Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Talk Wine with Me: Jason Brumley of Xylem Wines

This new series of articles will expose a side of the winemaker you don't often see—their up-close and personal side. The purpose is for you to learn a little more about each winemaker's philosophy.You might discover how and why they came to make wine, you may gain a better understanding of their palates and how it influences the wines the make, you might just get some great new ideas for what to eat and what to drink or you might get a glimpse of the future. Whatever you do take away, I hope it includes further developing an appreciation for the notion that behind every bottle, behind every brand, behind every decorated and undecorated label, stands a person with a unique vision and a personality all their own, and how these individual characteristics intertwine with and become the wine in your glass. 

Q. What was your "Aha moment"?
A. I had worked in restaurants for 15 years and had been the wine steward for a French bistro in Oklahoma City (yes, there's a French bistro in Oklahoma City) for a few of those years when my girlfriend (now wife), Cokie Anderson, and I took a trip through the Willamette Valley and then over to the coast. I had already been playing around with the notion of finding a spot in Oklahoma that might be suitable for growing a few grapevines and making a little wine (nothing commercial mind you), so that seed was sort of already planted. The beauty of the Willamette Valley itself, the wines produced here, and the communal spirit of those involved in the winemaking industry in northwest Oregon spoke to my soul in a way that nothing ever really had. I knew that I had finally found a calling. As we sat in a hotel room looking out at the Pacific Ocean and listening to the sound of the crashing waves come through the open window, I turned to Cokie and said, "I'm moving out here to make wine and you can come with me if you would like." We flew back out 3 weeks later and began looking for a house to buy in McMinnville. 

That's about as "Aha!" as it gets. 

Q. What is your favorite part about being a winemaker? 
A. I've always liked telling and reading stories and each bottle of wine that we make tells a story of vineyard, varietal, and vintage if you listen to it. 

Q. What is your harvest kickoff soundtrack? 
A. I'm a Grateful Dead fan and my best friend and business partner in the vineyard and winery, Forrest Schaad, and I began a little project a few years ago of listening to every live Grateful Dead show in chronological order that is available on (no repeats of the same show). So, whatever show is next in line when harvest begins will be the kickoff soundtrack. It will likely be a show somewhere in the winter of 1970 or 1971.

Q. What is your favorite food and wine pairing?

A. I love rich shellfish and a good acid-driven Chardonnay. Chardonnay is always the wine that I choose when asked the "You're on a desert island..." question. I figure that a desert island should have plenty of seafood around and there's nothing better than Chardonnay to pair with varying types of seafood.

Q. Right now: Eempty or full fridge?
A. My fridge is currently full of fresh local berries, veggies, and mushrooms. We try to eat locally and support as many small farmers in the area as possible. The communal spirit of the area extends out, not only in the wine industry, but in so many other facets of our life. It's such a privilege to have such diversity available withing such a small radius of where we live.  

Q. What wine do you hate to love?
A. I may get berated for this, but I actually like certain wines with a bit of brettanomyces. Not all wines play well with brett, but some are quite intriguing with it. I believe that we have moved into a realm of such clean and pure wines that many of them are technically great, but lack that "je ne sais quoi" that I often enjoy.

Q. What wine do you love to hate?
A. White Zinfandel...'nuff said.

Q. What is your guilty pleasure (one you'll admit here)?
A. I'm a hedonist, so guilt and pleasure don't exist in the same realm. If I feel guilty about it, then it's not pleasurable. 

Q. What are working on right now that truly excites you? 
A. The vineyard is absolute excitement for me. Forrest and I have been working together on this piece of property in the Chehalem Mountains since 2009 and the young vines are just now coming online. More blocks will be coming on in future years and I cannot wait to taste the fruit and wines from those vines. 

Q. What is your favorite varietal? 
A. Chardonnay!!! Some day, I hope to establish a vineyard and a label that is nothing but Chardonnay. I want to buy an old church and have it moved, re-built, and converted into a winery on top of a hill that overlooks the vines. I will call it 'The First Church of the Eternal Chardonnay'. I will wash the sinful red stains of Pinot Noir from your soul and ye shall be pure again. 

Xylem Wines is a fully functioning, residence-based winery located in McMinnville, Oregon - in the heart of Oregon's wine country. It is the result of two friends sharing a passion for viticulture and winemaking, Jason Brumley and Forrest Schaad. The vineyards are located on Schaad's family estate in the Chehalem Mountain AVA, which was originally planted to fruits and nuts in the 1950's and then to vinifer in 1980. The winery is located in the Brumley residence. In 2012, Brumley and Schaad ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the winery and expansion of their vineyards. They are excitedly preparing for their second annual release at the end of June.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Combing Oregon's Countryside for Rhone Style Wines

Finding a bottle of top-quality Pinot noir in Oregon is easy, fortunately for you. And since May is Oregon Wine Month, you could easily go out and purchase a bottle of local Pinot noir in your favorite restaurant or wine shop. But don’t limit yourself to the famed grape. Rhône varietals thrive in Oregon, due in part to the diversity of Oregon’s weather. Read the rest of story to discover more about Oregon's Rhone style wines here at 1859 Magazine.