Capital Press | Viticulture http://www.capitalpress.com Capital Press Thu, 22 Sep 2016 10:52:05 -0400 en http://EOR-CPwebvarnish.newscyclecloud.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/staticimage/images/rss-logo.jpg Capital Press | Viticulture http://www.capitalpress.com Winemaker focuses on tradition, not trends http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160916/winemaker-focuses-on-tradition-not-trends http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160916/winemaker-focuses-on-tradition-not-trends#Comments Fri, 16 Sep 2016 14:42:43 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160919921 For Robbie Meyer, winemaker at Murrieta’s Well in Livermore, Calif., exposure to wine started early in his hometown of Marietta, Ga.

“I always worked in restaurants growing up and I began tasting nightly with the wait staff throughout high school,” he said. “I eventually became the wine steward when I was 18.”

He studied biology and chemistry in college and wanted to use his degree in the real world. He continued his education at the University of California-Davis in enology and viticulture.

“I also wanted to work with my hands, work outside and work in a creative endeavor,” he said. “In addition, I am a longtime wine fan, so it wasn’t hard to make the connection.”

Before joining Murrieta’s Well as director of winemaking in 2015, Meyer worked with vineyards and wineries in Napa Valley, Sonoma County and Santa Barbara.

Along the way, he said he has noticed consumer drinking habits

“I had heard of trends in the industry when I was first starting out,” he said. “After 20 years, I really get a sense of seeing consumer trends, and winemaking trends come and go. The rise and fall and rise again patterns of Merlot, Pinot noir, rose and others are fun to watch.

The lesson for the winemaker, he said, “is simply to focus on producing quality wines and not to chase trends.”

He employs traditional winemaking techniques that embrace the Livermore Valley climate to get the best varietal expression that the estate vineyards can offer and that wine lovers appreciate.

Meyer also enjoys the product of his work. He said he planned to have Murrieta’s Well “The Spur,” a lush red blend, for dinner.

“I’ll be enjoying a bottle with grilled corn, asparagus, red bell peppers, and filet mignon — medium-rare, of course,” he said.

Trends may come and go, he said, but troublesome critters in the vineyards — sharpshooters, wasps, moths, gophers, moles, voles, ground squirrels, turkeys, birds, coyotes and deer — are endless.

Meyer said the winery tries to mitigate the threat of major disease or severe fruit damage using simple, natural methods such as good farming practices, birds of prey and bird netting. He said vineyards are part of nature and grow symbiotically in that environment.

Beyond pests, the California wine industry faces another challenge.

“Quite simply, climate change is the biggest challenge facing California viticulture,” he said. “While we don’t use a tremendous amount of water, we do need the historical average rainfall which we have not been getting in the last several years. The recent warmer vintages have actually helped us, but if it’s a continually warming trend, that’s not a good trend.”

For Meyer,the challenges are worth it.

“In spite of pests and challenges, having a career that you love, that challenges you, that you look forward to everyday is something for which to be incredibly thankful,” he said.

]]>
Chateau Ste. Michelle to celebrate 50 years http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160908/chateau-ste-michelle-to-celebrate-50-years http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160908/chateau-ste-michelle-to-celebrate-50-years#Comments Thu, 8 Sep 2016 10:17:31 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160909877 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Washington state’s largest winery, will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2017.

Ryan Pennington, director of communications, says the company has several properties in Washington, Oregon and California.

“We are also importers of wine from France, New Zealand, Italy, Spain and Chile,” he said.

In Washington, the property in Woodinville is where visitors can experience the wines, and this is where the white wines are produced. The red wines are produced in a winery in Eastern Washington, at Paterson.

Chateau Ste. Michelle grew out of a merger of Pomerelle Wine Co. and the National Wine Co., whose roots go back to 1934 after the repeal of Prohibition, Pennington said.

“After they merged, they introduced the Ste. Michelle Vineyards label, made from traditional Old World grape varieties, as opposed to the fruit wine they had been producing,” he said. “This set the stage for quality wine grape production in Washington.”

Vineyards are now well established in the Northwest, and the industry has seen tremendous growth.

“This has been driven by continual improvements in quality as well as dedicated marketing efforts — to open more markets for Washington wines around the country and around the world,” Pennington said.

A dedicated staff creates a successful team effort.

Chateau Ste. Michelle’s head winemaker, Bob Bertheau, splits his time between Western and Eastern Washington.

“We also have head winemakers for both the white wines and red wines, under Bob, and they oversee production at those respective facilities,” Pennington said. “In addition, they have a host of assistant winemakers and vineyard personnel.”

Some of the vineyards are owned by the company and some are under long-term contracts.

Chateau Ste. Michelle owns two estate vineyards — Cold Creek Vineyard north of the Tri-cities and the Canoe Ridge Estate vineyard near the winery at Paterson.

