Left Coast Estate is a total gem of a winery! Not only are their wines delicious and exciting, their passion and dedication for winemaking and for the land are palpable.
Driven by a devotion to sustainability of the land and to production, with care and patience, of wines of the highest quality that reflect their unique terroirs, Left Coast is a family-run business and they take a holistic approach to winemaking, with initiatives ranging from beekeeping to working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to restore over 100 acres of their land that includes an old growth oak forest.
We sat down with CEO, Taylor Pfaff to learn more about his work and everything Left Coast.
Taylor Pfaff, CEO on the left with the rest of the family business, his parents (the founders) and sister, Cali, Creative Director.
1. What does your job as CEO at Left Coast Estate entail, and what is your favorite part about it?
Taylor: I end up doing a little bit of everything, which works for me since I grew up in the business and have worked basically every job we have for some duration of time. Today it’s mostly about setting the mission and vision for Left Coast. Working closely with our teams to help achieve our goals of producing the best possible wine and providing amazing hospitality experiences to our visitors and community.
2. What was it like taking over in 2016? How do you think wineries change (or stay the same) when ownership shifts from one generation to another, especially within a family-owned business?
Taylor: It was a fairly smooth transition as we were in a big growth phase and a lot of change was needed as the business continued to evolve. We are always trying to stay true to our identity and our roots. Being a family owned and operated business can be challenging at times, but everyone has a lot of love and passion for what we do so I always try to keep that front and center.
3. The website mentions that Left Coast started as a wine growing facility. What has the change into an all estate commitment involved?
Taylor: My family didn’t have any prior experience in the wine industry when we started Left Coast in 2003. Being new to wine we knew that it was vital for us to be competent grape growers first before we could make great wine. We were also unsure of the potential of our farming site so those first few years involved a lot of research and development. We focused on vineyard development and grape growing in those early years and slowly developed a good reputation for growing quality grapes. We’ve always been all estate, but we made a greater shift to start putting those grapes into Left Coast branded bottles in 2011.
Great grapes make great wine! A microcosm of flavors, sugars, and acidity can be found in each block of vines.
Family-owned and operated, Left Coast Estate is guided by two essential principles: a passion for winemaking and a deep connection to the land where we live and farm.
Bottle portraits! Left Coast began growing grapes in 2003 and gained a reputation in the Valley for quality, then made the shift to putting those grapes in Left Coast branded bottles in 2011. Their labels bear a Lewis and Clark map to illustrate their special place in the world.
4. What do you think makes the Willamette Valley special and/or different from other areas?
Taylor: The Willamette Valley is special for a lot of reasons. The most important one to me is our geology. The Missoula Floods were the largest in the history of our planet and happened sequentially to deposit over 100 feet of topsoil into the Willamette Valley. Combine that with our unique mixture of volcanic soil and ancient Jurassic era sedimentary seabeds and you get some really special dirt to grow vines in. The Van Duzer Corridor is also hugely important. It’s the only gap in the coastal range and allows cool maritime air to flow into the valley every night. This cold air is the reason we are a cool climate growing region with lower disease pressure in our vineyards and greater acidity in our wines.
A 62kW roof-mounted solar installation generates the vast majority of electricity for their winery and a 21kW ground-mounted solar array provides 100 percent of the power for their guest cottage, front gate, and all the estate irrigation needs of our vineyards and extensive landscaping.
Left Coast has over 100 acres of ecological compensation areas and 70 acres of old growth oak forest. Their goal is to remove invasive species that have grown over time and restore the forest to a native oak savanna.
5. I love the holistic approach to wine making at Left Coast. From being LIVE certified and Salmon Safe, to receiving a third party verification in the initial Carbon Neutral Challenge, I have no doubt that your love for the land supports the wine. Can you tell us about your other holistic and environmental initiatives, from your solar panel journey to community outreach and your oak savanna restoration project?
Taylor: Thank you. We think it’s really important to take care of the place that produces such amazing wine for us. The most unique sustainable initiative we have is our oak savanna restoration project. Our estate is home a lot of old growth Oregon White Oak. This is one of the most threatened habitats in the Willamette Valley and only 3% of the historic range exists today. We work with the US Department of Fish and Wildlife as well as Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to restore and preserve this important habitat. We have 100 acres of the estate committed to this important project and our dream is for the estate to be a functioning vineyard and a wildlife preserve. In August we host an annual 10k/5k run or walk across the property to raise funds for the forest restoration, Run For The Oaks. Come check it out, it’s a lot of fun.
With the Oak Savanna Restoration Project, the hope is that, through the years, racers will see the improvements made in the forest and witness their own contributions to those efforts as the restoration project develops and grows.
In 2021 The Independence partnered with Left Coast to offer discounted rooms for Run for the Oaks participants.
6. When I read about the estate honey, I never would have guessed it’s used in the wine! What is that process like? P.S. the name of said wine, “Queen Bee Bubbly,” is adorable!
Taylor: We use the honey as the dosage. This is the final step in sparkling wine production where you add a bit of sugar to the bottle before sealing it to create a small fermentation, which creates CO2 or bubbles. It’s fun, supports honey bees, and tastes delicious.
7. Your website describes Left Coast wines as a fusion of art and science, can you elaborate on that?
Taylor: We strive to make wines that represent the unique terroir of our estate. Terroir is a French term used to describe the environmental factors that affect a crop’s phenotype, including specific environment contexts, farming practices and a crop’s local growth habitat. Collectively, these contextual characteristics are said to have a character; terroir refers to this character. So we base our approaches to farming and winemaking with a scientific mindset and use the best practices and methods available to us. The art comes in that we really want the land and terroir to express itself in our wines. The science is the basic steps that we follow and the art is allowing the wines to develop naturally and show their true character without undue manipulation from us in the winery.
Part B to the question – Can you name one scientist and one artist throughout history that you think would’ve been a good winemaker?
Taylor: I’ll go with Louis Pasteur for my scientist and Leonardo da Vinci for my artist.
Their wine is handcrafted and bottled on site, a fusion of art and science, most certainly a labor of love.
Since it’s founding in 2003 the estate has grown to nine distinctive vineyards.
8. Is there anything else you’d like people to know about Left Coast Estate?
Taylor: Our estate is a special place and we love welcoming visitors. My family created Left Coast to share it with others, by physically visiting us or through our wines. As you cruise up our driveway you can see the care we’ve put into the land and we’ve tried to open up a lot of areas to the public so they can see it’s natural beauty and enjoy the tranquility of the setting. We have a hiking loop through the oak savanna, live outdoor music on Friday nights (mid-May-early September) and a farm to fork cafe featuring wood fired pizzas on weekends.
Queen Bee Bubbly – This salmon/orange colored sparkling wine displays aromas of grapefruit, wildflower honey, and baked apple.
Come try the scrumptions wood-fired pizza with a bottle (or two)!
With a variety of reds, whites, bubbles, and even cider, Left Coast has something to satisfy every taste!