Capital Press | Viticulture http://www.capitalpress.com Capital Press Wed, 22 Jun 2016 18:00:40 -0400 en http://EOR-CPwebvarnish.newscyclecloud.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/staticimage/images/rss-logo.jpg Capital Press | Viticulture http://www.capitalpress.com Napa winemaker grew up in California vineyards http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160211/napa-winemaker-grew-up-in-california-vineyards http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160211/napa-winemaker-grew-up-in-california-vineyards#Comments Thu, 11 Feb 2016 12:29:02 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160219970 NAPA, Calif. — At an early age winemaker Mark Williams discovered a profound respect for those who work in the vineyards.

“My father is a viticulture professor at University of California-Davis and I can remember working in his research block of Thompson Seedless grapes as a high school student,” he said. “It was hot, dirty, and physically demanding, and I only saw the manual labor aspect of viticulture.”

It wasn’t until he started studying enology in college that he learned to appreciate the adage, “Wine is made in the vineyard,” he said.

Before coming to William Hill Estate, Williams gained experience as an enologist working in the Eden Valley in Australia and the Edna Valley in California’s Central Coast.

On the 140-acre estate in the Napa Valley’s Silverado Bench, Cabernet is most widely planted variety and comprises 82 percent of the planted acres. Chardonnay, which he crafts from fruit grown throughout the Napa Valley, is the most popular wine in the tasting room.

In addition to pests, the 4-year drought looms large as a challenge.

“The drought has had an impact on our entire state, from a lack of snowfall in the Sierra and devastating wildfires to water rationing in people’s homes,” he said. “On the vineyard side, the warm, dry spring has made for a very early harvest.”

Williams said the most rewarding part of his job is experiencing the wines as they evolve over time — there are few products in the world that mature quite like wine.

It all begins in the vineyard, tasting the grapes as they transition through the growing season, later determining the amount of extraction appropriate during fermentation, selecting the oak for aging, then tasting the wine with family and friends long after it has bottled.

“I especially like to make intense, age-worthy reds that are complex and well-structured, as well as whites that are expressive and vibrant,” he said. “Generally, I enjoy wines from all over the world and over the years have spent a small fortune fine-tuning my palate trying new and different producers.

The public’s tastes in wine continues to change, he said.

“Consumers’ tastes have changed over the past five years; I know mine have evolved,” he said. “What we’re seeing is that millennials (people born between 1978 and 1998) are willing to try new things and aren’t as afraid of wines as other generations have been.”

“Mark is a tremendous winemaker and his passion for the wines he crafts is unparalleled,” Scott Kozel, vice president of coastal winemaking for E&J Gallo, said. “But I think it is Mark’s intuition that sets him apart from so many of the other winemakers I have worked with. Mark is able to taste a wine, make an assessment of where it sits today and postulate which one of the possible next steps might best benefit a given wine.”

And, Kozel said, “He is almost always right! His intuition is a rare trait that helps ensure all of the wines he crafts are phenomenal.”

Williams said it’s a great time to be in the wine industry.

“Winemaking is absolutely fascinating and reminds me of raising children and watching them grow over the years,” he said.

Online

williamhillestate.com

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Vineyard poses challenges, opportunities for winemaker http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150929/vineyard-poses-challenges-opportunities-for-winemaker http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150929/vineyard-poses-challenges-opportunities-for-winemaker#Comments Tue, 29 Sep 2015 15:30:02 -0400 Brenna Wiegand http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150929863 MOLALLA, Ore. — When Anita Katz and her sons Phil and Tony Kramer of Alexeli Vineyard & Winery bought their 61-acre Molalla property in 2007 they got a steal of a deal. It came with an 18-acre vineyard.

Experts advised bulldozing and starting over.

“All the plants needed retrained; the wires were all very old school — late ’70s to early ’80s — there was an overwhelming problem with mites and crown gall and we’re going to have to replace every post in the next two years,” co-owner, winemaker, vineyard manager Phil Kramer said. “Sometimes I wish I’d taken their advice because of all the work we put into it, but the wine these grapes produce is amazing.”

He said it’s more worthwhile with a vineyard his size to make wine instead of just marketing its fruit.

“You get more for table grapes than you do for wine grapes and wine grapes are way harder and more costly to grow,” Kramer said. “There’s such a competitive market that even for the high-end fruit from renowned vineyards you’re looking at $3,000 a ton; that’s a buck-fifty a pound. That’s like reaching the low end of table grapes.”

Plus, he said, making wine is a lot easier than growing grapes.

“People think it’s all magical but people who just make wine spend very little time in actually making wine,” Kramer said. “Most of the time you’re doing other marketing and selling.”

Most of the 35-year-old vines are white grapes. Kramer recently planted a few red varieties which, since he doesn’t irrigate, may take 10 years to get into full production.

“There are many benefits to irrigating and we could put it in, but I kind of like the idea of a vintage being what a vintage is,” he said.

They’re converting parts of the orchard to vertical trellising in the event of future labor shortages.

“I’d rather have done all the work now so some machines could be used if we need them,” he said. “In 20 years I’d have shot myself in the foot for not being prepared for that.”

Alexeli has also begun selling wine in 5-gallon reusable kegs, in use by restaurants throughout Portland. Last year it saved the winery about 40,000 bottles.

Phil and his wife, Heidi, enjoy hosting events including a recent outdoor dinner attended by 120 people. Below the vineyard is a lake with a gazebo, a grassy area for events and a newly planted bamboo grove that may end up being the source of future posts in the vineyard.

“Every acre of a vineyard has about seven miles of wire,” Kramer said. “I’ve always thought that having a vineyard with no wire would be interesting, but it’s a lot of work.”

There is no off season at the vineyard and winery, but if Kramer ends up hiring somebody it won’t be for his wine-making ability.

“To me the chemistry is not complicated; not much beyond what I’d consider high school level,” he said. “I’d get someone who could fix an engine before someone who could make wine.”

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Winemaker lets grapes do heavy lifting http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150929/winemaker-lets-grapes-do-heavy-lifting http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150929/winemaker-lets-grapes-do-heavy-lifting#Comments Tue, 29 Sep 2015 15:46:57 -0400 MITCH LIES http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150929853 WOODBURN, Ore. — Jason Hanson, winemaker at Hanson Vineyards, lets his grapes do the heavy lifting and eschews the idea of a “house wine.”

“I have a non-interventionist wine-making theory,” Hanson said. “I would rather grow the best fruit I possibly can and allow it to turn itself into wine than change the nature of wine (through manipulation).

“My Pinots from year to year change drastically,” Hanson said. “Every year they are completely different, and that is the way I want it. I don’t want a ‘house style.’”

A small-acreage winery, Hanson Vineyards, one could say is a throwback to an old-world style of winery that still is prevalent in Europe, but is rare in the U.S.

“We will never be a big winery, and we don’t want to be,” he said.

“You go to France and there are lots of little family plots on the hillsides. The family works the land and makes the wine and has for generations. There is no desire to be huge. The desire is to have a product that you are proud of that you put your name on the side of the bottle,” he said.

Located in Monitor, an unincorporated community east of Woodburn in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Hanson Vineyards is situated on three distinct soil types. Clay soils dominate the upper part of the vineyard, while rocky and sandy soils dominate the lower part.

“We’re in what is essentially the Butte Creek sub-valley,” said Hanson, the fourth generation of his family to farm the ground. “It is very interesting soil to work with.”

The vineyard practices sustainable production practices, he said, limiting use of pesticides and using netting to protect grapes from robin damage.

The winery produces a variety of grapes, which enables the vineyard to stagger harvests in a way that minimizes the need for outside labor and allows it to serve a wide variety in its tasting room, including Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay and Gamay Noir.

“I think you are going to see a lot more Gamay Noir coming into the Willamette Valley,” Hanson said. “It is a unique grape. It is a heavy producer and it is right for our climate.”

Marechal Foch, which Hanson uses in a red blend called Cascadia, is the darkest grape produced on the vineyard. The blend, consisting of half Foch and half Pinot Noir, won a silver medal at the 2015 Great Northwest Wine Competition in Hood River.

The winery ages wine in oak barrels a minimum of two years before bottling, Hanson said.

In addition to the wine characteristics changing dramatically from year to year, production levels can swing wildly at Hanson Vineyards.

In 2010, a cool year, the winery lost a sizable percentage of its crop to botrytis and bird damage and produced only about 500 cases. In 2014, a hot year, the winery produced close to 1,500 cases, Hanson said.

“We’re small and we self-distribute and we sell a lot through our tasting room, so we can absorb swings like that more than a huge winery that has commitments to distributors,” he said.

Small, like an old-world winery.

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Small winery starts at the right time and place http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150929/small-winery-starts-at-the-right-time-and-place http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150929/small-winery-starts-at-the-right-time-and-place#Comments Tue, 29 Sep 2015 15:46:06 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150929854 SUNNY SLOPE, Idaho — Situated in a perfect place to grow wine grapes, Fujishin Family Cellars takes advantage of the unique high desert climate that produces some of the finest wine in the world.

The Snake River Valley AVA (in southwestern Idaho and eastern Oregon) has the ideal combination of warm days and cool nights that creates superb grapes.