“The percentage of vineyards that we actually own as a company is relatively small, but most of our contract vineyards are farmed exclusively for us by partner growers,” he said.

“Much of our wine is sold direct to consumers through our winery tasting rooms,” he said. “The winery at Woodinville is the principal tasting room for Chateau Ste. Michelle, but each of our wineries has a tasting room. Consumers like to experience where the grapes are grown and the wines are made. People can look behind the curtain a little and see the process behind it.”

The tasting room in Woodinville is a popular tourist destination and one of the leading attractions in the state, drawing 300,000 visitors each year.

“They come for the experience as well as the wines. It’s common to see people out on the grounds picnicking and enjoying the wines. We also host a popular summer concert series at that winery,” he said.

“We also sell wholesale to retailers and restaurants, and direct-to-consumer sales online through our website,” he said. “Many consumers enjoy the convenience of purchasing wine online, but the challenge revolves around which states you can ship wine to, and to whom, and how much. This can be complicated, with a patchwork of regulation that is difficult to navigate.”

To support continued growth in the industry, the wine industry and Chateau Ste. Michelle have invested heavily in research, in the Wine Science Center at the Washington State University Tri-Cities campus. The center opened a couple years ago as a dedicated wine research facility.

“It is already producing research to help improve quality and to maintain the growth that the industry has enjoyed,” said Pennington.

Demand for Washington wines, and for Chateau Ste. Michelle wines, is as strong as it’s ever been.

“This is a growing industry, and the challenge is to supply that demand. It all starts in the vineyards, so we are planting more and producing more. All signs point to a very healthy future,” he said.

]]>
Vineyard brings new dimension to Pinot http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160908/vineyard-brings-new-dimension-to-pinot http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160908/vineyard-brings-new-dimension-to-pinot#Comments Thu, 8 Sep 2016 10:17:16 -0400 Margarett Waterbury he http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160909878 Becoming a winemaker was far from inevitable for Jim Fischer. But when his father and uncle asked for his help propagating Pinot vines while he was home from college during winter break, they opened a door to a lifelong calling.

Crowley Station Vineyards is a 15-acre vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills sited on a larger 170-acre parcel that has been in the Fischer family since the 1970s.

In 2000, the Fischers began propagating thousands of own-rooted Pinot noir vines, which they planted in 2001. Since then, they’ve been expanding the vineyard with additional periodic plantings.

“Everything in the older plantings is own-rooted,” explains Fischer. “I would not advise anyone do to that because of phylloxera. It’s an issue of when, not if. We haven’t spotted it yet, but it will succumb at some point. All our newer plantings are on rootstock.”

These older plantings were sited on “the worst piece” of the south-facing slope, a field with exceptionally shallow, rocky soil, with less than a foot of topsoil in some areas. “We thought, if we could grow them there, we could grow them elsewhere on the property.”

Today, 14 acres are planted to Pinot noir, and one acre to Pinot gris. There’s no external vineyard manager; Fischer’s dad, Jim Fischer Sr., manages the entire vineyard with help from his son and other family members, all of whom have full-time off-farm jobs.

There’s also no irrigation. Everything is completely dry-farmed, although during the last two scorching summers, they needed to hand-water new plants. That combination of challenging soil and dry farming means Crowley Ranch doesn’t need to drop fruit, as the plants set an appropriate amount of fruit on their own.

Most of Crowley Station’s grapes are sold to winemakers, with a focus on high-end producers able to elevate the vineyard’s exposure.

“To keep prices sustainable for us, we want to have name recognition for the vineyard. We want producers to put our name on the label,” says Fischer.

That strategy has paid off. In 2014, a Crowley Station Pinot noir made by Day Wines earned the highest score of any Oregon Pinot noir in Wine + Spirits Magazine, 94 points.

Fischer and his partner, Jenny Mosbacher, also run a wine label called Fossil + Fawn that showcases Crowley Station fruit. “There’s a sea change happening in the wine world,” says Fischer, “An emerging third wave of wine that’s mobilizing a younger generation to get passionate. We want to be part of that rising tide.”

“This is an interesting time in the valley,” says Mosbacher. “It’s a moment where people can sell $100-plus bottles of Pinot, or they can sell it in a can for $6.”

What’s next for Crowley Station? “My dream is to plant some other things,” says Fischer. “‘Sideways’ killed Merlot, and if people are so capricious that a movie is all it takes, when is peak Pinot? Are we there, or did it happen already?

“But for Oregon wine, Pinot may always be king,” he says. “I’m from Oregon, and I think we make some of the best wine in the world. I’m not concerned with what they do in France. They make the best Burgundy in France, but we make the best Oregon Pinot in Oregon.”

]]>
Winery part of Idaho’s burgeoning industry http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160908/winery-part-of-idahos-burgeoning-industry http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160908/winery-part-of-idahos-burgeoning-industry#Comments Thu, 8 Sep 2016 10:17:12 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160909879 In a sense, this winery got its start in pre-history.

