In an effort to keep you up to date on wineries in Portland we will be featuring one winery a month in an email and on social media. The plan is to give you a couple of highlights in this email and then follow us on Facebook or Instagram to hear more about each winery.We hope you enjoy this snapshot into each of these unique small Urban Wineries.
A big THANK YOU! has to go out to Aliya Hall for taking the time to interview our winery members.
When did your winery form and how did you get into the wine industry?
2000 was our very first vintage, and we made four barrels of wine that year. The wine maker was my ex-husband and business partner, Aron Hess, and I was just tagging along doing whatever I was told to do. We made a little more our next year, making 97 cases that first year and the next year 500 cases. In 2002, he got promoted to be the winemaker at Rex Hill and so we moved production over to Rex Hill and I got pregnant with our first kid and stopped being as involved in harvest. I shifted to doing more with sales and general management stuff for the winery. We had 17 acres out in Dundee Hills and we finally planted the first seven acres of the property in 2008 and then we started up in 2009 and I ended up taking over the winemaking in 2011. I’d been helping out in the vineyard and working out in the vines a lot and I couldn’t bear the idea that I was going to hand over my grapes to someone else. So I said, ‘How hard can it be?’ and I took classes at OSU and Chemeketa and in 2012 I went back for a spring term to fill in the gaps. I helped out with harvest enough times that I felt super comfortable with that but when it came to the fermentation and production side of things (like filtration and fining of white wines) I had no idea. I would literally be learning about it in class and then doing it the next day in the winery. It was really intense and jugging two kids and a business at the same time it was a trial by fire for sure.
Why did you decide to be an urban winery instead of in the valley?
Aron passed away in 2013 unexpectedly and so I had not really enough capital in the winery and equity in the vineyard and I also had two small children that I was now sole parent for and it just felt a little overwhelming the idea to continue to work as much in the vineyard as I was and still manage everything else. They were in Montessori school and it would have been some pretty significant lifestyle changes and it felt like, as much as I love the vineyard, and I miss it still, part of my soul will always be there, but it felt like it was the best thing for our family for me to spend more time being a parent, and I don’t have to own the vineyards to enjoy them.
As a winemaker, it’s interesting to get to work with different vineyards and AVAs and clones I didn’t have planted on my vines. So that’s really fun as a winemaker. I’m working with different varietals as well. I love working with different vineyard managers and owners because I learn something from them as well. I like the fact that I used to have my own place so I love working closely with the vineyard managers that I do work with and feel that should be a collaborative experience as a winemaker. If I’m trying to make the best wine possible and I think it’s really important that I’m involved throughout the whole growing season with the vineyard. Having had that experience working in one, that contributes to hopefully imparting some of that experience.
What are your future goals and plans?
I’m really excited to work with Nysa Vineyards this year and push the envelope on what we can do with Pinot Noir because I think that’s going to be a little bit older vines and I’m excited about that. One of my goals for the moment is to focus on making wines that got good structure and age-ability and a lower alcohol content. I can’t do meaty wines anymore. I’m kind of done with that – it’s really challenging actually, and it’s expensive. I guess being comfortable with picking earlier and trusting that the flavor development is still there. We’re having to adjust that a little bit with all the warm vintages we’re having these days and I’m just exploring that.
Saturdays: 1pm – 5pm
or by Appointment
5705-F NE 105th Ave, Portland OR 97220
To hear more about Willful Wines be sure to check out our Social Media pages and you can find a link to them on our website.