Robert Morus is not your typical farmer or winemaker. He spent the first half of his career flying planes for a living, serving in the U.S. Air Force from 1982 to 1990 where he flew the C-141 Starlifter. He transferred into the reserves in 1985 at the rank of Captain and began a stint as a commercial pilot for Delta Airlines where he continues to work today.
Morus had absolutely no agricultural experience when he started Phelps Creek Vineyards in Hood River, Oregon, but he found an amazing community in Hood River with a spirit of helping each other out. “I took every seminar I could and learned from other local farmer and winemakers,” he says. Morus is passionate about Pinot Noir and found they “had some good stuff on our original four acres.” The Phelps Creek plantings now stretch throughout 34 acres and are known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
1) Which of your own current offerings are you digging the most?
Typically we’ve done 11 months in French Oak prior to bottling. That time in barrel is a widely adopted tradition because small wineries need to make room for the next vintage. However, our 2010 Beehive Pinot Noir became a cult classic after residing 20 months in barrel largely because, following the Great Recession, we didn’t have the cash for glass, labels, corks and labor to bottle the wine. We kept close watch on the barrels and damn if didn’t just get better and better. Extended time in barrel brings out the nature of the land where the grapes were raised. These days we find some corner in the winery to squirrel away six to 10 barrels for extended aging. The 2014 Regina is the latest release under that concept. You better get yours now, before I drink it all.
2) Any winemaking pipe dreams you’re dying to make a reality?
I’ve been floating the dream about placing caves on our property. Extending the time in barrel necessitates barrel storage for two successive vintages. The perfect way involves cool temperature and elevated humidity — viola, a cave! We hold the perfect spot across from our present winery. Honestly, I think the wife puts higher priority on replacing my old beater pickup held together with duct tape.
3) What non-wine beverage is in your glass most days? What is your favorite way to enjoy it and where?
Most summer evenings I can be found on our deck twin Adirondack chair sipping single malt and slow smoking a stogie. I really groove on the Islay Scotches laced with that burning rubber element somewhere between a Goodyear and a Michelin radial. A 16-year-old Lagavulin paired with a six-inch Cain Madro, fuels reflection and dreams.
4) Favorite song, album or artist to jam out to while throwing a few down the hatch?
I’m old-school cool in the evening: Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck and Vince Quaradi. But if the mood goes up-tempo, this child of the 1970s Bay Area puts on the “Tower of Power,” still asking “What is Hip?” after all these years.