Martin Fujishin says this winery was part of a project that he and his fiancée, Teresa Moye, started in 2007 — the year they started making wine.

“I grew up in this area, on a family farm. Teresa and I met in 2006 and mutually fell in love with the wine business,” he says.

“When I was growing up I farmed with my parents for a number of years and then started farming on my own. During that time I worked for Koenig Winery on weekends,” he says. “I did sales for them, and was still working for them when I met Teresa, as assistant winemaker and cellar master.”

They got encouragement along the way.

“After I’d been working for them awhile they were kind enough to say that they thought it would be great for us to have our own winery. This was why we began our project,” he says.

The Fujishin Family Cellars started out with a group of wineries in Caldwell and then moved out to the Sunny Slope area with the other wineries 5 years ago.

“We did one year in Caldwell with a little tasting room that we shared with two other wineries, then branched out on our own; we wanted to be out here in wine country,” Fujishin says.

“It’s been a really great experience, and basically a labor of love for myself and Teresa, and now her daughter Helena is also involved in the business. The three of us run it, with just a little part-time help to do the tasting room,” he says.

In the wine business, there are a lot of big corporate wineries, but “we are still a very small family-owned winery and specialize in the varieties that most people don’t necessarily think of for the Northwest,” he says.

They make wines such as Mourvedre, Petit Bordeaux, Petit Syrah and others that many wineries might shy away from because they are not the big name varieties.

“We tend to specialize in things that are a little bit different. Our other brand, Lost West Winery, is a side project in which we are actually doing varieties from other regions as well,” he says.

Martin and Teresa are pleased to be part of the Idaho wine community.

“It’s wonderful to be part of a small group of wineries who are very supportive of one another. This is a great community in which to start a winery — and one of the few places in the world where you can actually still start a winery and have it not be horribly high-priced, and be acceptably competitive,” he says. “We’re still a group that is supportive of each other; we are 50 wineries against the world as opposed to 50 wineries against each other. That’s unique and a lot of fun.”

Fujishin Family Cellars

In business: Since 2007

Owner: Martin Fujishin

Location: Sunny Slope, near Caldwell, Idaho

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Winemaker lobbies Olympia while building brand http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150929/winemaker-lobbies-olympia-while-building-brand http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150929/winemaker-lobbies-olympia-while-building-brand#Comments Tue, 29 Sep 2015 15:45:42 -0400 Erick Peterson http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150929855 SEATTLE — Having opened Wilridge Winery in 1988, winemaker Paul Beveridge has seen competitors come and go, and he boasts that his business is the “oldest continuously operated winery in Seattle.”

The business started as a hobby, he said. Then he “started making more wine than he could drink” and decided to make even more wine and market it.

This worked well for his family, as his wife was entering the restaurant business, starting a French-style bistro, which helped him with his first sales.

A lawyer by trade, he lobbied Olympia for change that would benefit Wilridge and other Washington winemakers, he said. After three years, he helped convince the state liquor board to allow restaurants and wineries in the same building.

“That was kind of interesting,” he said. “I spent a lot of time in Olympia, trying to modernize the wine laws.”

He followed up with other fights related to regulating wine businesses, helping to change rules that dated to Prohibition. He has done much of this work through professional organizations, including Family Wineries of Washington State, of which he is currently president. There, he has been pushing for the free market and support for small wineries and wine consumers, he said.

Meanwhile, during the “slow process” of wine industry deregulation, Wilridge continued to grow, expanding into a cooperative tasting room, “The Tasting Room,” at Seattle’s Pike Place Market and planting a vineyard in Naches Heights, near Yakima, Wash.

With growing success, around eight years ago he quit his lawyering “day job” to focus on wine.

The purchase of the Naches Heights property and planting a vineyard were particularly exciting, he said. He planted 12 acres in a test block of 22 varietals: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Mourvedre, Viognier, Barbera, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Sagrantino, Pinot Grigio and White Muscat.

More varieties are to come, he said, as he determines the best grapes for the location.

Business is good, both in Seattle and in Yakima, according to Beveridge and his employees. Wilridge Winery Assistant Manager Sara Gurdey said the small tasting room near Yakima can attract 200 visitors in an ordinary day.

People have good reason to drop in, she said. The winery hosts special events, including live music in the middle of the week.

“But the wine is still the thing,” she said. Though people visit for the music and entertaining atmosphere, they buy the wine because it is good, she said.

Wilridge Winery

Owner: Paul Beveridge

First opened: 1988

Location: Seattle and Yakima, Wash.

Varieties: Various white and rose wines, red wines and dessert wines

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Winemaker says his work not all glamour http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150929/winemaker-says-his-work-not-all-glamour http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150929/winemaker-says-his-work-not-all-glamour#Comments Tue, 29 Sep 2015 15:44:51 -0400 Erick Peterson http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150929856 PROSSER, Wash. — Gordon Taylor hesitates a bit when asked about his title at Daven Lore Winery.

“What am I?” he said. “I’m the winemaker, forklift driver, chief bottle washer and cleaner of the toilets.”

The winery’s owner, he covers all of the aforementioned positions, and more. He explains that winery ownership is less glamorous than people think, though many outsiders seem attracted to the industry.

Taylor is in the midst of celebrations and events to commemorate the winery’s 10th anniversary. Also, new wines have been released and membership specials have been created.

In all the excitement, the owner said the wine business is much like the agricultural work that he experienced growing up on a farm in Canada, though with some glaring differences. The biggest difference relates to public involvement.

Nowadays, people volunteer to help him with his production. They ask him if they can clean bottles, clean or do anything else needed. That never happened on the farm, he said.

“People are just fascinated with the industry,” he said. “They think it’s sexy.”

He admits to becoming something of a celebrity in his community, which has value. The attention leads to greater wine sales. People want to meet him, ask to volunteer and then buy bottles of wine, even when he tells them there are no opportunities for volunteering.

The glamour — the images of people standing around in fancy dress and filled glasses — is only 3 percent of the winery, he said. The remainder is “laborious.” He puts in 10 to 12 hours a day, “like most farmers.”

He starts his day at 5 a.m. and finishes at 7 p.m., or later if he has a pouring event.

He sticks with it because he is not discouraged by long days. This is the farmer in him, he said. It is a unique ethic, a feeling that work equals fun. He also likes seeing the enjoyment of others when they try his wine.

He makes 16 different wines, and said that his goal is to show people the greatness of Washington state grapes. He purchases nearly all of his grapes, and grows only an eighth of an acre of grapes near his winery.

“The wine is made by the growers,” he said. “It’s my job not to screw it up.”

He said he prefers buying grapes, as the growers are within 30 miles of the winery and dealing with the growers saves him the hassle of growing grapes himself. These growers are all established, and their fruit comes from highly reputed areas — the Horse Heaven Hills, Snipes Mountain and the Yakima Valley.

At the Prosser tasting room, winery manager Sonya Symons confirms that life here is busy, especially as the winery makes special efforts to run unique programs such as bottle-recycling.

There are certification programs run through the winery and harvest camps. Also, they make frequent trips to farmers’ markets and local stores. There are often events to attend, and things to do. But she does not seem to mind.

“It’s what we chose to get into,” she said. “It’s difficult, but it’s something that we decided on because we really love to do it.”

Daven Lore Winery

Location: Prosser, Wash.

Started: 2005

Wines: Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Aridsol Red, Malbec, Merlot, Durif, Petit Verdot, Recovery Red, Port, Sweet Riesling, Dry Riesling, Rose, Muscadelle

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Vineyard operators concentrate on grapes http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150929/vineyard-operators-concentrate-on-grapes http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150929/vineyard-operators-concentrate-on-grapes#Comments Tue, 29 Sep 2015 15:44:28 -0400 Brenna Wiegand http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150929857 Through their 25 years in viticulture, Pete and Donna Paradis of Paradis Vineyard have been successful in shifting the nature of their business to suit the market and their lifestyle.

In 1990 they purchased the 100-acre property on North Abiqua Road near Silverton, Ore., that includes a 60-acre vineyard, woodlands and a home.

They got into wine-making in 2000 and helped form the East Valley Wine District to promote the wines on the east side of the Willamette Valley.

“We make just as good a wine or better than they do over there,” Paradis said. “It’s just getting the word out. Many have said that for every 20-dollar bottle of wine, 10 dollars go into marketing.”

Ultimately, they decided that marketing the wine took too much time away from the family and closed the winery in 2007.

Last year the vineyard formed a partnership with Adelsheim Vineyard, which now leases the entire 60-acre vineyard. This year’s crop is estimated at 120-140 tons.

“I’m real proud to have our fruit going in that direction,” Paradis said. “Before this it was usually blended in large vats with that of many other growers and our efforts to improve quality were lost in the tank, so to speak.”

Adelsheim Vineyard & Winery makes small production, single vineyard Pinot Noirs.

“They had an event where we were able to come and taste the wine made from our grapes,” Donna Paradis said. “The winemakers told us they liked what they were getting.”

The steady income enabled Pete to retire from Silver Falls School District after 26 years to focus entirely on the farm. Donna went into real estate three years ago and found her farming background brings buyers and sellers — a California almond farmer, a large herbal company and currently Abiqua Wind Vineyard & Winery just down the road.