“Our company is named after volcanic cinders found in this valley,” explains winemaker Melanie Krause. “Cinder is formed when volcanoes erupt underneath water, which happened in the area around Nampa and Caldwell — which was under an ancient lake at one time.”

She learned to make wine while working for Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington state.

“My business partner and husband Joe Schnerr covers sales and marketing while I focus on winemaking and vineyard relations. We’ve been making wines here in Idaho for 10 years and are very excited about how our company has grown, and how well the wine industry is doing in Idaho.”

Krause believes it was a good decision to return to her hometown to start their wine business.

“I grew up in Boise and was gone for 12 years while going to college at Washington State University and becoming a winemaker,” she said.

She decided to be a winemaker when she moved to the Tri-Cities area of Washington, located in the heart of Washington wine country.

“I had a good background for this, with degrees in biology and Spanish, and a lot of work history in agriculture. Plus it didn’t hurt that I grew up in my mother’s kitchen,” Krause said.

She learned winemaking on the job, first in the vineyards for two years and then during an apprenticeship in the winery at Chateau Ste. Michelle.

But Idaho winemaking is her focus.

“It’s exciting to see new planting going on, and matching of different varieties to the land here in Idaho,” she said.

Idaho wines are getting good scores in the big wine publications, she adds. “In this industry, much of your success is tied to the reputation of the region, so it is crucial to have partners like the Idaho Wine Commission helping market Idaho wines to local, regional and international press.

“We just received a 92 point score from Wine Enthusiast magazine with our Tempranillo and we’ve had several Best of Class with Sunset International Wine Competition,” she said.

The first 10 years were spent establishing the winery and strong relationships with growers.

“The next 10 years will be about pushing the envelope with the quality of the wines as new plantings come on in, and new vineyards are started,” she said. “I predict that the quality and quantity of world-class wines from the Snake River Valley will continue to grow in the next decade. The Idaho Wine Commission likes to say that Idaho has arrived, but I am always planning the future and feel it will become even better.”

Cinder contracts with six local vineyards in the Snake River Valley AVA (American Viticulture Area), which has a unique climate conducive to grape growing and good wines. The Cinder tasting room and winery, in the same building, are open 7 days a week in Garden City, only 10 minutes from downtown Boise.

“Our beautiful tasting room is very friendly. People like to sit and have a glass of wine here, or explore the winery and learn something new about wines they might otherwise never try,” she said.

“Our most popular wines include Viognier and Syrah. We are also having fun making Tempranillo, a Spanish variety that grows in areas of Spain like the Ribera del Duero that are very similar climatically to our area,” said Krause.

Cinder is a family business that started with just Krause and her husband.

“We only made 2 barrels of wine the first year in 2006, which is about 45 cases,” she said. “Now we have seven full-time employees, quite a few part-time employees and produce 7,000 cases per year. We have been growing rapidly and feel fortunate to have really great people on our team.”

Cinder Wines

Location: Garden City, Idaho

Since: 2005

Owners: Melanie Krause and Joe Schnerr

]]>
A computer career derailed by grapes http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160908/a-computer-career-derailed-by-grapes http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160908/a-computer-career-derailed-by-grapes#Comments Thu, 8 Sep 2016 10:17:09 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160909880 Napa winemaker Victoria Coleman planned a career in computer science but a part-time job changed her life.

“I was born and raised in Seattle and moved to Napa in 1998 with a plan to continue studying computers,” she said.

She got a job at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars as the winery’s temporary receptionist.

“After three months I moved to production assistant,” she said.

That move set the scene for her future.

As production assistant she was exposed to principles and practices in the vineyard and the winery. She learned to taste grapes, to make harvest decisions and to evaluate fining trials — in which the type and amount of various agents are tested — and blends.

This exposure created a thirst for the knowledge to understand the vineyard and winemaking.

She initially took classes at Napa Valley Junior College to get a deeper understanding of viticulture and enology.

Coleman was hooked. She entered the University of Californa-Davis to soak up more knowledge and develop her own style of winemaking.

She began working with Lobo Wines, part of Wulff Vineyards in Napa’s Atlas Peak Appellation, in 2008.

“I do as much as possible in the vineyard to balance the grape clusters with the number of leaves to reach near perfect ripeness with lots of character,” she said. “Conversely, I do as little as possible with the fruit in the cellar to allow it to give the wine a sense of time and place.”

She noted that consumer tastes have changed through the years. Today more consumers prefer red wine than white wine.

In spite of the upsurge in the wine drinking public, she said there are challenges facing California viticulture.

“I think there are two areas of concern,” she said. “Number one is red blotch disease. There is not much known about this virus, other than it was first discovered from a leaf in a Sonoma vineyard in 1944.”

