Chad Stock may have learned winemaking in California, but all he ever cared about was Oregon.

"Seriously, I would like to say that Oregon is the greatest state in America for fine wine, hands down," Stock says. "I am American; I should work to make the finest possible wines in my own country."

The fantastic variety of wines he produces at his Minimus winery in Carlton makes him one of America's most avant-garde winemakers—think viognier fermented with Brettanomyces, sauvignon aged in fragrant acacia barrels, or grüner veltliner aged in amphora. He does more than 20 tiny bottlings a year, with grapes from Johan or vineyards in Eola.

Stock, 36, looks more like a linebacker than a winemaker. "I did not grow up around wine, nor have any real reason to gravitate toward it other than a gut feeling," he says. "Since making the decision in 2003, I have never looked back."

He breaks and pushes rules in the cellar, but has a formal education in wine, majoring in enology and viticulture at California State University, Fresno. In his other gig, as the winemaker for Omero Cellars (he's a partner), Stock is making lovely, if fairly conservative and conventional, expressions of Oregon chardonnay and pinot noir. Yet under the Minimus label, he proffers some of the weirdest wine anyone makes in North America.

Wine geeks look at Minimus as a deep pool of individual expression to explore, coming from a dedicated and thought-provoking winemaker. Stock's work is comparable to that of folks like Anton Von Klopper at Domaine Lucci outside Adelaide in Australia, or Laureano Serres in Spain's Catalunya region—boundary-pushing natural-wine standard bearers who have global followings.

Drink this: Being obsessed with sparkling wine, I'm most in love with Minimus NV Experiment #17 ($33), aged 48 months and made from pinot gris and chardonnay. Think marzipan, Braeburn apples and oolong tea.

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