As son Pierre’s duties as vineyard manager lessened he focused on off-site equipment contracting for other vineyards and two years ago the 22-year-old launched Rainbow Valley Enterprises, doing hedging, leaf removal, hauling fruit and the like.

In March AgroThermal Systems of Walnut Creek, Calif., named him its first certified applicator of their heat-treatment technology. It involves making 4 mph passes through a vineyard or other crop on a machine that shoots out 300-350 degree blasts of air, raising the temperature of leaves and clusters by 20 percent in less than a second. The treatment has been shown to increase yields by up to 25 percent and increase the wine’s phenolic content. Phenols impact the taste, color and mouthfeel of wine.

Last year Pete completed carving a 25-foot totem pole chronicling the family’s ventures and milestones, inspired by his American Indian heritage.

An intricate grapevine weaves its way through all the symbols of heritage, careers, children, weddings and affiliations because, as he said, their whole life wraps around grapes.

“There’s room throughout the pole for other ventures,” he added. “Who knows what we might do in the future.”

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It’s all about the grapes for this winery http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150929/its-all-about-the-grapes-for-this-winery http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150929/its-all-about-the-grapes-for-this-winery#Comments Tue, 29 Sep 2015 15:44:15 -0400 Brenna Wiegand http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150929858 SILVERTON, Ore. — It’s always been about the grapes for Chris Deckelman.

In 2003, when he was having trouble selling all the fruit from the 250 to 280 acres he either owns or manages, he and wife, Sharon, and friends Bruce and Sally Eich started Vitis Ridge Winery. They started in Deckelman’s garage, where the two men had already been making wine for 20 years.

Focusing on unique wines and specialty blends, Vitis Ridge was soon producing 3,000 cases a year. The grapes come solely from the 100-acre Meridian Estate Vineyard and account for 4 to 5 percent of that fruit.

Bruce Eich is ready to retire from the wine-making business and Deckelman isn’t sure where he’ll go from here, but for starters he’s moving the tasting room back home after subletting from Seven Brides the past several years — as long as he can get county approval. The rules changed a month before he applied.

“Once it’s approved we’re going to buy out Bruce and Sally and see where we go from there,” Deckelman said. “It’s kind of hard to stop.”

Deckelman has been growing grapes for more than 30 years, starting with 10 acres in 1992. Most recently he planted 33 acres to hazelnuts.

In managing other area vineyards Deckelman does everything from planting the vines to selling the fruit, moving 900 to 1,000 tons of fruit, mainly Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.

Being from the Burgundy family, these varieties are especially thin-skinned and he’s had to deal with some sunburn this year.

“The crop is really happy so we were able to drop some of the sunburned fruit and make our tonnage per acre,” Deckelman said.

The way they’re supported calls for yearly cane pruning, for which a machine has yet to be found.

“We’re trying to mechanize everything — hedging, leaf removal, harvest,” he said, “but our style of pruning is just very labor intensive so we’re stuck with that.”

Among his biggest customers are King Estate Winery in Eugene, Willamette Valley Vineyard in Turner, Chateau Bianca in Dallas and Honeywood Winery of Salem.

Deckelman said the East Willamette Valley is gaining on the West Valley in terms of recognition for its wine and grapes.

“King Estate, Oregon’s biggest producer, buys a large volume of Pinot Gris grapes from within about a 10-mile radius of Silverton,” he said. “It’s getting around that this is a really good region.”

It was by a twist of fate that David Hill, a pioneer in the Oregon wine industry, chose the Dundee hills to open Eyrie Vineyards, where he made wine until his death in 2008.

“He originally wanted to plant out here in the Silverton hills but the price was too high; it was the late ’70s-early ’80s and a lot of it was in strawberries,” Deckelman said. “So he went over to the west side of the Valley.”

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Institute supports growth of S. Oregon wine industry http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150929/institute-supports-growth-of-s-oregon-wine-industry http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150929/institute-supports-growth-of-s-oregon-wine-industry#Comments Tue, 29 Sep 2015 15:43:38 -0400 CRAIG REED http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150929859 ROSEBURG, Ore. — The number of vineyards and wineries was slowly growing in the many valleys of Douglas County, Ore., but Scott Henry said he thought something was missing.

Henry was president of the Umpqua Valley Winegrowers Association, and he said the association finally decided the missing ingredient in the area’s wine growth was education in viticulture and enology.

“We had been beating our heads wondering what we could do to improve our industry,” said Henry, who founded Henry Estate Winery in 1978. “We looked around the country and saw that where the wine industry had thrived, there was a teaching facility.

“The more we looked into it, the more we talked to other industry members, the more we figured we could do it,” he added.

Even while a capital campaign was underway to raise funds to build a teaching center on the Umpqua Community College campus 5 miles north of Roseburg, Chris Lake was hired as the director of the Southern Oregon Wine Institute and began teaching classes in viticulture and enology in the fall of 2008.

There was plenty of support for the capital campaign, not only from the wine industry but from many foundations, industrial groups and private entities. In eight months, $2.5 million was raised. The college issued bonds to cover the rest of the expense and construction of a $7 million, 24,000-square-foot facility began in 2010. The Danny Lang Teaching, Learning and Event Center, named after a generous private donor from Roseburg, became operational in early 2012.

“Our models were wine centers at Walla Walla Community College, Chemeketa Community College (in Salem, Oregon) and Napa Junior College in California,” Lake said.

The bottom floor replicates a small to medium winery, there are classrooms and laboratories on the second floor, and an event center, a tasting counter and offices are on the third floor.

“We needed a building that implies we’re going to make wine,” Lake said. “We have to make a product that is desirable to the consumer who would want to buy it. And then we needed a tasting room where students can talk directly to consumers, ask them what kind of wine they want, whether white or red, bold or sweet. It’s all part of the wine experience, from the ground up, dirt to glass.”

Since 2010, the center has averaged 40 to 45 students in the program each year. They have ranged in age from 17 to 72. A one-year certificate in viticulture or a two-year associate degree in enology and viticulture can be earned.

The Southern Oregon Wine Institute, a division of Umpqua Community College, serves students from seven Southern Oregon counties, but a few students have also come from central Oregon and one woman in England took the online classes.

In the early years, the students visited local vineyards and wineries for the hands-on experience, but the 2-acre Scott Henry Vineyard on the southwestern slope below the center was planted to Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir in 2013. Its first harvest will be in 2016. Another 2-acre block of different varietals is scheduled to be planted this fall.

“We want students to take some responsibility for managing the vineyard,” Lake said. “Each student could be assigned a row and then it would be their responsibility to take it through to harvest.”

Henry said the center is “more than I ever dreamed of.”

“It’s above and beyond anything I ever imagined,” he said. “I think it has encouraged more wine development in the area.”

Henry said he has hired some of the students, some part-time and some full-time, to work in his vineyard and winery.

“Before I was having to go to the employment department to get help and those people knew nothing about grapes, they just wanted a job,” he said. “Now people who are educated for a couple years at the center are a big, big plus. I’m much more willing to pay more than minimum wage for somebody who actually has some knowledge about how to do things in the vineyard or in the winery. I don’t have to train them and that’s worth money for that capability.”

In addition to teaching students, the center will also sublet space to local vineyards that want to make wine there. Two vineyards are scheduled to use the center’s winery this fall.

Southern Oregon Wine Institute

What: Danny Lang Teaching, Learning and Event Center — Classrooms, winery, tasting room, event center, offices and vineyard

Where: Umpqua Community College, 1140 Umpqua College Road, Roseburg, Ore. 541-440-4600

Education: One-year certificate in viticulture or two-year associate degree in enology and viticulture

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Ste. Chapelle winemaker works her way to the top http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150929/ste-chapelle-winemaker-works-her-way-to-the-top http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150929/ste-chapelle-winemaker-works-her-way-to-the-top#Comments Tue, 29 Sep 2015 15:42:17 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150929860 SUNNY SLOPE, Idaho — Sitting atop a high hill, the beautiful Ste. Chapelle Winery overlooks fertile orchards and farms of Sunny Slope in southwestern Idaho.

The Symms family started a wine business in Emmet, Idaho, then moved it to Sunny Slope to build the current winery in 1978. It was designed by Boise architect Nat Adams and named after the 13th century La Sainte Chapelle in Paris that inspired its structure.

Originally intended to be a small family operation, the winery quickly grew to meet customer demand as Idaho’s wine-growing region was gaining a reputation for fine wine.

In 2012 Ste. Chapelle became part of Precept Wine’s Northwest family of wineries. Today it is the leading winery in Idaho in production and sales volume, with approximately 130,000 cases per year.

The 2013 Special Harvest Riesling made by winemaker Maurine Johnson recently won best of category in the 2015 Sunset International Wine Competition.

Maurine started working in the lab in 1987.

“I moved up to become assistant winemaker 11 years later, and have now been the head winemaker for 4 years,” she says.

But she hadn’t planned on a career in wine. “It just happened. I love animals, and when I went to college I got a degree in animal science. I wanted to become a veterinarian, but I didn’t get into vet school. After graduating from college I needed a job. There was an ad in the paper for a lab technician at Ste. Chapelle so I applied, and it went from there,” she says.