In recent years, it was mistaken for leaf roll virus, because they both share similar visual symptoms, she said.

“It was discovered in a lab that there are two vectors of this disease, but they’ve not been discovered in the vineyard, so it is not certain how it spreads in the vineyard,” she said.

As a result of the disease, the quality of the fruit is diminished — low Brix levels and high acidity.

“We pulled out infected Cabernet Sauvignon vines in 2014 and have since replanted those vines,” she said.

The lack of skilled labor in the fields ranks second among her concerns.

“A bright spot is that more women are becoming winemakers today than five years ago,” she said. “I would say that is because of the legendary ones who have paved the way.”

]]>
Pilot lands new career as winemaker http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160908/pilot-lands-new-career-as-winemaker http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160908/pilot-lands-new-career-as-winemaker#Comments Thu, 8 Sep 2016 10:17:05 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160909881 For Tim Harless, a veteran Air Force and commercial pilot, making premium wines is the result of a life-long love of exploration and experimentation.

In 2002 his interest in wine was sparked after visiting a wine bar near Dallas, Texas. After being exposed to several varietals and noting the distinctions between the wines he was tasting, he became intrigued. He studied the differences in the world’s wines and decided to become a winemaker.

“Many people enter the wine world sideways from other paths. I took an adult certificate program in winemaking, Viticulture and Enology at Grayson County Community College in Texas,” he said. “These courses were designed for working professionals, held all day Fridays and Saturdays.”

He took a couple years to get through it, and went to California during vacation to work during a crush — when the grapes are harvested. Then in 2011 and 2012 he worked alongside the former owners at Vale Wine Co.

For his own winery, he combined family heritage in the labeling of his product. The HAT Ranch label harks back to great-grandparents Jake and Margarette Frison, who homesteaded in Wyoming in 1902 and started the HAT Ranch, eventually running 1,700 head of cattle. Their brand was the shape of a cowboy hat.

Inspired by pioneering ancestors, Harless and his wife, Helen, followed suit by choosing Idaho as their winemaking homestead, the new frontier of the wine industry.

“We looked around Washington, Oregon and California. We made a trip to Idaho, tasted some of the wines and realized there was tremendous potential here; the climate is similar to Eastern Washington where there are so many vineyards,” he said.

“We produced our wine for the first couple years at the Vale Wine Co. facility, then bought their production equipment and label. We continue making their label, plus some of our own,” Harless said.

Helen’s two-year experience managing the wine cellar and organizing tastings for Wine Spectator magazine exposed her to the world’s top wines. She became the “palate” for their winery.

Together they knew they had a shot at producing great wines.

Their wine-production facility is located at the University of Idaho Business Incubator, and the tasting room is on Plum Road on the Sunnyslope Wine Trail.

“This has become a popular area for wineries, since most of the grapes in Idaho are grown here,” Harless said.

“Many things must come together to make wine, including a good location if you sell wine. You need to be on a road where people can find you,” he said.

The wine business was already established in the area, with Ste. Chappelle, Williamson, Fujishin, Huston, Bitner and Koenig.

“We grow some of our own Muscat grapes, which we produce into a dry Moscato which last year won the Idaho Best Show award,” he said. “We’ll also have Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc this year.”

HAT Ranch is expanding varieties and quantity, and also buys from Skyline and Sawtooth Vineyards, one of the biggest in Idaho.

Helen is a dentist, but involved with the winery doing marketing and social media. The team includes the tasting room staff and Cellarmaster Will Wetmore.

HAT Ranch produces about 1,500 cases annually, with plans to increase to 3,000.

“We make classic varietals like Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah under the Vale label and unoaked Chardonnay, dry Moscato, white blends and red blends under the HAT Ranch label.”

Most of their wine is sold directly to consumers through their tasting room, and about 25 percent to restaurants, wine shops, the Boise Co-op and Whole Foods, but some people have also found them online.

HAT Ranch

Location: Caldwell, Idaho

Established: 2014

Owners: Tim and Helen Harless

]]>
Working at vineyard ‘about the ritual’ http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160908/working-at-vineyard-about-the-ritual http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160908/working-at-vineyard-about-the-ritual#Comments Thu, 8 Sep 2016 10:17:00 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160909882 Third-generation Californian Sean Garvey admits he had no thought of returning to the family’s vineyards after college.

“My parents moved to Napa in 1977 because my grandfather bought a ranch there with the plan to retire,” he said. “He fell in love with the land and called it ‘a piece of heaven’ — especially because the kids were nearby.”

Garvey’s parents, Julie and Pat Garvey, and her brother and his wife, John and Carrie Komes, founded the winery.

Julie and John ran the winery and Pat Garvey ran the vineyard side of the family business.

“The industry was pretty young back then and everyone was still learning,” Garvey said. “But there was a real sense of community where people were willing to help each other.”

