Jackalope wines are mythically delicious

Winemaker Corey Schuster answered questions in the shadow of a stuffed golden raccoon named Gilda. The Gilded Raccoon Wine Lounge, Gilda’s home, was the perfect place to learn about a winery named after the jackalope.

Jackalope Wine Cellars is known for: cabernet franc, viognier and labels with lovely jackalopes and the occasional dragonfly.

A jackalope is a stuffed hare with antelope horns stuck to its head. Think Max the dog in Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” At an early age in Downers Grove, Illinois, Schuster was convinced by a mischievous older cousin that jackalopes were real. They are not.

Horned rabbits, however, are real. They are not as cute as jackalopes.

Current “must try” versions: 2018 Jackalope Wine Cellars Rogue Valley Cabernet Franc ($27) and 2020 Jackalope Wine Cellars “Voyager” Willamette Valley Viognier ($20). The taxi franc tastes and smells like a big bowl of dusty blackberries. Viognier tastes and smells like a big bowl of Meyer lemons.

Innovation: Schuster’s innovative streak emerged during the summer of 2020 from the COVID-19 shutdowns. With his retail and restaurant partners closed, he received a lot of attention selling Jackalope wines from the back of his van. Wines on tap pending for restaurant accounts were emptied into 1.5-litre “to-go” sachets.

This year, Schuster is launching canned wine for the very first time. “Canned wines are hot in the Portland market, and thanks to supply chain issues, cans were much easier to locate than glass,” Schuster said. The 2021 Jackalope Wine Cellars Sparkling Rosé ($7 for 250ml) is made with Cabernet Franc and Grenache.

Another first for Schuster is a tangerine-colored skin contact pinot gris. The 2021 Jackalope Wine Cellars pinot gris sells for $29.

Key insight: In 10 years, Schuster has never raised its prices. That could change soon, so now is a great time to buy.

Story: The housing market crash of 2008 spelled the end of Schuster’s civil engineering career. Dismissed, he started looking for some job.

Responding to an ad led Schuster to a “hands-on” position working on special events and in the tasting room at Arcane Cellars in Salem. Schuster also worked for Raptor Ridge Vineyard and Penner-Ash Wine Cellarsboth in Newberg.

Schuster produced his first Jackalope wine, a Sojourner Vineyard Pinot Noir, at a Portland-based wine cooperative in 2012. Today, he makes his Jackalope wines at Matt Berson and Angela Reat’s. Portland Wine Company at 3201 SE 50th Ave. This is where you can taste Berson’s Love & Squalor wines and Schuster’s Jackalope wines, Thursday through Sunday.

What we don’t know: Schuster has a jackalope tattoo on his right shoulder. It’s dedication.

Biggest failure: “Tipping an eight-foot-tall destemmer on myself. I was stuck under one of his paws and couldn’t move. It was also raining and it took a while for someone to find me. My ego took a few years to recover,” Schuster said.

Biggest Inspiration: Jeff Ferrell, former vice president of operations at Owen Roe Winery, Newberg. “I went to school, but I don’t like school. When I started, I noticed that Jeff was successful in the industry without going to a place like the University of California-Davis to study winemaking. He was very supportive of my “learning by doing” approach, Schuster said.

Favorite getaway in Oregon: Schuster is an outdoor enthusiast and adventurer. He’s done everything from working on a coffee farm in Kona, Hawaii, to drifting down a remote river in Laos. His favorite local way to unwind is to run, hike or ski in the woods of the nearest mountain.

Last book read: “Satyricon”, by Petronius. A good choice considering the quantity Falerno wine is poured into this tale.

Or buy: Look for bottles of Jackalope wine at Portland locations such as Providedore Fine Foods, Wines division, Golden Raccoon Wine Lounge and your nearest New seasons market.

Division Wines and Gilded Raccoon also serve Jackalope wines by the glass. Schuster suggested cave dog as another good place in Portland to sip its wines.

Schuster wines are distributed outside of Oregon. Its wines pair beautifully with the seafood dishes of Seattle restaurants such as The Walrus and the Carpenter, The whale wins and Shaker + Spear. Kansas City Campground is the place to be if you want to try a Jackalope wine with one of the best burgers ever.

You can also join Jackalope’s Flaggerdoot Wine Club on the winery’s website. A flaggerdoot is not a Dutch cocktail. Instead, flaggerdoot is the name given to a group of jackalopes. I swear I’m not making this up.

jackalopewinecellars.com or 971-533-8834.

— 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