Working in the wine lab was a great fit and she enjoyed it. “I love this job. All those years in college, I’d taken chemistry, biology and microbiology, and it was really easy to transition into winemaking. Almost everything else I know about wine, I’ve learned on the job, though I now have a certificate for winemaking for distance learners, from UC-Davis, after took their online course. Now I’m official!”

As wineries go, Ste. Chapelle is not as big as a lot of California wineries, but is by far the largest in Idaho. “We do a wide variety of wines. Riesling is the most commonly planted, but our soft series that includes the soft red, soft white and soft huckleberry are probably our most popular wines,” she says.

“We also make all the usual wines — like Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah. We do the soft wines and two styles of Riesling,” she says.

The winery’s tasting room is a popular place, with its high cathedral-style windows, vaulted ceilings with wooden beams and stained glass grapevine window.

“We also have an upstairs banquet room and a 2-acre park at our facility. We rent these out for parties and weddings. One of the unique things we do is hold concerts during the summer in the park. These are held on Sunday afternoons and attract a lot of people.”

Ste. Chapelle Winery

Founded: 1975 by the Symms family

Location: Sunny Slope, near Caldwell, Idaho

Winemaker: Maurine Johnson

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Sweat, worry and joy mold winegrower’s art http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150929/sweat-worry-and-joy-mold-winegrowers-art http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150929/sweat-worry-and-joy-mold-winegrowers-art#Comments Tue, 29 Sep 2015 15:38:05 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150929861 HEALDSBURG, Calif. — Scott Johnsen, a self-described “plant geek,” is one of the winegrowers behind Frei Brothers Reserve and that’s where he likes to be.

“I grew up in Southern California and was introduced to agriculture by my dad,” he said. “I would spend a lot of time by his side learning how to garden, grow and take great care of our plants.”

After graduating from the University of California-Davis, he worked in viticulture and winemaking in France and the Napa Valley, eventually becoming an intern for E.&J. Gallo Winery in Sonoma County and then moving to his current position with Frei Brothers wines.

Johnsen grows Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir, as well as few blender grapes like Petite Sirah and Malbec.

But there is one grape that is more finicky than the rest.

“Pinot Noir is the one grape that keeps me up at night,” he said. “Pinot is challenging to grow because of its thin skin, making these grapes more susceptible to fungus, mildew and sunburn. We manage this by planting our grapes in the sites where they grow best, meaning the Russian River Valley.”

Johnsen balances vigilance and minimal intervention to ensure the long term health of the land and the vines. Frei Brothers are an avid proponent of sustainable winegrowing practices. The winery’s closed water loop illustrates this passion.

“This system helps to reduce or eliminate water across the pressing, transferring, bottling and cleaning process,” he said.

Since 2010, water use in bottling alone has been reduced by 97.25 percent, from 1.6 million gallons to 44,000, he said.

“In both the vineyard and winery, we have focused on increased efficiencies and water savings and capitalize on the areas we can utilize rainwater where there may be groundwater shortages,” he said. “In addition, we are pioneering zonal irrigation technology that monitors soil maps through satellite imagery to determine which areas of a vineyard might need more water, ultimately watering vine-by-vine.”

Johnsen said the cloud of the California drought is not looming large in Sonoma County. Overall, the region is in a unique spot compared to the rest of California; 50 percent of normal rainfall is still 20 inches.

However, it does have an increased water demand for both urban use and assisting the habitat for endangered species survival. Because of the drought the winery is releasing water to assist the newly hatched fish.

The early harvest in Sonoma County already began earlier this month, he said. “This year was dry and warm throughout the growing season, which allowed our grapes to mature quickly for delicious, ripe fruit flavors.”

As is the case with all labor-intensive agriculture, labor costs and availability are challenges.

“We are actively researching and implementing innovative mechanization, while also training our current employees to be involved year-round to empower them with new skillsets,” he said.

“Scott is a tremendous grape grower in his own right, and also maintains a great working relationship with our growers to help them grow the best possible fruit,” Frei Brothers Reserve winemaker Dean Katzung said. “That combination makes him a great partner for us on the winemaking side for Frei Brothers as we strive to craft flavorful wines that are expressive of their growing region.”

Johnsen adds his own take on winegrowing and being stewards of the land.

“‘Being green’ is not about a popularity contest, it’s about doing the right things for future generations,” he said. “All of us at Frei Brothers stay true to this philosophy in every choice we make. Our wines carry a legacy of sustainability.”

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Napa winemaker grew up in California vineyards http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150929/napa-winemaker-grew-up-in-california-vineyards http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150929/napa-winemaker-grew-up-in-california-vineyards#Comments Tue, 29 Sep 2015 15:37:44 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150929862 NAPA, Calif. — At an early age winemaker Mark Williams discovered a profound respect for those who work in the vineyards.

“My father is a viticulture professor at University of California-Davis and I can remember working in his research block of Thompson Seedless grapes as a high school student,” he said. “It was hot, dirty, and physically demanding, and I only saw the manual labor aspect of viticulture.”

It wasn’t until he started studying enology in college that he learned to appreciate the adage, “Wine is made in the vineyard,” he said.

Before coming to William Hill Estate, Williams gained experience as an enologist working in the Eden Valley in Australia and the Edna Valley in California’s Central Coast.

On the 140-acre estate in the Napa Valley’s Silverado Bench, Cabernet is most widely planted variety and comprises 82 percent of the planted acres. Chardonnay, which he crafts from fruit grown throughout the Napa Valley, is the most popular wine in the tasting room.

In addition to pests, the 4-year drought looms large as a challenge.

“The drought has had an impact on our entire state, from a lack of snowfall in the Sierra and devastating wildfires to water rationing in people’s homes,” he said. “On the vineyard side, the warm, dry spring has made for a very early harvest.”

Williams said the most rewarding part of his job is experiencing the wines as they evolve over time — there are few products in the world that mature quite like wine.

It all begins in the vineyard, tasting the grapes as they transition through the growing season, later determining the amount of extraction appropriate during fermentation, selecting the oak for aging, then tasting the wine with family and friends long after it has bottled.

“I especially like to make intense, age-worthy reds that are complex and well-structured, as well as whites that are expressive and vibrant,” he said. “Generally, I enjoy wines from all over the world and over the years have spent a small fortune fine-tuning my palate trying new and different producers.

The public’s tastes in wine continues to change, he said.

“Consumers’ tastes have changed over the past five years; I know mine have evolved,” he said. “What we’re seeing is that millennials (people born between 1978 and 1998) are willing to try new things and aren’t as afraid of wines as other generations have been.”

“Mark is a tremendous winemaker and his passion for the wines he crafts is unparalleled,” Scott Kozel, vice president of coastal winemaking for E&J Gallo, said. “But I think it is Mark’s intuition that sets him apart from so many of the other winemakers I have worked with. Mark is able to taste a wine, make an assessment of where it sits today and postulate which one of the possible next steps might best benefit a given wine.”

And, Kozel said, “He is almost always right! His intuition is a rare trait that helps ensure all of the wines he crafts are phenomenal.”

Williams said it’s a great time to be in the wine industry.

“Winemaking is absolutely fascinating and reminds me of raising children and watching them grow over the years,” he said.

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Winemaker lets grapes do heavy lifting http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150914/winemaker-lets-grapes-do-heavy-lifting http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150914/winemaker-lets-grapes-do-heavy-lifting#Comments Mon, 14 Sep 2015 07:44:56 -0400 MITCH LIES http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150919947 WOODBURN, Ore. — Jason Hanson, winemaker at Hanson Vineyards, lets his grapes do the heavy lifting and eschews the idea of a “house wine.”

“I have a non-interventionist wine-making theory,” Hanson said. “I would rather grow the best fruit I possibly can and allow it to turn itself into wine than change the nature of wine (through manipulation).

“My Pinots from year to year change drastically,” Hanson said. “Every year they are completely different, and that is the way I want it. I don’t want a ‘house style.’”

A small-acreage winery, Hanson Vineyards, one could say is a throwback to an old-world style of winery that still is prevalent in Europe, but is rare in the U.S.

“We will never be a big winery, and we don’t want to be,” he said.

“You go to France and there are lots of little family plots on the hillsides. The family works the land and makes the wine and has for generations. There is no desire to be huge. The desire is to have a product that you are proud of that you put your name on the side of the bottle,” he said.

Located in Monitor, an unincorporated community east of Woodburn in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Hanson Vineyards is situated on three distinct soil types. Clay soils dominate the upper part of the vineyard, while rocky and sandy soils dominate the lower part.

“We’re in what is essentially the Butte Creek sub-valley,” said Hanson, the fourth generation of his family to farm the ground. “It is very interesting soil to work with.”

The vineyard practices sustainable production practices, he said, limiting use of pesticides and using netting to protect grapes from robin damage.

The winery produces a variety of grapes, which enables the vineyard to stagger harvests in a way that minimizes the need for outside labor and allows it to serve a wide variety in its tasting room, including Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay and Gamay Noir.

