Cougar Town had its season finale last Wednesday (so sad we're now stuck with repeats). However, this finale was also a finale for Tony & my "reason" to have a glass of red wine. Instead, I'm enjoying a delicious glass of my favorite Pinot Gris from Oregon, courtesy of Searles Ridge Vineyard…owned by Jim & Bea Searles. The 2010 vintage has just been released and it’s already my most favorite of all the vintages thus far.
Inspired by my tasty beverage, I thought it would be fun to relay their wine story, by interviewing Jim. For those that might be interested, read-on.
JLID: Tell me how you came to be the owner of a vineyard…
JS: When we moved into the property on Germantown Road in Portland, OR it was a house with 10 acres of trees:
It had a great southerly exposure and I always loved the look of a vineyard. So we started clearing 3 acres over the next 4 years and planted grapes!
This clearing also necessitated the need for rock walls and reshaping the land so it could be farmed so over the 4 years we put in over 500 tons of rock walls and 750 dump trucks of dirt for the terraces.
JLID: When did you plant the vineyard and how much did you plant?
JS: We cleared the upper vineyard in 1999 and planted in 2000 we cleared the lower vineyard from 2000 – 2004 and planted in 2004.
JLID: How many acres are currently planted and how much wine does that yield?
JS: 3 Acres currently yielding 100 cases a year but as it matures (and the birds leave it alone we should get up to 300 cases a year.
JLID: The Willamette Valley is predominantly known for its Pinot Noir, what prompted you to plant Pinot Gris?
JS: Pinot Noir is the most prominent, that is true, but Pinot Gris is the second most popular varietal in the region. At the time, Bea (read: my mom/his wife) liked white wine and Pinot Gris; unfortunately she now likes reds so I drink the white and have to buy the red. ☺
JLID: What’s the process involved in creating a vineyard?
JS: Blood, Sweat, and tears – you basically need to have a passion for working the dirt and growing things. Coming from a farm heritage I was missing working in the dirt and it drove me to do it. It certainly was not for financial gain as last year I grossed $7,000 and invested $19,000 – so you can say we are a little upside down!
JLID: What made you decide to have someone else produce and bottle your wine?
JS: The first wine I produced would not have qualified for even good cooking wine – you need good grapes but you also need to understand the chemistry – I was learning but found John Derthick who is a UC Davis viticulturist grad and he was much better at it than I would ever be. So if I wanted to be true to the grapes I needed an expert and John is the man!
JLID: How did you choose Lujon over other producers?
JS: John was the winemaker at Helvetia Vineyard and I met with them to share my first major crop. They would make and bottle the wine and we would split it 50/50 – John then started Lujon and I hired him to do our wine exclusively because he is that good!
JLID: Looking back at yourself with the power of hindsight, what would you tell your younger self?
JS: Nothing differently other than don’t expect it to be a moneymaker!
JLID: Who do you sell your wine to? Or in other words, where do you sell your wine?
JS: To friends and family – it is a small amount of high quality wine and we never have any problems selling what we produce.
JLID: So even if you sell all of the wine you produce, at current production of 100 cases, you're still in a net loss position...that's a tough spot to be in. On one hand, I understand that as a small producer you probably care more about selling all of it than none of it, at a higher price. But on the other hand...it's nice to at least breakeven, have you thought about changing the per bottle price?
JS: Once I develop a following I can consider it, last year I gave a lot of samples away so hence the low return – this year I will do less of that.
JLID: What is the wine selling for this year?
JS: $180/case or $18/bottle.
JLID: How would you describe the 2010 release?
JS: Strong fruity notes, nice palette and finish! It is delicious, especially on a sunny day with some great cheese!
JLID: How does this vintage differ from past years?
JS: Not as sweet – which is good, alcohol content is 12.5% versus 13% and 14% in prior years.
JLID: What are your plans for the future development of the vineyard?
JS: Sit back, mow, spray, harvest, and enjoy!
If you’re interested in purchasing some wine from Jim, he can be reached at:
If you're in SF, please feel free to contact me.
The Roosevelt Elk particularly enjoy the vineyard!!