Matt Berson, Vintner and Winery Owner
I used to wait tables and drink wine after work. Now I make wine and drink during work. In 2003, I was rescued from the restaurant grind by a band of marauding Oregon winemakers. I worked in their cellars and vineyards until it got under my skin. Then I traveled to New Zealand, Napa, Germany, and Argentina, to work in their vineyards and wineries and discover the secret of making great wines. Sure, it’s a glamorous lifestyle (cue needle scratching across vinyl)—it’s actually incredibly hard work with equal parts barrel heaving, lab tinkering, hand wringing, and business minutiae.
I love what I do and learn something new every day. Hard work aside, getting back to basics and finding simple ways of doing things—such as making tasty wines for different moods, foods, and palates—is part of the creative process that truly drives my passion for this labor of love.
Angela Reat, The ‘Squalor’ in Love & Squalor
I’ve spent almost two decades working as a creative in the world of graphic design—as a brand developer, print designer, and strategic thinker. Growing up, I loved redecorating closets—my friends’ more than mine—but I loved organizing a big jumbled mess into something beautiful and functional. I’m attracted to things that are gorgeous or striking, of course, but I like when things function even more. Closets, graphic design, or working in the wine industry, the common denominator is problem solving. If it is beautiful (and delicious) all the better!
In addition to web and print design for large brands such as Disney, Nike, Chiat/Day, and the UN (in Rome), I’ve lived and worked in South America, Asia, and Europe. I founded and was creative director of a design/marketing firm in Rome and served as art director/senior designer for the University of California San Francisco.
In 2007, equipped with a portfolio of domestic and international work from two decades in design, I moved my studio, my life, and my heart from San Francisco to Portland, to be with my vintner (now) husband. In 2015 I'm working on bringing a Love & Squalor tasting room and wine club to Portland (more to come about this) and continue to serve as an active AIGA board member.
In 2007 Portland Wine Company released 65 cases of wine. In 2014, we released 1800 cases. We’ve grown steadily and are eager to share our wines with you. With your friends. And with everyone you know on Facebook.
We start with the belief that wine needs to taste alive. The best way to ensure this is to let the grapes express themselves. We’re happily positioned in a new world, younger growing region so our wines won’t resemble what comes from Europe or California. Flexibility here is key, as conditions in the volatile Pacific Northwest change with each harvest. Just as wines vary per region, wines from the same region shouldn’t taste the same each year. We strive to present those with a unique personality, personality that includes authenticity (or, honesty) in each vibrant sip.
The Willamette Valley blends are all about the fruit—after all, winemaking is all about preserving the fruits of the harvest. Our WV Pinot smells sweet and inviting like freshly picked strawberries or cherries. Our WV Riesling seduces with scents of juicy peaches or bright sprays of lime and always finishes bright and dry. Both of these favorites are built to drink today.
The Pinot rests for 18 months in older French oak before bottling giving it ample time to relax and grow into its early maturity. The Riesling ferments low and slow in order to preserve the delicate aromas and fragile flavors in the finished wine.
Antsy Pants Pinot Noir is our barrel selection. Each blend highlights the delicious anomalies of any given vintage. At first I picked the boldest and bravest Pinot barrels for the blend - the head cheerleader - but that practice wasn’t in line with our mission. Now I gravitate towards the shy barrels. The quiet girl with the beret, cello, and Karmann Ghia who doesn’t say much but is filled with mystery and will blossom in friendship if you give it time.
Antsy Pants Riesling is an untamed beast. Only old-vine, self-rooted grapes are included and wild yeast (indigenous, native, uninoculated) ferments. It is dry, savory, and tense—built to age. You know, one for the acid heads.
Great wines are made in the vineyard. I don’t own a vineyard, though I have spent a fair amount of time in them and even farmed full time for the season in both Oregon and New Zealand. What I look for when choosing a site is a partner I can grow with. Someone who cares about what they are doing and who cares about wine because that’s what we are building together. I also have a soft spot for some of the more raggedy, rustic sites. I do buy from some meticulously kept vineyards, but it is the frays at the edges and patches at the knees that always catch my eye.
Our Pinot comes from six sites, in various Northern Willamette AVAs. The diversity of sites, clones, and vine age make for a more complex and compelling blend. The Riesling comes from six sites, too, four of them planted before 1976, two of them planted in 1971. Go old vine or go home when it comes to Riesling.
All our wines are blends. Blending for me is like putting together a dinner for friends—pairing ingredients, choosing spices and herbs, squeezing a lemon on top. I like to compose a plate and let the flavors mingle.
Our approach to winemaking is let it do its thing. Everything is processed in small lots. Most of the reds are destemmed though there are whole-cluster ferments in every vintage. The reds don’t see any commercial yeast or other additions except for fermentation nutrients. The handling is gentle. The respect is high. The oak is minimal because I like to taste fruit not wood. The whites are lightly pressed whole-cluster transferred to small primarily stainless steel vessels. The fermentation is low and slow with a combination of commercial and indigenous yeasts. We don’t cut corners, avoiding bad habits which only harm the wine. When the pieces are in balance then the whole will be balanced, too—what we’re striving for in every handcrafted, quality bottle.
Harvest Playlist & Menu
- TACOS TACOS and some TACOS
- well...the Wurlitzer is filled with funk, a little punk and a lot of 80s new wave.