“I think you are going to see a lot more Gamay Noir coming into the Willamette Valley,” Hanson said. “It is a unique grape. It is a heavy producer and it is right for our climate.”

Marechal Foch, which Hanson uses in a red blend called Cascadia, is the darkest grape produced on the vineyard. The blend, consisting of half Foch and half Pinot Noir, won a silver medal at the 2015 Great Northwest Wine Competition in Hood River.

The winery ages wine in oak barrels a minimum of two years before bottling, Hanson said.

In addition to the wine characteristics changing dramatically from year to year, production levels can swing wildly at Hanson Vineyards.

In 2010, a cool year, the winery lost a sizable percentage of its crop to botrytis and bird damage and produced only about 500 cases. In 2014, a hot year, the winery produced close to 1,500 cases, Hanson said.

“We’re small and we self-distribute and we sell a lot through our tasting room, so we can absorb swings like that more than a huge winery that has commitments to distributors,” he said.

Small, like an old-world winery.

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Napa winemaker grew up in California vineyards http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150914/napa-winemaker-grew-up-in-california-vineyards http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150914/napa-winemaker-grew-up-in-california-vineyards#Comments Mon, 14 Sep 2015 07:44:51 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150919948 NAPA, Calif. — At an early age winemaker Mark Williams discovered a profound respect for those who work in the vineyards.

“My father is a viticulture professor at University of California-Davis and I can remember working in his research block of Thompson Seedless grapes as a high school student,” he said. “It was hot, dirty, and physically demanding, and I only saw the manual labor aspect of viticulture.”

It wasn’t until he started studying enology in college that he learned to appreciate the adage, “Wine is made in the vineyard,” he said.

Before coming to William Hill Estate, Williams gained experience as an enologist working in the Eden Valley in Australia and the Edna Valley in California’s Central Coast.

On the 140-acre estate in the Napa Valley’s Silverado Bench, Cabernet is most widely planted variety and comprises 82 percent of the planted acres. Chardonnay, which he crafts from fruit grown throughout the Napa Valley, is the most popular wine in the tasting room.

In addition to pests, the 4-year drought looms large as a challenge.

“The drought has had an impact on our entire state, from a lack of snowfall in the Sierra and devastating wildfires to water rationing in people’s homes,” he said. “On the vineyard side, the warm, dry spring has made for a very early harvest.”

Williams said the most rewarding part of his job is experiencing the wines as they evolve over time — there are few products in the world that mature quite like wine.

It all begins in the vineyard, tasting the grapes as they transition through the growing season, later determining the amount of extraction appropriate during fermentation, selecting the oak for aging, then tasting the wine with family and friends long after it has bottled.

“I especially like to make intense, age-worthy reds that are complex and well-structured, as well as whites that are expressive and vibrant,” he said. “Generally, I enjoy wines from all over the world and over the years have spent a small fortune fine-tuning my palate trying new and different producers.

The public’s tastes in wine continues to change, he said.

“Consumers’ tastes have changed over the past five years; I know mine have evolved,” he said. “What we’re seeing is that millennials (people born between 1978 and 1998) are willing to try new things and aren’t as afraid of wines as other generations have been.”

“Mark is a tremendous winemaker and his passion for the wines he crafts is unparalleled,” Scott Kozel, vice president of coastal winemaking for E&J Gallo, said. “But I think it is Mark’s intuition that sets him apart from so many of the other winemakers I have worked with. Mark is able to taste a wine, make an assessment of where it sits today and postulate which one of the possible next steps might best benefit a given wine.”

And, Kozel said, “He is almost always right! His intuition is a rare trait that helps ensure all of the wines he crafts are phenomenal.”

Williams said it’s a great time to be in the wine industry.

“Winemaking is absolutely fascinating and reminds me of raising children and watching them grow over the years,” he said.

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Sweat, worry and joy mold winegrower’s art http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150914/sweat-worry-and-joy-mold-winegrowers-art http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150914/sweat-worry-and-joy-mold-winegrowers-art#Comments Mon, 14 Sep 2015 07:44:26 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150919949 HEALDSBURG, Calif. — Scott Johnsen, a self-described “plant geek,” is one of the winegrowers behind Frei Brothers Reserve and that’s where he likes to be.

“I grew up in Southern California and was introduced to agriculture by my dad,” he said. “I would spend a lot of time by his side learning how to garden, grow and take great care of our plants.”

After graduating from the University of California-Davis, he worked in viticulture and winemaking in France and the Napa Valley, eventually becoming an intern for E.&J. Gallo Winery in Sonoma County and then moving to his current position with Frei Brothers wines.

Johnsen grows Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir, as well as few blender grapes like Petite Sirah and Malbec.

But there is one grape that is more finicky than the rest.

“Pinot Noir is the one grape that keeps me up at night,” he said. “Pinot is challenging to grow because of its thin skin, making these grapes more susceptible to fungus, mildew and sunburn. We manage this by planting our grapes in the sites where they grow best, meaning the Russian River Valley.”

Johnsen balances vigilance and minimal intervention to ensure the long term health of the land and the vines. Frei Brothers are an avid proponent of sustainable winegrowing practices. The winery’s closed water loop illustrates this passion.

“This system helps to reduce or eliminate water across the pressing, transferring, bottling and cleaning process,” he said.

Since 2010, water use in bottling alone has been reduced by 97.25 percent, from 1.6 million gallons to 44,000, he said.

“In both the vineyard and winery, we have focused on increased efficiencies and water savings and capitalize on the areas we can utilize rainwater where there may be groundwater shortages,” he said. “In addition, we are pioneering zonal irrigation technology that monitors soil maps through satellite imagery to determine which areas of a vineyard might need more water, ultimately watering vine-by-vine.”

Johnsen said the cloud of the California drought is not looming large in Sonoma County. Overall, the region is in a unique spot compared to the rest of California; 50 percent of normal rainfall is still 20 inches.

However, it does have an increased water demand for both urban use and assisting the habitat for endangered species survival. Because of the drought the winery is releasing water to assist the newly hatched fish.

The early harvest in Sonoma County already began earlier this month, he said. “This year was dry and warm throughout the growing season, which allowed our grapes to mature quickly for delicious, ripe fruit flavors.”

As is the case with all labor-intensive agriculture, labor costs and availability are challenges.

“We are actively researching and implementing innovative mechanization, while also training our current employees to be involved year-round to empower them with new skillsets,” he said.

“Scott is a tremendous grape grower in his own right, and also maintains a great working relationship with our growers to help them grow the best possible fruit,” Frei Brothers Reserve winemaker Dean Katzung said. “That combination makes him a great partner for us on the winemaking side for Frei Brothers as we strive to craft flavorful wines that are expressive of their growing region.”

Johnsen adds his own take on winegrowing and being stewards of the land.

“‘Being green’ is not about a popularity contest, it’s about doing the right things for future generations,” he said. “All of us at Frei Brothers stay true to this philosophy in every choice we make. Our wines carry a legacy of sustainability.”

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Sawtooth dates back to early years of Idaho wineries http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150914/sawtooth-dates-back-to-early-years-of-idaho-wineries http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150914/sawtooth-dates-back-to-early-years-of-idaho-wineries#Comments Mon, 14 Sep 2015 07:44:12 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150919950 NAMPA, Idaho — The vineyards that surround Sawtooth Estate Winery were once lush pastures owned by Charles Pintler. The Pintler family saw more potential than grazing in the steep, south-facing slopes and decided to grow wine grapes, creating a vineyard in 1982.

They planted 7 acres of European vinifera that included Chenin Blanc, Riesling and Semillon grapes. The next year they planted 4 more acres, to include Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. In 1987 they harvested the first fruit for their winery.

The name was changed to Sawtooth that year, to honor Idaho’s famous mountain range and scenic grandeur. In 1989 the tasting room opened and curious visitors enjoyed Idaho’s new premium winery.

In following years, Chardonnay and experimental varieties were planted on what grew to be a 70-acre vineyard, which was eventually merged with a neighboring 400-acre vineyard. Syrah, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Franc and Viognier plantings added more varieties.

Pintler Cellars then joined Corus Estates and Vineyards in 1998, which later merged with Precept Wine. In recent years, with Meredith Smith as winemaker, the Sawtooth Estate Winery has achieved high scores — 90 points or higher, mainly for Syrah and Riesling wines — in publications like Wine & Spirits, Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator.

“I was hired in 2009 to help with the harvest,” Smith says. “At that time I was working under Bill Murray, the winemaker hired in 2008 from Napa. He had been a winemaker in California for about 20 years and then moved to Idaho to be the winemaker at Sawtooth.”

In 2010 Murray moved to Walla Walla, Wash., to become winemaker for a winery there.

“I was assistant winemaker and in 2013 they made me the winemaker here,” she said.

She studied viticulture through Washington State University, and earned her winemaking credentials through Murray.

“We have 19 different varieties on 500 acres and I produce about 15 different types of wines,” she says. The winery produces about 12,000 to 15,000 cases annually.

Sawtooth has a wine club with a large membership; many of the wines are sold through the wine club and the tasting room.

The club’s members are located throughout Idaho, and across the U.S. Distributors also deliver the wines to retail stores, restaurants and wine shops.

