinds called the wine an ironic tribute to people motivated to explore Oregon. “The grape varieties I work with are immigrants, like most of us. We put down roots, we adapt to our new home and we ideally harmonize with it, rather than bend it to our will. Some things we want to shape, some things we want to preserve,” Hinds said.

Innovation: “I like to ‘roll the dice’ by co-fermenting varietals that other winemakers typically avoid co-fermenting, like syrah and grüner veltliner,” Hinds said. Co-fermentation is the simultaneous fermentation of several grape varieties in the same barrel, tank or other type of container. The technique can amplify and enhance the floral qualities, texture and color of a wine.

A current version “to try”: 2018 Franchere Wine Company Havlin Vineyard Syrah ($28). This tangy beauty illustrates the potential of Syrah in the Willamette Valley. Aromas of blackberry, white peach and earth mingle with tart flavors of raspberry and black pepper. The wine features a chalky texture, a modest 13.1% alcohol by volume, and the Tonquin on its label. What’s not to like?

What you don’t know about Franchere Wine Company: Prior to getting into wine, Hinds owned and operated Road Cone records in Portland. The experimental rock label with artists such as Rollerball, Loren MazzaCane Connors and the Irving Klaw Trio lasted from 1992 to 2002.

Who is more difficult to work with, the musicians or the grapes? Hinds replied, “Musicians, easily.” He added that he is still friends with the members of Rollerball, who removed the vowels from their name a few years ago. Rllrbll singer Mae Starr’s paintings appear on Franchere’s most recent labels.

Story: Hinds took a job as a web developer at the University of Illinois at Chicago after Road Cone closed. He caught the wine bug in a major way while living in Chicago. Hinds even worked part-time at a wine store. Hinds moved home in 2011 to learn how to make wine and, as he put it, “get his hands dirty.”

Hinds enrolled in Chemeketa Community College’s wine studies program while working full-time for Oregon State University. In 2012, Hinds was working as a harvest intern for Illahe Vineyards in Dallas. Hinds produced its first Franchere wines in Illahe in 2013 and 2014. In 2015 Hinds moved to Hanson Vineyards in Woodburn, where it has been crafting its wines ever since.

Last record listened to from cover to cover: “Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea”, by PJ Harvey.

Biggest Inspiration: Gideon Beinstock of Clos Saron, a small wine estate located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Hinds said he first heard of Beinstock in an article written by wine writer Matt Kramer. Intrigued by Kramer’s praise, Hinds drove from Chicago to Oregon House, California to visit Beinstock at the Renaissance Vineyard and Winery in 2008.

Renaissance, where Beinstock once made wine, is also home to the Fellowship of Friends, a religious group with apocalyptic overtones. Hinds, however, was only interested in the salvation promised by Beinstock’s syrah.

Beinstock’s minimalist winemaking techniques and willingness to take risks inspired Hinds to think about making his own wines. “His simple message of letting the site speak for itself resonated with me. It still does,” Hinds said.

Or buy: Hinds produces six wines with an annual production of 1,000 cases. It ships to customers in 40 states and has distributors in Oregon, California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.

Franchere wines are available at stores in Oregon, including the Ashland Food Co-op, Jackson’s Corner and West Coast Provisions in Bend, and the Astoria Co-Op. In Portland, buy Franchere wines at Dogwood Wine + Flowers, E&R Wine Shop, 45th Parallel Wines and World Foods Everett.

If you’re traveling east, Hinds highly recommends Tiny’s Bottle Shop in Philadelphia and Dandelion Wine in Brooklyn, New York.

To drink Franchere with a meal in Portland, check out Laurelhurst Market and Jacqueline.

frankrewine.com Where [email protected].

— Michael Alberty writes about wine for The Oregonian/OregonLive. He can be reached at [email protected]. To learn more about its coverage, go to oregonlive.com/wine.

Shirley M. Pinder