What a year. What a world. What a time in history. It’s difficult to find the right words, the proper tone, the best timing to reach out to you and update you on what is and has happened with Viola Wine Cellars since my last email. So much change, so many struggling, our world, it seems, torn apart.
I’ve had an amazing time over the past 8 years creating small bottlings of wines made from mostly Italian grapes grown mostly in the Columbia Gorge. Most of you know that food and wine has been my life, since starting an Italian restaurant back in the 90’s to opening a retail wine shop in the mid-00’s and then having Viola come into existence fully in 2012.
Adapting to wine production, converting our home garage into a full-functioning facility, meeting so many great growers and wine enthusiasts over the years to share our creations with has been so very rewarding on many levels. We discovered an affinity for the Gorge that continues to this day as we build what just may become our new forever home in Mosier. I’ve logged thousands of miles on the I-5 corridor visiting with and delivering wine to friends in Seattle and Eugene and stops along the way. Many of those friendships will be lifelong and that is the true gift of working in a job that interfaces with the public and shares a passion for something so unique as wine.
Like many in today’s new reality, I’ve struggled with what the next step should be and what feels right for me. I was already tiring of trying to grow our brand nationally and had come to realize that the cost of marketing trips to the East Coast both in dollars and in time spent just wasn’t paying off for the scale of operation I wanted to operate. We were also in the midst of moving the winery from our Portland garage to the new purpose-built structure in the Gorge that would have made production a little more streamlined and space less restrictive. But with moving a facility in a heavily regulated industry as alcohol is comes a lot of applications and required permits and fees, and those efforts need the justification to pursue the endeavor.
After months of idle time, following the unprecedented response to our Spring releases when the wines sold out in weeks instead of months (THANK YOU!), I realized I could not bring myself to the next stage which would entail filling out the paperwork, sending off thousands of dollars in fees and hoping that someday the world will look like it used to and I will have opportunities to sell my wines. I think the reality will be different, and I know the reality of my good friends in the restaurant industry, where I have focused my sales efforts over these past 8 years, will be a very long road back to anything resembling normal. That means all of my other friends in the wine business trying to sell their own creations or distribute other brands are also going to struggle, and one more winery probably isn’t what the world needs right now.
So, with a lot of reflection I’ve decided it’s time for Viola Wine Cellars to end its journey. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a chance that someday you’ll hear from me again or that a wine with a familiar Viola label pops up at some point down the road. I’m leaving all those possibilities on the table, but for now we are going to take a break; finish our house; wait, like many others, for results on November 4th that hopefully sets the country back on a course that favors humanity. Then we will see what comes next.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for the support you have given me and my wine venture over the last 8 years. It is because of you that I was able to do this in the first place. I think we created some really unique wines. Not everything worked out perfectly, but in the end, I think even the most flawed wines we released resolved into something that could be enjoyed in the right setting. And that is truly, to me, what wine should be. Not a mass-produced product homogenized to please the masses, but a living product that changes and emerges over time. When that happens, unbeknownst to its creator or those savoring, it can create the most transcendent experiences and best illustrates why I was so drawn to this field in the first place.
If you have truly enjoyed my wines, I encourage you to continue seeking out those made naturally by others with similar ideologies. Whether it be local or from around the world, there are thousands of small wineries like mine trying their best to showcase the fruit grown in the vineyards without manipulating the juice in the cellar, and they can be quite extraordinary.
But especially in these times, I encourage you to continue supporting the small local wineries here in the Pacific Northwest and particularly in the Gorge, which will get a lot less attention than the wealthy Willamette Valley producers who have the power of the state lobbying for their survival. If you want to keep your wine club subscription going, since you won’t be getting Viola releases this Fall, I suggest you check out a couple of friends here in the Gorge and perhaps you can discover a new favorite. A few to seek out are: Willow Wines, Savage Grace, Le Double Trouble and Loop de Loop. I’m sure there are dozens more you’ve never heard of just trying to make a go of it out there, so hunt them down and support those you enjoy.
As we head into the unknown, I wish you all good health and happiness and look forward to a time when our paths cross again.