“I grew up in Boise. The thing I love about Idaho is that a large number of varieties of grapes do very well here,” Smith says.

There are 19 different varieties in the Sawtooth vineyard and a lot of the wineries source fruit from our vineyard because it performs well, she says.

“I’ve enjoyed seeing the progression of this industry in Idaho. When I finished my education I had a choice to go to either Oregon or Washington, but there were a lot of winemakers moving to Idaho. So I stayed here and jumped on this growth,” she says.

Idaho wineries are unique in one respect, Smith says.

“The majority of Idaho winemakers are females,” she says. “We all work together very well. I like the fact that Idaho is positioned so well, with the Snake River Valley AVA.”

The AVA has a good climate and soil for vineyards, she says.

“This brings a uniqueness and flavor that is reflected in the wine,” Smith says. “The true pioneers in this region were the 5 or 6 wineries that started out here, with faith in this potential — like Brad Pintler, who planted this vineyard and put in so many different varieties and started experimenting with them.

“It was hard to sell Idaho wines here even though they had good wines — because very few people really knew about them. We’re now reaping the benefits of what those early pioneers started,” she says. “They had a great vision.

Word is getting out about Idaho’s wines.

“We just had a wine invited to go to France, and had one of our wines poured there,” Smith says. “It’s the first time Idaho has ever been chosen to be poured at a world event, and that was at Bordeaux this year. This was quite an honor, and shows that Idaho has finally started to get some recognition!”

Sawtooth Estate Winery

Founded: 1987

Original name: Pintler Cellars

Location: Nampa, Idaho

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(No heading) http://www.capitalpress.com/article/20150914/ARTICLE/150919951 http://www.capitalpress.com/article/20150914/ARTICLE/150919951#Comments Mon, 14 Sep 2015 07:44:08 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150919951 SUNNY SLOPE, Idaho — Sitting atop a high hill, the beautiful Ste. Chapelle Winery overlooks fertile orchards and farms of Sunny Slope in southwestern Idaho.

The Symms family started a wine business in Emmet, Idaho, then moved it to Sunny Slope to build the current winery in 1978. It was designed by Boise architect Nat Adams and named after the 13th century La Sainte Chapelle in Paris that inspired its structure.

Originally intended to be a small family operation, the winery quickly grew to meet customer demand as Idaho’s wine-growing region was gaining a reputation for fine wine.

In 2012 Ste. Chapelle became part of Precept Wine’s Northwest family of wineries. Today it is the leading winery in Idaho in production and sales volume, with approximately 130,000 cases per year.

The 2013 Special Harvest Riesling made by winemaker Maurine Johnson recently won best of category in the 2015 Sunset International Wine Competition.

Maurine started working in the lab in 1987.

“I moved up to become assistant winemaker 11 years later, and have now been the head winemaker for 4 years,” she says.

But she hadn’t planned on a career in wine. “It just happened. I love animals, and when I went to college I got a degree in animal science. I wanted to become a veterinarian, but I didn’t get into vet school. After graduating from college I needed a job. There was an ad in the paper for a lab technician at Ste. Chapelle so I applied, and it went from there,” she says.

Working in the wine lab was a great fit and she enjoyed it. “I love this job. All those years in college, I’d taken chemistry, biology and microbiology, and it was really easy to transition into winemaking. Almost everything else I know about wine, I’ve learned on the job, though I now have a certificate for winemaking for distance learners, from UC-Davis, after took their online course. Now I’m official!”

As wineries go, Ste. Chapelle is not as big as a lot of California wineries, but is by far the largest in Idaho. “We do a wide variety of wines. Riesling is the most commonly planted, but our soft series that includes the soft red, soft white and soft huckleberry are probably our most popular wines,” she says.

“We also make all the usual wines — like Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah. We do the soft wines and two styles of Riesling,” she says.

The winery’s tasting room is a popular place, with its high cathedral-style windows, vaulted ceilings with wooden beams and stained glass grapevine window.

“We also have an upstairs banquet room and a 2-acre park at our facility. We rent these out for parties and weddings. One of the unique things we do is hold concerts during the summer in the park. These are held on Sunday afternoons and attract a lot of people.”

Ste. Chapelle Winery

Founded: 1975 by the Symms family

Location: Sunny Slope, near Caldwell, Idaho

Winemaker: Maurine Johnson

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Winemaker lobbies Olympia while building brand http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150914/winemaker-lobbies-olympia-while-building-brand http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150914/winemaker-lobbies-olympia-while-building-brand#Comments Mon, 14 Sep 2015 07:43:57 -0400 Erick Peterson http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150919952 SEATTLE — Having opened Wilridge Winery in 1988, winemaker Paul Beveridge has seen competitors come and go, and he boasts that his business is the “oldest continuously operated winery in Seattle.”

The business started as a hobby, he said. Then he “started making more wine than he could drink” and decided to make even more wine and market it.

This worked well for his family, as his wife was entering the restaurant business, starting a French-style bistro, which helped him with his first sales.

A lawyer by trade, he lobbied Olympia for change that would benefit Wilridge and other Washington winemakers, he said. After three years, he helped convince the state liquor board to allow restaurants and wineries in the same building.

“That was kind of interesting,” he said. “I spent a lot of time in Olympia, trying to modernize the wine laws.”

He followed up with other fights related to regulating wine businesses, helping to change rules that dated to Prohibition. He has done much of this work through professional organizations, including Family Wineries of Washington State, of which he is currently president. There, he has been pushing for the free market and support for small wineries and wine consumers, he said.

Meanwhile, during the “slow process” of wine industry deregulation, Wilridge continued to grow, expanding into a cooperative tasting room, “The Tasting Room,” at Seattle’s Pike Place Market and planting a vineyard in Naches Heights, near Yakima, Wash.

With growing success, around eight years ago he quit his lawyering “day job” to focus on wine.

The purchase of the Naches Heights property and planting a vineyard were particularly exciting, he said. He planted 12 acres in a test block of 22 varietals: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Mourvedre, Viognier, Barbera, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Sagrantino, Pinot Grigio and White Muscat.

More varieties are to come, he said, as he determines the best grapes for the location.

Business is good, both in Seattle and in Yakima, according to Beveridge and his employees. Wilridge Winery Assistant Manager Sara Gurdey said the small tasting room near Yakima can attract 200 visitors in an ordinary day.

People have good reason to drop in, she said. The winery hosts special events, including live music in the middle of the week.

“But the wine is still the thing,” she said. Though people visit for the music and entertaining atmosphere, they buy the wine because it is good, she said.

Wilridge Winery

Owner: Paul Beveridge

First opened: 1988

Location: Seattle and Yakima, Wash.

Varieties: Various white and rose wines, red wines and dessert wines

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Small winery starts at the right time and place http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150914/small-winery-starts-at-the-right-time-and-place http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150914/small-winery-starts-at-the-right-time-and-place#Comments Mon, 14 Sep 2015 07:43:52 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150919953 SUNNY SLOPE, Idaho — Situated in a perfect place to grow wine grapes, Fujishin Family Cellars takes advantage of the unique high desert climate that produces some of the finest wine in the world.

The Snake River Valley AVA (in southwestern Idaho and eastern Oregon) has the ideal combination of warm days and cool nights that creates superb grapes.

Martin Fujishin says this winery was part of a project that he and his fiancée, Teresa Moye, started in 2007 — the year they started making wine.

“I grew up in this area, on a family farm. Teresa and I met in 2006 and mutually fell in love with the wine business,” he says.

“When I was growing up I farmed with my parents for a number of years and then started farming on my own. During that time I worked for Koenig Winery on weekends,” he says. “I did sales for them, and was still working for them when I met Teresa, as assistant winemaker and cellar master.”

They got encouragement along the way.

“After I’d been working for them awhile they were kind enough to say that they thought it would be great for us to have our own winery. This was why we began our project,” he says.

The Fujishin Family Cellars started out with a group of wineries in Caldwell and then moved out to the Sunny Slope area with the other wineries 5 years ago.

“We did one year in Caldwell with a little tasting room that we shared with two other wineries, then branched out on our own; we wanted to be out here in wine country,” Fujishin says.

“It’s been a really great experience, and basically a labor of love for myself and Teresa, and now her daughter Helena is also involved in the business. The three of us run it, with just a little part-time help to do the tasting room,” he says.

In the wine business, there are a lot of big corporate wineries, but “we are still a very small family-owned winery and specialize in the varieties that most people don’t necessarily think of for the Northwest,” he says.

They make wines such as Mourvedre, Petit Bordeaux, Petit Syrah and others that many wineries might shy away from because they are not the big name varieties.

“We tend to specialize in things that are a little bit different. Our other brand, Lost West Winery, is a side project in which we are actually doing varieties from other regions as well,” he says.

Martin and Teresa are pleased to be part of the Idaho wine community.

“It’s wonderful to be part of a small group of wineries who are very supportive of one another. This is a great community in which to start a winery — and one of the few places in the world where you can actually still start a winery and have it not be horribly high-priced, and be acceptably competitive,” he says. “We’re still a group that is supportive of each other; we are 50 wineries against the world as opposed to 50 wineries against each other. That’s unique and a lot of fun.”