He grew up working with his dad and then entered Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo with a focus on music, writing and other pursuits.

Viticulture was absolutely not in the future, but a summer stay in Europe “turned the light on,” he said.

“I lived with a family in Spain while I was studying and each night that we sat down to dinner they would open up a bottle of wine,” he said. “It was not so much about the quality of the wine but more about the ritual of it. It allowed us all to slow down and enjoy both the meal and the company.

“This is why I’m in the wine business. It’s about the ritual and working alongside my family.”

As viticulture manager, Garvey oversees all day-to-day operations: from negotiating contracts to new plantings, spraying and other programs.

Harvest is the most intense time of the year because of the small window and things are moving fast.

“We focus on Bordeaux varieties on 300 acres in 10 different locations,” he said.

They start picking at around 2 a.m. so they can get fruit to the winery before the weather gets warm, which can degrade the quality of the grapes.

“We try to finish the day by 11 in the morning. This schedule also protects vineyard workers from picking in the hot sun,” he said. “We pick Sauvignon Blanc early, then Chardonnay. Cabernet Sauvignon is the last grape harvested.”

Garvey said although the quantity of the 2016 harvest has been down, the quality won’t suffer. He predicts a tremendous year in spite of the challenges.

“The spread of red blotch and leaf roll viruses and trunk diseases keep me up at night,” he said. “Sourcing clean planting material is also an ongoing challenge.”

The love of the land and the people that work there rise above the problems.

“There is a culture and work ethic in the vineyards that is inspiring and unique when compared to other working environments,” Garvey said. “I also enjoy working alongside my dad. I have great respect for the work he has done to help create and improve farmworker housing in Napa Valley and the integrity with which he runs our business.”

]]>
Biodynamic vineyard a step beyond http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160908/biodynamic-vineyard-a-step-beyond http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160908/biodynamic-vineyard-a-step-beyond#Comments Thu, 8 Sep 2016 10:16:56 -0400 Margarett Waterbury http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160909883 Transitioning from conventional to organic methods can be daunting — but with patience, the payoff can be significant.

Johan Vineyards in Rickreall, Ore., is an example of how it’s never too late to make a change.

Dan Rinke came to Johan Vineyards in 2007, when he was hired as a winegrower. The owners wanted to transition the vineyard from conventional to organic methods, but Rinke took it one step further, converting the entire operation to biodynamic.

Rinke holds a degree in viticulture from the University of California-Fresno, where he developed a strong interest in biodynamic, organic and sustainable winemaking.

“The wine basically makes itself,” he says. “But the grapes don’t grow themselves. They need more attention.”

Sited on 175 acres of oak savannah and fields in the Van Duzer corridor, Johan Vineyards currently grows 63 acres of vines: 40 acres planted in 2002, with an additional 23 acres planted in 2009. Most are Pinot, but there are also plantings of Chardonnay, Pinot gris, Gruner Veltiner, Blaufrankisch, Cabernet Franc, Melon de Bourgogne, Gamay and Chenin blanc.

“My methods lean towards a cross-section of permaculture and biodynamic principles,” Rinke explains. “Grapes are a permanent crop, like an orchard, except they’re vines, which tend to be edge-of-forest plants. I want to start applying that kind of thinking. With the right companion plantings, we might be able to decrease pesticides. Permanent cover crops with different species of grasses, legumes and cereals could bring beneficials and work in a symbiotic way. We need to start thinking in terms of ecology rather than one specific crop.”

The transition wasn’t easy. Rinke saw a decline in grape quality for five years as the vines adapted to lower fertilizer inputs and increased pressure from weeds and pests. Initially, he’d also planned to stop irrigating at the same time, but he decided that would put too much stress on the grapes during a difficult time.

Instead, Rinke started doing everything he could to build new microbial life in the soil, including fertigating with hydrolyzed, cold-processed fish.

After five years, the vines rebounded with renewed vigor, and today the vineyard is lush and productive. With the exception of new plantings, Rinke hasn’t irrigated or fertilized since 2010.

The majority of Johan’s grapes are sold to other winemakers.

“I have 17 or 18 different wineries I sell to. That’s a full-time job, dealing with 18 winemakers, all very opinionated people,” he says with a smile.

And on top of that, Rinke makes Johan’s line of all-estate, native yeast wines. Grapes from the site have a slightly thicker skin due to the marine winds from the Van Duzer corridor, and Rinke describes the site style as nuanced, light, and “pretty,” with higher acidity and lower alcohol.

“At the end of the day, for me, it’s all about soil ecology,” explains Rinke. “Biodynamic takes a step into spiritual beliefs, a way of creating spiritual food for people. That side? I’m agnostic. I don’t know anything about the second spiritual realm. Maybe when I’m dead I’ll figure it out. But I do know it’s a great way to build life in your soil.”

