The wine world can’t stop talking about Willamette Valley’s Archery Summit Winery and its esteemed winemaker Ian Burch. With top spots on the hottest lists in the industry, the future looks bright for Ian and this storied winery. We recently sat down with Ian–in Archery Summit’s beautiful new tasting house–to discuss his award-winning wines, his background and the importance of great mentors, and his winemaking style and philosophy.

Hitting the Bullseye (Twice!)

It’s been quite a year for Archery Summit and its Winemaker Ian Burch. The winery, known for its exquisite Pinot Noir, opened a stunning new tasting room with sweeping views of the Willamette Valley last fall. As if that weren’t enough, Ian’s wines landed on two of the industry’s most prestigious lists: Wine’s Spectator’s Top 100 “Most Exciting Wines of 2023” and Decanter’s “Best in Show” (the top 50 wines from a pool of more than 18K and the ONLY wine from the U.S.).

“Every winemaker wants to be included on at least one of these lists in their lifetime”, Ian says. “To have both in the same year is amazing”.

Archery Summit’s two winners–the 2021 Vireton Pinot Noir and the 2021 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir–are very different, a credit to Ian’s range as a winemaker. While the crowd-pleasing Vireton, which earned 93 points from Wine Spectator, is “built for everyday drinking”; the Dundee HIlls Pinot garnered 97 points from the Decanter judges and “is a fine example of the charm, balance, and satisfaction that fine Dundee Hills Pinot Noir can provide”.

A Unending Quest for Excellence

As exciting as the 2021 vintage is, Ian says the 2022s are even better and the 2023s–still in barrels–might be Archery Summit’s best ever. The excellence of these vintages are an apt tribute to the late Gary Andrus who founded Archery Summit 30 years ago. After starting Pine Ridge Vineyards in Napa, Gary craved a new challenge and made his way to Oregon to make Pinot Noir. While other Willamette Valley wineries were selling their bottles for $25, Gary sold Archery Summit for $60–in the 90s!

Having spent time in Burgundy, Gary understood the value of estate Pinot Noir. His “Bad to the Beaune” club was infamous, as were the quarter-mile of caves (be sure to check them out when you visit!) he built under Archery Summit. He was a visionary–what some might call a “disrupter” –who was instrumental in putting Oregon wines on the world map.

Young Ian’s Introduction to the Wine World

As Gary was building his wine empire in the 80s and 90s, Ian was a self-described “nerdy science kid” in Roseville, California. His parents let him plant a garden in the backyard that included pumpkins and grape vines. His wine journey started at age 6 when he made his First Communion and drank from the sacramental chalice. Then there was Aunt Paula who, when visiting from Michigan, let young Ian have a sip (or two!) when the family went wine tasting. In his junior year in high school, Ian took a chemistry class with Mr. Ginn, who introduced him to the concept of viticulture–the science of growing grapes. By age 16, Ian had discovered that his three passions–science, agriculture, and wine–were inextricably linked and that winemaking would be his life’s work.

Pursuing His Passion

Ian pursued a degree in viticulture from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. The fifth of six children, Ian paid for his education by working at Starbucks, where he learned the business side of the beverage industry, as well as the importance of customer service and a strong work ethic. After tasting room gigs, internships, and harvests in California, France, New Zealand, and South Africa, Ian landed in Oregon in 2008 ready to make his mark on the wine world.

Learning from the Best and Managing Risk

His early years in the Willamette Valley were spent at Evening Land, where he worked with Burgundian legend Dominique Lafon, whom Ian considers his greatest mentor. “Dominique revolutionized how I make Pinot Noir”, Ian notes. “and how I think about constructing a wine”.

Growing grapes, according to Ian, is like “legalized gambling” since so many things can go wrong and if you push the crop load, you are able to produce more wine. Conversely, pushing crop does not always go to plan and you may be stuck with a lot of fruit, which makes a lackluster wine.

Every vintage is different and involves “making dozens of decisions and having a really good sense of timing”. It’s the details, Ian notes, that make winemaking so interesting and so challenging. One of the most important lessons he learned from Dominique was to go for positive outcomes. “Don’t take unnecessary risks”, Ian says Dominique instilled in him. “Experiment with things that will make you successful”.

Oops, Wrong Ian! A Case of Mistaken Identity with A Happy Ending

After leaving the head winemaking position at Evening Land, Ian became the winemaker at Scott Paul. In 2018, he was set to start his own LLC, when an accidental text arrived from Nicolas Quillé, a friend and mentor. Nicolas is chief winemaker and operations officer at Crimson Wine Group, the parent company that owns Archery Summit and six other luxury wine brands on the West Coast. Nicolas eventually hired Ian to lead the winemaking team at Archery Summit. Six harvests later, Ian still loves working with Crimson and Nicolas, who is a Master of Wine and holds two MBA degrees. “I’ve learned so much from Nicolas”, Ian says. “Far more than I would have on my own”.

A Commitment to Balance and Biodynamics

When asked if he’d do anything differently if he had pursued his own wine brand, Ian pauses and says he might be more “playful.” With Crimson, he goes for subtlety and balance. “I want Archery Summit wines to be interesting and intellectual”, he adds.

Great nuanced wines depend on the health of the land–the terroir–so Ian is moving Archery Summit to a biodynamic calendar for vineyard practices and regenerative framing. “It’s important to me to leave the land better than you found it”, Ian says. “That not only includes the vineyards, but also the flora and fauna all around them.”

In addition to making exceptional wines, Ian has a collection of more than 1,200 bottles in his cellar. When not drinking Pinot Noir, he loves white Burgundies, Champagne, and Vin Jaune, a yellow wine from France’s Jura region. Ian also makes delicious, award-winning Chardonnay and hopes to expand Archery Summit’s Chardonnay production as part of his legacy.

What Matters Most

After all the accolades and awards his winemaking has garnered, Ian has much to be grateful for and many people to thank: his wife and three children whom he adores, his parents for believing in his dreams, his amazing team at Archery Summit, and the mentors he was so fortunate to have along the way. “I chose this world”, he says. And wine lovers everywhere are so glad he did. We can’t wait to see what’s next for this brilliant winemaker.

If You Go…

Archery Summit is open everyday from 10 am to 4 pm. The concierge team at The Dundee can help you plan your visit, arrange transportation and special tours, and answer any questions you have. If you’re attending the International Pinot Noir Celebration in McMinnville this July, be sure to go to the Grand Seminar where Ian and his mentor Dominique Lafon will be featured panelists.