Craig Reed/For the Capital Press
LORANE, Ore. — When Brent Stone was called by King Estate Winery about the laboratory manager position with the company, he didn’t have to think twice before applying.
“I’ve always had a love of wine and I thought the industry was really attractive,” Stone said.
He applied and was hired in 2011 to oversee quality assurance and quality control for King Estate’s wines. It was his first job in the wine industry, but he had plenty of experience in what he describes as “chemistry and food sensory.”
Stone had previously spent five years as a chemist and then another five years doing laboratory work in the dairy industry, also in Eugene.
“I had a lot of background in creating those quality programs,” Stone said. “I’ve put a lot of time into quality assurance, quality control here (at King Estate) to ensure there is quality at every step, from the grape to the bottle. The customer expects a high quality product that is consistent from bottle to bottle.”
His experience and expertise in the lab led to Stone eventually transitioning to becoming a winemaker. When the second winemaker left, Stone became head winemaker in 2016.
The 39-year-old’s responsibilities increased again earlier this year when he was promoted to the new role of chief operating officer. He will continue as the winemaker but will also be in charge of the day-to-day winery operations.
“With his breadth of skills and experience, Brent has long played a key leadership role at King Estate,” said Ed King, the company’s CEO. “By creating this new position, we are continuing to solidify winemaking’s central role in our company.”
In addition to laboratory operations, quality assurance, quality control and winemaking, Stone has overseen bottling operations, packaging, supply chain and product development. He received formal training in enology at Washington State University and is completing graduate work in agricultural food and life sciences through the University of Arkansas.
“It’s a big responsibility to maintain the standard the company has held for all these years,” Stone said. “We want to continue to focus on and to grow the King Estate brand and the direct consumer business.”
Stone said King Estate, with 1,033 acres in production, is the largest certified biodynamic vineyard in North America. The vineyard is also certified organic.
The winemaking team, led by Stone, will make about 50 different wines this year from about 25 varietals. The King Estate brand is sold in all 50 states and in 16 other countries. The company’s North By Northwest brand is sold in 48 states.
King Estate also has a 1,100-member wine club.
Stone said about 30 people who are members of the production team are involved in the winemaking.
“When you make over 50 wines, you need a lot of different backgrounds involved,” he said. “We emphasize a low ego environment. Everybody on the team gets input and that helps make a better wine. We have a team approach to picking, blending, fermentation and winemaking.”