Love & Squalor launched in 2006 after a few years of voluntary enslavement to some of the greatest practitioners of winemaking in Oregon and beyond. It started with a bit of Pinot noir and a splash of Riesling—two barrels of each. Then came the naming. Three months of scribbles in traffic and on the bedside notepad resulted in exactly no big ideas. A quick trip to the Goodwill thrift store led to the rediscovery of J.D. Salinger’s book Nine Stories (in a pristine 50’s paperback version, no less!) and the lead story: For Esme, with Love and Squalor.
There it was, in one short phrase—winemaking as I know it. I don’t mind if people think I’m smart because I put a literary reference on the label. I don’t think it’s smart, I think it’s basic—passion and poverty are two of the building blocks for any worthy endeavor.
So it began with 65 cases of wine, a stolen phrase and an inspired sketch of some slips on a line. Love & Squalor is still a one-man effort, but the label has grown wider and taller. Production grew slowly in the first years, limited by humility and space as I was making the wine in stolen corners of my winery employers. Then, over the past three years I have doubled twice, and in 2014 bottled 1,800 cases between my two varietals. For the first four years I stuck to the task of making two wines well—one Pinot and one Riesling. Then, as my confidence grew and the diversity of my cellar expanded, we began making and bottling Antsy Pants and introduced small amounts of other white varietals that we like to drink.
Our shared facility is in the Granary District of downtown McMinnville. We gladly taste by appointment in wine country and in Portland.
Our Mentors / Supporters
We’ve had the good fortune to work with some incredible people who’ve influenced our best practices, who continue to cheerlead and keep us from veering off course as we craft and bring to market what we produce.
- Patty Green at Patricia Green Cellars
- Jimi Brooks and Chris Williams at Brooks Handcrafted Wines
- Jay Somers of J. Christopher
- Larry McKenna at Escarpment NZ
- Dom Mondillo, Gibbston Valley Vineyards NZ
- Helen Turley at Blankiet Napa
- Dr. Loosen
- Susana Balbo, Mendoza
- Tad Seestadt at Ransom Wines and Spirits
- Marcus Goodfellow, Matello and Goodfellow Family Cellars
- John Grochau, GC Cellars
Our Partners / Vineyards
We’re in this crazy business together. As we preserve each harvest via our winemaking efforts, we forge strong relationships with those who care about the grapes as much as we do. It’s an uplifting endeavor—and the only way we can imagine doing this.
- Apolloni Vineyard: On the way to the beach sits this unique site.
- Barnes Vineyard: Gris, Riesling, and Pinot planted on an undulating slope in the Cascade Foothills of OR.
- Brooks Vineyard: A legacy biodynamic vineyard in the Eola Hills, OR.
- Cherry Grove Vineyard: Meticulously cared for by the Van Steenburg family outside of Gaston, OR.
- Demesne Ste. Bride Vineyard: Richard Cuddihy’s blood, sweat, and tears have pushed these roots though the Yamhill bedrock since 1971.
- Redford Wetle Farms: Myron and Vicki have made it back to the land. Grapes are thriving here as well as olives, plums, and a cornucopia of delicious comestibles.
- Roncali Vineyard: A beautiful site nestled in the Coastal Foothills west of Eugene, OR.
- Saikkonen Vineyard: This sunny site sits on the edge of Ribbon Ridge, OR.
- Sunny Mountain Vineyard: Steve Pierce’s hidden gem. Over the hills and through the woods to Monroe, OR we go!
- Sunnyside Vineyard: A shaggy treasure chest planted in 1971 and cared for by Luci and Tom since 1980.
- Temperance Hill Vineyard: This just might be the Grand Cru you’ve been looking for!
- Vista Hills Vineyard: A bucolic vineyard on a famous hill with spot-on Pinot noir.
Our Labels & Aesthetic
So what’s with the slips?
The original label was illustrated and designed by the inimitable Clare Carver of Big Table Farm / Bluelist Design. Inspired by my travels through foreign lands and the resulting photo albums (remember those?) filled with moody pics of drying laundry. Underlying that was a desire to get back to basics in my life and my career—as simple as hanging one’s wet clothes to dry in the sun. As pretty as it is evocative, subsequent iterations were lovingly caressed by Angie Reat / Imprint Design.
And the pants?
When I was a lad, I sported a pair of patchwork madras trousers that my New York grandpa had given me. I loved them, but I wasn’t allowed to wear them to school or out to play. They were my fancy pants, or, as I misheard my parents say it, my “antsy pants.” This label is a testament to the itchy drawers that drive a winemaker to reach higher and to experiment all to make even better wines.
Enter the beast.
Marty the Behemoth was unearthed from an ancient encyclopaedia of demonology that fell off a bookshelf and landed open to reveal his irresistible face. Angie repurposed that image to build the brand and design the label. The Behemoth, being such a large, unruly guy, didn't completely fit on the label. Go figure.) Marty likes to eat critter wines for breakfast, has an angelic singing voice, and is surprisingly tender with babies.
Shout out to Eve "Evalicious" Connell for the word wrangling. A Special thanks to our wonderful photographer, Jeff Press of J Mitchel Photography. You can get in touch with him here: JMitchel Photography