In preparation for the coming grow season and Oregon Wine Month, the Westmount team recently sat down with the esteemed Greg Jones to discuss his experiences and perception of our industry. We sat down with Dr. Jones, to learn about his journey, climatology, and his take on the future of Oregon wine. With so much info being shared, this conversation is being broken into a 4-part series.
For many in the wine industry, the name Dr. Greg Jones is revered as a leader in climatology and viticulture research. Understanding his knowledge and expertise made the interview an intimidating and exciting experience. As you can imagine, we wanted to maximize his time and our opportunity to learn. We were greeted by a positive, refreshing attitude that relished the chance to teach and explain. As we began asking questions, Jones seemed to move thru our questions easily, not in the sense of the complexity of our questions but the immense knowledge he had and was willing to educate us. As the first questions began, we quickly learned of Jones’s interesting past.
Dr. Jones began his working career around what he calls “The only art he could do”, which was in the culinary world. This was the beginning of Jones’s connection to the wine industry. After some years and countless hours working in a kitchen, Jones began to contemplate the thought of returning to school. In time, he returned to school at the University of Virginia to study Hydrology, the study of the properties of earth’s water correlating to land. The focus of his studies was around water management, referencing urban expansion and population density relativity. With a love for the environment and intrigue of understanding fluid dynamics, Jones had every intention of pursuing this career.
Once, he completed the bulk of his core classes and began experimenting with different topics, he approached a professor for some advice. The professor noticed his passion and intrigue and began to push Dr. Jones towards climatology. He explained to Dr. Jones, “Water is fun and a fluid, but so is air.” This statement began the internal conversation of changing his PhD.
When he decided to jump all the way into climatology, Jones’s father began reaching out to him for information on viticulture. His father had the ambition to plant some of his own vines for wine production. His questions focused on the growth of specific varietals in certain grow regions centering around the climate. Hoping to understand the inner workings of vine growth to increase his chances of having a successful grow year, he began asking questions that Dr. Jones found interesting, and largely unexplored. At that moment, Dr. Jones began his educational transition towards climatology. His deciding factor on focusing on vineyard climatology was simple, “What I had to study was corn, soy beans, wheat, and rice or something that had history, food, geography, chemistry, economics, biology. I figured that wine was a heck of a lot more interesting. So, I became the first wine focused climatologist.”
Dr. Jones continued his research and realized the limited climatology studies that correlated to viticulture. Previously, the details of weather conditions in viticulture regions had not been seen as a viable use of resources. During this development, he learned about the enormous size and concepts of the industry. He began to build the bridge between these two industries with his final PhD paper on Bordeaux as well as with his work around the Virginia wine industry. In time, Oregon called him to the Umpqua valley, where he taught at Southern Oregon and developed more of research on the climate affects on grape varietals. Since then, Jones has become a leader in climatology and major influencer of wine programs around the world and has made a new home at Linfield College. We, the Oregon wine industry, are lucky to have him.
Check in next week for part two of our series focusing on climatology. We will discuss with Dr. Jones the challenges of climate change and how it will impact the wine industry moving forward.