Ortman Family Vineyards
Ortman Family Vineyards is run by father and son Chuck and Matt Ortman. They produce a variety of wines with grapes from the Edna Valley, Santa Maria Valley, Napa Valley, and Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Although the winery was recently founded in 2003, Chuck Ortman has decades of experience as a renowned winemaker. It all started in 1967, when he made the risky but admirable decision to change careers and become a cellar worker at Heitz in Napa Valley. Reflecting on this career move years later, Mr. Ortman remarked, “It was a risky move, but my family has roots in farming, and they were supportive. They understood that my heart was in wine.”
After leaving Heitz Cellars, he was hired as winemaker for Spring Mountain Vineyard. Later, he became the first winemaker at Meridian Vineyards. Ortman is noted for being an early advocate of fermenting Chardonnay in the barrel according to Burgundian techniques. In the 1990s, he worked as a consultant for a number of esteemed wineries including Shafer Vineyards, Far Niente, and Cain Vineyard.
Chuck’s son, Matt, has a degree in construction management from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Despite his success in this field, the winemaking bug that he acquired a child watching his father never left him. In 2001, he began an apprenticeship at Castello di Gabbiano in Tuscany. Upon returning to the United States, Matt and wife Lisa moved to Edna Valley to join family winery.
Their philosophy is a refreshing approach to New World winemaking in which overall balance is sought, rather than big flavor components. Central to this philosophy is a desire to marry their wines with food rather than impress wine judges at blind tastings. The American market is slowly beginning to appreciate the Old World concept of finesse.
The 2003 Edna Valley Chardonnay is a remarkable effort that is a very good value. Made using Burgundian techniques, grapes were whole cluster pressed and fermented in French oak. 40% of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation, giving it character while retaining the Chardonnay grape’s natural freshness.