Fujishin Family Cellars

In business: Since 2007

Owner: Martin Fujishin

Location: Sunny Slope, near Caldwell, Idaho

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Grower achieves success in unlikely location http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150914/grower-achieves-success-in-unlikely-location http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150914/grower-achieves-success-in-unlikely-location#Comments Mon, 14 Sep 2015 07:43:24 -0400 Erick Peterson http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150919955 YAKIMA, Wash. — Phil Cline describes himself primarily as a grape grower. This is appropriate, he said, because he is involved in many more wineries than his own operation, and most of his days are spent working for others.

“I manage vineyards for other people,” he said. “I probably grow more different types of grapes than any other grower in the state, except for the nursery that makes the plants.

In all, he grows 100 acres of grapes, with 31 varieties. His Naches Heights Vineyard only accounts for five of the varietals — Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, Syrah and Gewurtztraminer — and 8 1/2 acres, first planted in 2002.

Prior to planting grapes, he was in the apple business — a member of the third generation of an apple-growing family in the area. Hail events damaged his apples, however, and forced him out of business.

Concerned about his next step, he thought he would try something new. A friend who is a winemaker told him that he could do well in grapes, so he thought he would give it a shot.

People were skeptical, he said — not of him, but his chosen location. The elevation of Naches Heights was thought to be too high — 1,740 to 1,800 feet above sea level — for grapes.

Cline, however, knew better. He was familiar with other area growers who were successful growing at similar elevations, dating back to the 1970s.

And yes, he confesses, most other vineyards are at lower elevations in the Yakima Valley. The lowest one that he manages is at 900 feet. He adds that elevation is important; it provides the proper temperatures for grapes.

However, he manages his vineyard by shifting the growing schedule by two weeks, as it gets colder at Naches Heights than other nearby places later in the fall. Other than that, the elevation does not necessitate special consideration. He goes about business at Naches Heights the same as other vineyards that he manages lower in the Yakima Valley.

“The quality of the fruit we’re growing is extraordinary,” he said. “It’s rewarding to be able to pull something off that other people didn’t think would be doable. But when you have a history of farming in the area, you know what’s going to work. You know about cold spots, and I’m not going to plant in a cold spot.”

So things seem to be working all right, and conditions are actually getting better, he said, because of increasing temperatures in recent years.

“We’re banking on global warming,” he said.

As things stand, he produces 4,000 cases each year. These wines are sold wholesale and retail, mostly through distributors on both sides of the Cascades and tasting rooms in Yakima and Seattle.

He is proud of this situation that he has created for his vineyard and winery, and he is also pleased with the manner by which he has created success. His vineyard, and most of the ones he manages, is salmon safe and thoughtful when it comes to soil conservation.

“We always say that we grow our grapes with love, and we hope it shows up in the glass,” he said.

Kari Sterns, who works at Naches Heights, confirmed that this “love” shown to grapes carries over to other parts of the business. They show respect for the land, and they treat customers well at the Yakima tasting room.

“This is meant to be a laid back place, where people enjoy themselves and have good feelings about the way we operate,” she said.

Naches Heights Vineyard

Location: Yakima, Wash.

Owner: Phil Cline

Planted: 2002

Acres: 8.5

Varieties: Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, Syrah and Gewurtztraminer

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Winemaker says his work not all glamour http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150914/winemaker-says-his-work-not-all-glamour http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150914/winemaker-says-his-work-not-all-glamour#Comments Mon, 14 Sep 2015 07:43:04 -0400 Erick Peterson http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150919956 PROSSER, Wash. — Gordon Taylor hesitates a bit when asked about his title at Daven Lore Winery.

“What am I?” he said. “I’m the winemaker, forklift driver, chief bottle washer and cleaner of the toilets.”

The winery’s owner, he covers all of the aforementioned positions, and more. He explains that winery ownership is less glamorous than people think, though many outsiders seem attracted to the industry.

Taylor is in the midst of celebrations and events to commemorate the winery’s 10th anniversary. Also, new wines have been released and membership specials have been created.

In all the excitement, the owner said the wine business is much like the agricultural work that he experienced growing up on a farm in Canada, though with some glaring differences. The biggest difference relates to public involvement.

Nowadays, people volunteer to help him with his production. They ask him if they can clean bottles, clean or do anything else needed. That never happened on the farm, he said.

“People are just fascinated with the industry,” he said. “They think it’s sexy.”

He admits to becoming something of a celebrity in his community, which has value. The attention leads to greater wine sales. People want to meet him, ask to volunteer and then buy bottles of wine, even when he tells them there are no opportunities for volunteering.

The glamour — the images of people standing around in fancy dress and filled glasses — is only 3 percent of the winery, he said. The remainder is “laborious.” He puts in 10 to 12 hours a day, “like most farmers.”

He starts his day at 5 a.m. and finishes at 7 p.m., or later if he has a pouring event.

He sticks with it because he is not discouraged by long days. This is the farmer in him, he said. It is a unique ethic, a feeling that work equals fun. He also likes seeing the enjoyment of others when they try his wine.

He makes 16 different wines, and said that his goal is to show people the greatness of Washington state grapes. He purchases nearly all of his grapes, and grows only an eighth of an acre of grapes near his winery.

“The wine is made by the growers,” he said. “It’s my job not to screw it up.”

He said he prefers buying grapes, as the growers are within 30 miles of the winery and dealing with the growers saves him the hassle of growing grapes himself. These growers are all established, and their fruit comes from highly reputed areas — the Horse Heaven Hills, Snipes Mountain and the Yakima Valley.

At the Prosser tasting room, winery manager Sonya Symons confirms that life here is busy, especially as the winery makes special efforts to run unique programs such as bottle-recycling.

There are certification programs run through the winery and harvest camps. Also, they make frequent trips to farmers’ markets and local stores. There are often events to attend, and things to do. But she does not seem to mind.

“It’s what we chose to get into,” she said. “It’s difficult, but it’s something that we decided on because we really love to do it.”

Daven Lore Winery

Location: Prosser, Wash.

Started: 2005

Wines: Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Aridsol Red, Malbec, Merlot, Durif, Petit Verdot, Recovery Red, Port, Sweet Riesling, Dry Riesling, Rose, Muscadelle

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Institute supports growth of S. Oregon wine industry http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150914/institute-supports-growth-of-s-oregon-wine-industry http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150914/institute-supports-growth-of-s-oregon-wine-industry#Comments Mon, 14 Sep 2015 07:42:37 -0400 CRAIG REED http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150919957 ROSEBURG, Ore. — The number of vineyards and wineries was slowly growing in the many valleys of Douglas County, Ore., but Scott Henry said he thought something was missing.

Henry was president of the Umpqua Valley Winegrowers Association, and he said the association finally decided the missing ingredient in the area’s wine growth was education in viticulture and enology.

“We had been beating our heads wondering what we could do to improve our industry,” said Henry, who founded Henry Estate Winery in 1978. “We looked around the country and saw that where the wine industry had thrived, there was a teaching facility.

“The more we looked into it, the more we talked to other industry members, the more we figured we could do it,” he added.

Even while a capital campaign was underway to raise funds to build a teaching center on the Umpqua Community College campus 5 miles north of Roseburg, Chris Lake was hired as the director of the Southern Oregon Wine Institute and began teaching classes in viticulture and enology in the fall of 2008.

There was plenty of support for the capital campaign, not only from the wine industry but from many foundations, industrial groups and private entities. In eight months, $2.5 million was raised. The college issued bonds to cover the rest of the expense and construction of a $7 million, 24,000-square-foot facility began in 2010. The Danny Lang Teaching, Learning and Event Center, named after a generous private donor from Roseburg, became operational in early 2012.

“Our models were wine centers at Walla Walla Community College, Chemeketa Community College (in Salem, Oregon) and Napa Junior College in California,” Lake said.

The bottom floor replicates a small to medium winery, there are classrooms and laboratories on the second floor, and an event center, a tasting counter and offices are on the third floor.

“We needed a building that implies we’re going to make wine,” Lake said. “We have to make a product that is desirable to the consumer who would want to buy it. And then we needed a tasting room where students can talk directly to consumers, ask them what kind of wine they want, whether white or red, bold or sweet. It’s all part of the wine experience, from the ground up, dirt to glass.”

Since 2010, the center has averaged 40 to 45 students in the program each year. They have ranged in age from 17 to 72. A one-year certificate in viticulture or a two-year associate degree in enology and viticulture can be earned.

The Southern Oregon Wine Institute, a division of Umpqua Community College, serves students from seven Southern Oregon counties, but a few students have also come from central Oregon and one woman in England took the online classes.

In the early years, the students visited local vineyards and wineries for the hands-on experience, but the 2-acre Scott Henry Vineyard on the southwestern slope below the center was planted to Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir in 2013. Its first harvest will be in 2016. Another 2-acre block of different varietals is scheduled to be planted this fall.

“We want students to take some responsibility for managing the vineyard,” Lake said. “Each student could be assigned a row and then it would be their responsibility to take it through to harvest.”

Henry said the center is “more than I ever dreamed of.”

“It’s above and beyond anything I ever imagined,” he said. “I think it has encouraged more wine development in the area.”

