History & Philosophy

Phil and Aaron Lieberman have a thing for dirt. It’s not just on their clothes, tires and boots – it’s apparently in their genes as well. This is awkward for a couple of fussbudgets, but they are able to express that side of their personalities in the wine production process.

Phil watched with great interest as Aaron’s career path led to the wine industry. Beginning with vineyard management, Aaron graduated to assisting with winemaking at several local wineries. Phil and Aaron have worked well together on several agricultural projects over the years – their cooperation was almost intuitive. Phil’s long term interest in wine and his experience working a crush led him to suggest to Aaron that they make a few small batches of their own. Unlike the home wine made by your cousin, these turned out to be amazingly drinkable. With the urging of friends they decided to move forward with their own wine brand. “Brand” was not easy. Like naming a new baby, it required some agonizing. But finally Cottonwood Winery of Oregon was born. The names on the various wines are those of a cherished member of their extended family.

Cottonwood Meadows is Phil’s 20-acre home place with a somewhat unusual stand of grey cottonwoods and black cottonwoods. By the time the first home wine was made an experimental vineyard had been planted with the idea that there would some day be a larger vineyard site. After the initial winemaking they decided to skip the vineyard development step and go straight to producing wine. That decision afforded the opportunity to put into play another element of the Cottonwood Winery philosophy.

That element is that a consumer should not have to simply accept that the quality of a wine will go up and down with the vintage. If you pay $24 for a bottle of Marina Piper Pinot noir, it should be worth that no matter which vintage it is from. With that in mind, purchased grapes are kept separated through the barrel aging stage and then evaluated. The fact that they come from several sources with different clones, soils and elevations helps assure that there will be quality wine from each vintage. “The Vineyards” page describes these outstanding sources.

There is an unwavering quality standard for each of the wines that wears the Cottonwood label. That is why in the 2002 vintage 6 barrels of very high quality wine became Brigette Catherine Pinot noir, a barrel select bottling, and the rest became Marina Piper Pinot noir. By contrast, in the 2003 vintage there was no barrel select bottling, the best quality wines became Marina Piper Pinot noir, and 8 barrels were deemed inadequate to Cottonwood standards and were sold to another winery. In 2004 all of the Pinot noir was blended to Marina Piper. In 2005 six special barrels again stood out as worthy for another bottling of Brigette Catherine Pinot noir, with the rest going into Marina Piper.

Fortunately the same level of quality has prevailed each year in Syrah from the Crawford Vineyard, and none has had to be sold in bulk.

You will still see variations in the vintages, but none will be less drinkable and exciting than the others.


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Recent Awards

2012 Brigette Catherine Pinot Noir

Wine Enthusiast - June 2015



2008 Raya Jade Syrah

Northwest Food & Wine Festival 2014




2012 Marina Piper Pinot noir

SIP McMinnville Food & Wine Classic 2015