What was your first ever wine experience?
Well… that’s a tough question, it’s hard to pin down the “first”. Wine has always been a part of my life. I was raised on Réunion Island, a French island east of Madagascar, and my parents were originally from Burgundy. There was always wine at the dinner table. It wasn’t a big deal; it was just part of our everyday life. The first “real” memory that I have with wine was when I was 11. My parents had recently purchased a vineyard in Burgundy, and it was my first spring break trip to the vineyard to work. That year, I went back in the summer, and it was our first harvest. As a child, to be able to connect all of the work and stress that my family went through to the excitement and anticipation of our first harvest… I was pretty much hooked.
How did you find winemaking as a career?
Winemaking was always in my life. Not that I was always making wine, but rather, I was around the culture of winemaking. I spent most of my vacation days during school, back in France in my families vineyard and winery. With my father’s love for Pinot Noir, it was always on the dinner table. However, it wasn’t until I fully understood the concept of expressing terroir that I was excited about pursuing a career in winemaking. Pinot Noir, in particular, has the uncanny ability to allow the land that it is grown in to show through in the wine. The terroir is the combination of everything: the land, the weather, the work, the people. It is all connected in a bottle of Pinot Noir. Once I got that, it made me want to continue in that tradition.
As we roll into longer, sunnier days, what are you drinking now?
White wine. The last couple of nights, I’ve been enjoying the 2016 Hyland Estates Riesling. With this time of year, there’s definitely acid-driven white wine in my glass. Or… gin-based cocktails (said with a grin). I’ve even thought about combining the two, I might find something great in that combination. 🙂
How has being a winemaker shaped your perspective?
As winemakers, we are very closely connected to our senses; our ability to identify and commit specific smells and tastes to memory is what makes us successful at our jobs. A winemaker’s sensory ability is definitely a learned and practiced skill. I am constantly aware of smells and textures, and there is no doubt that it has changed my perspective and connection to the world around me. Winemaking also brings you closer to nature. I am very conscious of where my food comes from because, in winemaking, your fruit makes all of the difference. If I wasn’t a winemaker, I don’t think I would have the same level of passion for gardening and cooking. I cook (…and bake) for the wine that I am going to pair with it. It brings it all full-circle for me.
Why did you choose to make wine in Oregon?
While growing up, I took yearly trips to my families vineyard in Burgundy, and because of that, I grew to love Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and other cool climate wines. After college, I knew I wanted to travel to an English-speaking country, but I wanted to continue to work with cool-climate Pinot, so Oregon was the only choice. That was 2008, and all but two of my last 10 vintages have been working with fruit grown in the Willamette Valley. I love the people, the lifestyle and the opportunity that Oregon brings.
What are your favorite moments in making wine?
Winemaking ebbs and flows with the seasons. Most of our work happens around harvest (September to November, depending on the year). It is organized, controlled chaos by a team of people that love punishing themselves in the name of making wine. I love the week before harvest. The air is filled with optimism and anticipation for that years’ fruit. The possibilities are endless, and as a team, you definitely test yourselves both physically and mentally. When you work harvest with someone, you create a life-long bond. You’ve seen each other work through cold, wet and long hours, but there is always laughter, great food, and of course amazing wine along the journey.