]]>
Winemaker brings his wine to the people http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160908/winemaker-brings-his-wine-to-the-people http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160908/winemaker-brings-his-wine-to-the-people#Comments Thu, 8 Sep 2016 10:16:51 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160909884 Charles Smith Wines bills itself as the largest winemaker-owned winery in Washington state and the third largest winery in the state. The brand has grown tremendously since its small beginnings, founded by Charles Smith, a former rock band tour manager.

Smith was born in the U.S. and grew up near Sacramento, Calif., in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. His mother was Welsh and his father was French, so Smith had an interest in traveling the world at a young age. He moved to Denmark and spent the next nine years managing rock bands, including the famed Danish duo, the Ravonettes, and concert tours throughout Europe.

Wining and dining on the road with his bands spurred a passion for good wine.

“In 1999, I moved back to the U.S. and opened a wine shop on Bainbridge Island, just across Puget Sound from downtown Seattle,” he said. “Later that year I went on a road trip to Walla Walla, where I met a young Frenchman and winemaker who shared my same passion for great Syrah. I decided to move to Walla Walla and make my own juice.”

He named his first creation K Syrah. This 1999 release from Walla Walla Valley initiated the style of classic winemaking that Smith continues today: small lot, single-vineyard wines, all hand-picked grapes, foot-stomped, fermented with naturally occurring yeasts and basket pressed.

What started as selling wine out of the back of his Astro van has grown to become the largest independent winery in the state.

In 2006, he launched Charles Smith Wines, to build on his philosophy of “wine for everyone every day.” His intent is to create wines to be enjoyed now, but with classic variety — Merlot that tastes like Merlot — and true to the place of origin. The wines are full of flavor and balanced. His Kung Fu Girl Riesling is one of the top-selling Rieslings in the country.

Charles Smith Wines has now grown to include K Vintners, Charles Smith Wines, ViNO, Secco Italian Bubbles, SIXTO, Wines of Substance, Casa Smith and one-half of Charles & Charles, with more in the works. Each eye-catching label brings something unique to the table. The brand now sells more than 750,000 cases a year. Pricing from $12 to $120 a bottle enables them to be sold in many different markets and to a wide audience.

“I make wine for everyone,” Smith says. “I want everyone to be able to enjoy a good glass of wine, and a good glass of wine doesn’t have to mean expensive wine, it means good wine.”

Charles Smith Wines is headquartered in Walla Walla, where the vineyards and a tasting room are. In 2015, he opened a new tasting room in Seattle called Charles Smith Wines Jet City — the largest urban winery on the West Coast.

“I wanted to bring my wine to the people,” he says. The 32,000-square-foot, one-of-a-kind winery and two-story tasting room was formerly a Dr. Pepper bottling plant. Located in the Georgetown section of Seattle that has a rich history of manufacturing, the winery is contributing to this growing community and celebrating its first-year anniversary this August.

“We sell a lot of wine because we make delicious, accessible wine — from Kung Fu Girl, available across the country and ready to drink the moment you open it, to our K wines,” Smith says.

He believes that being considered one of the top five producers from Washington is an honor, and a responsibility to uphold.

Charles Smith Wines

Founded: 2001

Owner: Charles Smith

Location: Walla Walla, Wash.

]]>
From engineer to wine producer http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160908/from-engineer-to-wine-producer http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160908/from-engineer-to-wine-producer#Comments Thu, 8 Sep 2016 10:16:45 -0400 Brenna Wiegand http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160909885 The conversion of a poultry barn into a winery is not as dramatic as the life change Sean Driggers underwent in his quest to make fine wine.

Pudding River Wine Cellars east of Salem originated on property Driggers’ in-laws, John and Karen Bateman, purchased 20 years ago. In 2004 Driggers, an avid wine enthusiast, helped them put in a vineyard.

Before that, Driggers and his wife, Stacey, lived in Seattle, he a mechanical engineer in telecommunications and she an Intel engineer. Stacey’s job transferred, but the prospect of starting from scratch made Sean see red — and white — and he took the plunge into commercial winemaking.

In its 10 years, Pudding River Wine Cellars has made a splash with its small-lot, boutique wines and makes custom wine for half a dozen other producers.

Driggers has high praise for Chemeketa Community College’s viticulture school he and his father-in-law attended in 2005. Driggers went on to attend CCC’s winemaking school.

“It was a consuming hobby for 15 years, but nothing beats going to school,” he said. “At school I learned everything I needed to know for making wine.”

First harvest was in 2006 and the whole family took part in launching the venture.

“It’s just me now,” he said. “I run the tasting room, do all the books, labor, festivals, marketing and events in addition to the vineyard and making the wine.”

Production has multiplied several times and the winery, set up for 3,000 cases a year, is now producing 5,000.

“It’s a lot of cycles,” Driggers said. “I employ more farm labor. We worked the vines by ourselves the first couple years and it about killed us.”

