Robert Brittan left Stags’ Leap Winery in Napa after 16 years as Winemaker and Estate Manager to fulfill his dream of making Pinot Noir and Syrah from unique sites in cooler climates. His winemaking career began in his dorm room at Oregon State University, where he was a physics and philosophy major.
Being both geeky and broke, he soon realized that alcohol was an attractant to co-eds, so he began his career in fermentation sciences in order to get a date. He ultimately completed his education at UC Davis and moved to Napa Valley, where he made wines for Far Niente, Saint Andrews and Stags’ Leap Winery.
With over 40 years of experience growing grapes and making wine, he brings a significant amount of viticultural and winemaking knowledge to Brittan Vineyards. He has always had a passion for Pinot Noir, and hopes that with the fruit from the Brittan estate vineyard in the foothills of the Coastal Range, he can bring a new voice to the McMinnville AVA, and help form the style and definition of Pinot Noir from this recently designated winegrowing region.
In addition to his own wines, Robert is also the winemaker for several other brands, to include: Blakeslee, deLancellotti, Fairsing, Noble Pig, Winderlea and Youngberg Hill. As a result, Robert is now making wines from all six of the sub-AVA’s of the Willamette Valley and has learned first hand that Pinot Noir lends itself to many wonderful interpretations, depending on the soils and microclimates where it is grown.
Ellen has always had a passion for food and wine, so after spending the first twenty years of her career working in Financial Services, she finally decided to give up the corporate world to do something she would do even if she didn’t get paid to do it.
After working in a lovely little family winery in Yountville, she joined Rudd Winery in Oakville, where she had the wonderful opportunity to launch and manage a new luxury wine brand for Leslie Rudd. In the course of her ten years with the Rudd Group, she also was involved in the group’s other food and spirits related projects, to include Dean & DeLuca, Edge Hill Winery, Distillery No. 209, PRESS Restaurant and Oakville Grocery. It was a dream come true to be immersed in a world of gourmet food and luxury wine and spirits.
Having grown up in Seattle, studying French and Spanish Language & Literature at the University of Washington, she longed to return to her North West roots, so needless to say she was thrilled to be joint owner of the beautiful Brittan Vineyards winery in McMinnville.
While Robert oversees the vineyard operation and winemaking, Ellen focuses on sales and marketing, as well as all other aspects of the family business. In addition, she serves as the Director of Wine Education at Linfield College in McMinnville, home to the renowned International Pinot Noir Celebration every year. At Linfield, Ellen combines her industry expertise with a liberal arts approach to wine education.
Katie Belle Brittan
(the puppy from hell)
I am the luckiest dog in the world because I get to go to work in the vineyard everyday with Robert and Chelsea. I chase the ground squirrels, bark at the pheasant and ride in the ATV while Robert and Chelsea check out the vines. I also get to play with my favorite toy, a wine barrel bung, chasing it up and down the rows. I was originally born a Golden Retriever but now I represent the first of a new dog breed, “Bung Retriever”. Although I have a basket full of toys, wine bungs are by far my favorite. Every time we go into the cellar, I make sure to check all the aisles for wayward bungs. They tend to roll under the barrels, but no bung can escape my expert nose. We applied to Westminster for a new breed designation, but since I am the sole representative, it may take some convincing. Maybe I should send the judges a bottle of our Pinot, and an autographed bung.