Henry said he has hired some of the students, some part-time and some full-time, to work in his vineyard and winery.

“Before I was having to go to the employment department to get help and those people knew nothing about grapes, they just wanted a job,” he said. “Now people who are educated for a couple years at the center are a big, big plus. I’m much more willing to pay more than minimum wage for somebody who actually has some knowledge about how to do things in the vineyard or in the winery. I don’t have to train them and that’s worth money for that capability.”

In addition to teaching students, the center will also sublet space to local vineyards that want to make wine there. Two vineyards are scheduled to use the center’s winery this fall.

Southern Oregon Wine Institute

What: Danny Lang Teaching, Learning and Event Center — Classrooms, winery, tasting room, event center, offices and vineyard

Where: Umpqua Community College, 1140 Umpqua College Road, Roseburg, Ore. 541-440-4600

Education: One-year certificate in viticulture or two-year associate degree in enology and viticulture

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It’s all about the grapes for this winery http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150914/its-all-about-the-grapes-for-this-winery http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150914/its-all-about-the-grapes-for-this-winery#Comments Mon, 14 Sep 2015 07:42:08 -0400 Brenna Wiegand http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150919958 SILVERTON, Ore. — It’s always been about the grapes for Chris Deckelman.

In 2003, when he was having trouble selling all the fruit from the 250 to 280 acres he either owns or manages, he and wife, Sharon, and friends Bruce and Sally Eich started Vitis Ridge Winery. They started in Deckelman’s garage, where the two men had already been making wine for 20 years.

Focusing on unique wines and specialty blends, Vitis Ridge was soon producing 3,000 cases a year. The grapes come solely from the 100-acre Meridian Estate Vineyard and account for 4 to 5 percent of that fruit.

Bruce Eich is ready to retire from the wine-making business and Deckelman isn’t sure where he’ll go from here, but for starters he’s moving the tasting room back home after subletting from Seven Brides the past several years — as long as he can get county approval. The rules changed a month before he applied.

“Once it’s approved we’re going to buy out Bruce and Sally and see where we go from there,” Deckelman said. “It’s kind of hard to stop.”

Deckelman has been growing grapes for more than 30 years, starting with 10 acres in 1992. Most recently he planted 33 acres to hazelnuts.

In managing other area vineyards Deckelman does everything from planting the vines to selling the fruit, moving 900 to 1,000 tons of fruit, mainly Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.

Being from the Burgundy family, these varieties are especially thin-skinned and he’s had to deal with some sunburn this year.

“The crop is really happy so we were able to drop some of the sunburned fruit and make our tonnage per acre,” Deckelman said.

The way they’re supported calls for yearly cane pruning, for which a machine has yet to be found.

“We’re trying to mechanize everything — hedging, leaf removal, harvest,” he said, “but our style of pruning is just very labor intensive so we’re stuck with that.”

Among his biggest customers are King Estate Winery in Eugene, Willamette Valley Vineyard in Turner, Chateau Bianca in Dallas and Honeywood Winery of Salem.

Deckelman said the East Willamette Valley is gaining on the West Valley in terms of recognition for its wine and grapes.

“King Estate, Oregon’s biggest producer, buys a large volume of Pinot Gris grapes from within about a 10-mile radius of Silverton,” he said. “It’s getting around that this is a really good region.”

It was by a twist of fate that David Hill, a pioneer in the Oregon wine industry, chose the Dundee hills to open Eyrie Vineyards, where he made wine until his death in 2008.

“He originally wanted to plant out here in the Silverton hills but the price was too high; it was the late ’70s-early ’80s and a lot of it was in strawberries,” Deckelman said. “So he went over to the west side of the Valley.”

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Vineyard operators concentrate on grapes http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150914/vineyard-operators-concentrate-on-grapes http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150914/vineyard-operators-concentrate-on-grapes#Comments Mon, 14 Sep 2015 07:41:44 -0400 Brenna Wiegand http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150919959 Through their 25 years in viticulture, Pete and Donna Paradis of Paradis Vineyard have been successful in shifting the nature of their business to suit the market and their lifestyle.

In 1990 they purchased the 100-acre property on North Abiqua Road near Silverton, Ore., that includes a 60-acre vineyard, woodlands and a home.

They got into wine-making in 2000 and helped form the East Valley Wine District to promote the wines on the east side of the Willamette Valley.

“We make just as good a wine or better than they do over there,” Paradis said. “It’s just getting the word out. Many have said that for every 20-dollar bottle of wine, 10 dollars go into marketing.”

Ultimately, they decided that marketing the wine took too much time away from the family and closed the winery in 2007.

Last year the vineyard formed a partnership with Adelsheim Vineyard, which now leases the entire 60-acre vineyard. This year’s crop is estimated at 120-140 tons.

“I’m real proud to have our fruit going in that direction,” Paradis said. “Before this it was usually blended in large vats with that of many other growers and our efforts to improve quality were lost in the tank, so to speak.”

Adelsheim Vineyard & Winery makes small production, single vineyard Pinot Noirs.

“They had an event where we were able to come and taste the wine made from our grapes,” Donna Paradis said. “The winemakers told us they liked what they were getting.”

The steady income enabled Pete to retire from Silver Falls School District after 26 years to focus entirely on the farm. Donna went into real estate three years ago and found her farming background brings buyers and sellers — a California almond farmer, a large herbal company and currently Abiqua Wind Vineyard & Winery just down the road.

As son Pierre’s duties as vineyard manager lessened he focused on off-site equipment contracting for other vineyards and two years ago the 22-year-old launched Rainbow Valley Enterprises, doing hedging, leaf removal, hauling fruit and the like.

In March AgroThermal Systems of Walnut Creek, Calif., named him its first certified applicator of their heat-treatment technology. It involves making 4 mph passes through a vineyard or other crop on a machine that shoots out 300-350 degree blasts of air, raising the temperature of leaves and clusters by 20 percent in less than a second. The treatment has been shown to increase yields by up to 25 percent and increase the wine’s phenolic content. Phenols impact the taste, color and mouthfeel of wine.

Last year Pete completed carving a 25-foot totem pole chronicling the family’s ventures and milestones, inspired by his American Indian heritage.

An intricate grapevine weaves its way through all the symbols of heritage, careers, children, weddings and affiliations because, as he said, their whole life wraps around grapes.

“There’s room throughout the pole for other ventures,” he added. “Who knows what we might do in the future.”

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Vineyard poses challenges, opportunities for winemaker http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150914/vineyard-poses-challenges-opportunities-for-winemaker http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20150914/vineyard-poses-challenges-opportunities-for-winemaker#Comments Mon, 14 Sep 2015 07:40:29 -0400 Brenna Wiegand http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150919960 MOLALLA, Ore. — When Anita Katz and her sons Phil and Tony Kramer of Alexeli Vineyard & Winery bought their 61-acre Molalla property in 2007 they got a steal of a deal. It came with an 18-acre vineyard.

Experts advised bulldozing and starting over.

“All the plants needed retrained; the wires were all very old school — late ’70s to early ’80s — there was an overwhelming problem with mites and crown gall and we’re going to have to replace every post in the next two years,” co-owner, winemaker, vineyard manager Phil Kramer said. “Sometimes I wish I’d taken their advice because of all the work we put into it, but the wine these grapes produce is amazing.”

He said it’s more worthwhile with a vineyard his size to make wine instead of just marketing its fruit.

“You get more for table grapes than you do for wine grapes and wine grapes are way harder and more costly to grow,” Kramer said. “There’s such a competitive market that even for the high-end fruit from renowned vineyards you’re looking at $3,000 a ton; that’s a buck-fifty a pound. That’s like reaching the low end of table grapes.”

Plus, he said, making wine is a lot easier than growing grapes.

“People think it’s all magical but people who just make wine spend very little time in actually making wine,” Kramer said. “Most of the time you’re doing other marketing and selling.”

Most of the 35-year-old vines are white grapes. Kramer recently planted a few red varieties which, since he doesn’t irrigate, may take 10 years to get into full production.

“There are many benefits to irrigating and we could put it in, but I kind of like the idea of a vintage being what a vintage is,” he said.

They’re converting parts of the orchard to vertical trellising in the event of future labor shortages.

“I’d rather have done all the work now so some machines could be used if we need them,” he said. “In 20 years I’d have shot myself in the foot for not being prepared for that.”

Alexeli has also begun selling wine in 5-gallon reusable kegs, in use by restaurants throughout Portland. Last year it saved the winery about 40,000 bottles.

Phil and his wife, Heidi, enjoy hosting events including a recent outdoor dinner attended by 120 people. Below the vineyard is a lake with a gazebo, a grassy area for events and a newly planted bamboo grove that may end up being the source of future posts in the vineyard.

“Every acre of a vineyard has about seven miles of wire,” Kramer said. “I’ve always thought that having a vineyard with no wire would be interesting, but it’s a lot of work.”

There is no off season at the vineyard and winery, but if Kramer ends up hiring somebody it won’t be for his wine-making ability.

“To me the chemistry is not complicated; not much beyond what I’d consider high school level,” he said. “I’d get someone who could fix an engine before someone who could make wine.”

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