The winery broke even its third year and started turning a profit in the seventh year.

In the process Driggers has learned it’s best to “celebrate” the capriciousness of Mother Nature.

“Oregon has some pretty variable vintages; upstarts are always at risk,” Driggers said. “September of 2013 a typhoon came through here and dumped 7 inches of rain in a week-and-a-half.”

Back at the winery, Driggers says the key to exceptional wine lies in its barreling.

“It’s a nuance; like adding a spice, and I think that’s where winemakers get to use their genius,” he said. “I learned from some key people over the years and it has become one of my specialties.”

The varieties aged in oak are put in barrels whose insides have been charred to a certain “toast level.” The residual charcoal mellows out the wood so the wine “doesn’t taste like wood” and makes for buttery, sweeter wines more like their French counterparts.

“…But that effect lasts only a year, two at the most,” Driggers said. “If you want that flavor; that spice, you have to use new barrels every year and figure out what you want to use for each wine.

“We’re getting a good reputation for that,” he added. “We won a gold ribbon at the Oregon State Fair in 2007 for our Pinot gris and every year after that have not been able to make enough.

“I’ve almost stopped doing the competitions anymore with the increasing wine tourism,” Driggers said. “People from all over the country come to this area already knowing which wineries they’re going to visit.”

]]>
LIVE brings added dimension to wine http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160908/live-brings-added-dimension-to-wine http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160908/live-brings-added-dimension-to-wine#Comments Thu, 8 Sep 2016 10:16:37 -0400 Margarett Waterbury http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160909886 There’s a lot going on at Ayres Vineyard. There are the grapes, of course: 18.5 acres of them, mostly Pinot noir, spilling down a grassy slope overlooking the peaks of the Coast Range. And then there’s the cellar, a purpose-built winemaking facility directly adjacent to the vineyard.

But this high, south-facing saddle in the Ribbon Ridge AVA just outside Newberg, Ore., is home to more than just a business. It’s also where winemaker Brad McLeroy and his extended family live — kids, dogs, even in-laws, all making a home among the vines.

Their business marks the culmination of a long career in wine, which took McLeroy from his family’s wine shop in Kansas City all the way to the Willamette Valley.

“I came ... in the early ’90s, and I loved it. I thought to myself, ‘Oh my gosh, people live this way?’ So in 1993 I moved to Portland, went to culinary school, and started working at wineries. And my fate was sealed.”

Ribbon Ridge AVA is the smallest of the Willamette Valley AVAs, and one McLeroy says is characterized by drier, warmer conditions and a persistent breeze that keeps mildew pressure down and minimizes frost in the early season. “Daytime temps are a little warmer, so we ripen a little earlier. Some years the faucet comes on in the fall, and it’s nice to get ripened before then.”

Those conditions, coupled with sandy, clay- and fossil-studded soil, produce a darker expression of Pinot noir characterized by dark fruit, earth, and baking spice components.

All of Ayres’ grapes are used in their estate wines. With the exception of a small “fun whites” block, the acreage is planted entirely with five different clones of Pinot noir: Dijon clones 3, 115, 667, 777, and Pommard. With the vineyard abutting the home where McLeroy and his family live, chemical use is kept to a bare minimum. “We don’t use pesticides or herbicides; this is where my kids and dogs play,” says McLeroy.

Ayres is certified by LIVE, an independent certification board that promotes winegrowing and winemaking practices that tread lightly on the environment, protect wildlife, and treat workers fairly. Originating in the Willamette Valley in 1996, LIVE relies on science-based standards for viticulture as well as enology, making it one of the only third-party certification program that encompasses the vineyard as well as the cellar.

To maintain his certification, McLeroy must keep a log of everything he applies to the vineyard, host an annual inspection, document any soil amendments, and adhere to a set of industry best practices for human resources. “It might cost a little more to farm this way, but I think it’s worth it,” McLeroy says.

McLeroy has seen his fair share of change in the Willamette Valley wine community over the past 15 years. “There are some rumblings right now of bigger entities moving in, but you can’t fight change. I’m not going to say the party’s full.”

But McLeroy isn’t too concerned about the competition, at least not in an immediate sense. “Family is first and foremost for us. We’re just going to keep our heads down and sell the next vintage.”

]]>
Winery features unique Albariño grapes http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160908/winery-features-unique-albarixf1o-grapes http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160908/winery-features-unique-albarixf1o-grapes#Comments Thu, 8 Sep 2016 10:16:33 -0400 Margarett Waterbury http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160909887 Tad Seestedt, founder of Ransom Wine and Spirits, has been working in the Willamette Valley wine industry for more than 20 years. Yet until a few years ago, he didn’t have a vineyard to call his own.

“When I first got here,” says Seestedt, “I was pretty naive. In upstate New York, I could buy land for five or 10 thousand dollars an acre. I thought it would be the same here. And then I got slapped with reality.”

Today, Ransom Wine and Spirits sits on a 40-acre parcel between Sheridan and Willamina, just before the foothills of the Coast Range. Ransom is the only winery in Oregon that also operates a full distillery, where Seestedt and his team make whiskey, vodka, grappa, vermouth and two kinds of gin.

The property where Ransom is currently located was purchased in 2008. Between 2010 and 2012, Seestedt planted 1.2 acres of Albariño grapes on the site, and the first harvest took place in 2015.

Although Seestedt has been making and selling wine under the Ransom label since 1999, and making wine professionally since 1993, these Albariño plantings are Ransom’s first estate fruit.

At first, Seestedt thought they were the first plantings of Albariño in the valley. Not until after the vines were in the ground did he discover that Myron Redford, Willamette Valley wine pioneer and longtime friend and mentor to Seestedt, had also planted Albariño grapes at Amity Vineyard in 2007.

Last year, Ransom and Amity joined forces to release a 100 percent Albariño wine made from grapes from both plantings.

Becoming a grape grower was the next chapter for Seestedt. “The transition has been really rewarding. It helps as a winemaker to be out in the vineyard. You have a much better grasp of what’s happening,” he explains.

While more plantings might be in Ransom’s future, Seestedt isn’t sure when that will happen. “I don’t want to rush. We’ll start getting an idea of how this acre performs, and then go from there.”

Although Pinot noir and Chardonnay command the best prices, as an estate winemaker, Seestedt is much more interested in exploring less popular varietals.

“Wine in modern Oregon hasn’t even scratched the surface as far as varietals are concerned,” says Seestedt. “It took the Europeans millennia to figure out what grew best where — we’re just getting started. Really our climate is not very similar to Germany or France. We have very low humidity in the summer. I think our climate is more like the Iberian Peninsula.”

When asked what other varietals spark his interest, Seestedt sticks with Spain. “If I could get my hands on some Basque varieties, I’d love to plant those. They’re hard to find in this country, though. I like the idea of being a suitcase renegade, but a lot of bad things have happened as a result of that attitude.”

Then, he sighs and looks out at his fields. “It was a long time coming for me to buy this piece of ground and put the vines in it — but I finally did it.”

]]>
U.S. wine industry by the numbers http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160908/us-wine-industry-by-the-numbers http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Wine/20160908/us-wine-industry-by-the-numbers#Comments Thu, 8 Sep 2016 10:16:22 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160909888 4.3 million: 2015 U.S. wine grape production, in tons.

3.7 million: 2015 California wine grape production, in tons.

2.6 million: 2007 California wine grape production, in tons.

560,000: 2015 number of bearing acres of wine grapes in California.

480,000: 2007 number of bearing acres of wine grapes in California.

65,000: 2015 Oregon wine grape production, in tons.

38,600: 2007 Oregon wine grape production, in tons.

19,000: 2015 number of bearing acres of wine grapes in Oregon.

13,800: 2007 number of bearing acres of wine grapes in Oregon.

2,752: 2015 Idaho wine grape production, in tons.

1,300: Number of bearing acres of wine grapes in Idaho.

51: Number of wineries in Idaho.

$169 million: Contribution of the Idaho wine industry to the state’s economy.

230,000: 2015 Washington wine grape production, in tons.

127,000: 2007 Washington wine grape production, in tons.

48,000: 2015 number of bearing acres of wine grapes in Washington.

30,500: 2007 number of bearing acres of wine grapes in Washington.

$55.8 billion: Retail value of all wine sold in the U.S.

$31.9 billion: Retail value of California wine sold in the U.S.

$1.61 billion: Value of all U.S. wine exported.

51.2 million: Number of cases of U.S. wine exported.

$622 million: Value of U.S. wine exported to European Union.

$23 million: Value of U.S. wine exported to South Korea.

21 percent: Percentage of wine consumed in U.S. that was Chardonnay, by volume.

14 percent: Percentage of wine consumed in U.S. that was Cabernet Sauvignon, by volume.

9 percent: Percentage of wine consumed in U.S. that was Pinot gris, by volume.

8 percent: Percentage of wine consumed in U.S. that was Merlot, by volume.

5.5 percent: Percentage of wine consumed in U.S. that was Pinot noir, by volume.

5 percent: Percentage of wine consumed in U.S. that was Moscato or Sauvignon blanc, by volume.

4 percent: Percentage of wine consumed in U.S. that was White Zinfandel, by volume.

229 million: Amount of California wine sold in the U.S., in cases.

Sources: NASS, Wine Institute, Idaho Wine Commission

]]>
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

]]>
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.”

]]>
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.

]]>
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

]]>
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

]]>
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

]]>
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.”

]]>
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.”

]]>
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

]]>
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

]]>
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.”

]]>
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.

]]>