ARCHIVED from 2003
News and Reviews
from Pacific Northwest Wine Country
A new generation of winemakers takes off
By Anne Sampson
Januik laughs when he tells the story of his son’s dream
to someday run the family business. “Dad,” the
16-year-old told his father one day, “when the winery
is mine, I’m going to make a million cases.”
Januik smiles, recalling the scene, “just be sure to
send me a check once a month.”
smile lingers, as the memory of his own
that led to the 1999-launch of his small Woodinville winery,
Januik Winery. He had just ended his nine-year stint
as head winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle, overseeing the
production of hundreds of thousands of cases of wine each
year. Today, he finds happiness bottling just 3,000
cases of premium wines annually.
When Januik left Ste.
Michelle, he also left behind an industry-leading facility,
the marketing support of a large corporation, and many less
tangible “perks” like the chance to work side-by-side with
some of the best winemakers in the world, including Renzo
Cotarella of Italy’s Piero Antinori.
thought I had one of the best winemaking jobs in the
country,” Januik reflects. “But part of me just wanted to go
out on my own.”
"Being my own boss,
in every sense of the word,
means more to me now than it did then..."
Januik falls into an
ever-increasing category of independent winemakers who
choose to go solo in their quest for excellence. Some
bring a veteran’s experience to their barrels, while others
bring fresh, young dreams of making world-class wines.
Some crush and bottle their wines under someone else’s roof.
Some have been tutored by winemakers at larger facilities.
But almost universally, these entrepreneurial winemakers
treasure the chance to personally oversee the making of
their wines... from the vineyard, to the bottle, to the
says one of the most satisfying benefits of independence,
albeit one he didn’t anticipate, is the close tie the rest
of his family now feels to the business.
“My two sons are 16
and 18, and they’re really connected to it in a way they
never have been before. They really think of the
winery as being their business one day.”
Januik doesn’t share his sons' dreams of grandeur.
“I don’t have that
need anymore,” he says. “I don’t want to make so much
wine that it becomes a chore to go out and sell it. I
don’t see us making more than five to ten thousand cases.”
More importantly, he admits, is the chance to run his own
in this article
ran his own show in his 20s when he owned a wine shop and
deli, before pursuing the degrees and training that brought
him to Januik Cellars. He's happy to be on his own
my own boss, in every sense of the word, means more to me
now than it did then,” he admits.
desire for independence is what also drives most of the
winemakers at the Carlton Winemakers Studio, located
southwest of Portland in Carlton, Oregon. The
brainchild of winemaker Eric Hamacher,
the Studio provides equipment and space for a small group of
wineries who can’t, or don’t want to, invest the money to
build their own facilities.
currently producing wine at the Carlton Winemakers Studio
include Hamacher Wines, Soter Vineyards, Andrew Rich Wines,
Bryce Vineyards, Domain Meriwether, Dominio, and Penner-Ash
Lynn Penner-Ash turned to Carlton when she took her
extensive winemaking experience independent, after 14 years
at Rex Hill in Newberg, Oregon. Like Januik, she first
learned her craft formally at the University of
California-Davis, then through on-the-job training in Napa
Valley, and then in Oregon's Willamette Valley at Rex Hill
“In 1997, I went to
the owner of Rex Hill and asked to produce my own label, and
he agreed,” she recalls.
By 2000, she was
bottling more than 500 cases of Penner-Ash wines at her
employer’s facility, while her duties at Rex Hill
simultaneously were drifting more toward marketing and away
from winemaking. She decided it was time to make a
change, and the Carlton Studio became Penner-Ash’s new home.
Today she bottles 1,500 cases of Pinot Noir and Syrah under
her own label.
“The winemaking is all
handled in 120 barrels,” she notes happily, “and I can tell you exactly
what’s going on in every one.”
Where they make their
41 Lowden School Rd.
801 North Scott Street
19730 144th Avenue NE
Woodinville, WA 98072
Holloran Vineyard Wines
2636 SW Shaeffer Rd.
West Linn, OR 97321
Belle Vallee Cellars
Carlton is an incubator; she recently planted six acres of grapes, and
the new vineyard will someday become her winery’s permanent home. The
facility is scheduled to open by 2005 and will be for winemaking only
(tastings by appointment). The new facility will emulate that of the
Carlton Studio, and will be as “green” as possible, built with recyclable
and sustainable products.
Many independent and
start-up winemakers rely on rented space and equipment, because it’s the
most efficient way to get started, both from a financial and a legal
standpoint. The requirements to be bonded as a winemaker make it far
easier to use another winemaker’s space, if the two can manage their
operations together under the same bond.
for example, crushed his first vintage at Waterbrook
Cellars in Walla Walla, then three more at Three Rivers
Cellars. One of the few drawbacks is that all
equipment must be idle for 24 hours before a different
winemaker can use it. Next, Januik began consulting
for a vineyard project in Easton, Washington, and then with
that group’s Novelty Hill Wines. When he became
Novelty Hill’s winemaker -- as he continues to be today, it
was a natural decision for Januik to move his own label into
Novelty Hill's Woodinville facility.
Jay Somers of
J Christopher wines speaks of the invaluable trade mentoring he
received by the side of Cameron Winery winemaker John Paul. Somers was
still collecting a paycheck as assistant winemaker
when he made his own first J Christopher vintages.
“It’s really great
making your wines with someone who’s been doing it a long time,” says
Somers. “While I was making my wine at Cameron, I had John Paul around
it, to help solve problems. Little things come up, and he was able to
say ‘oh, yeah, this is how we handled that when it happened in 1983.’ You
learn more” (than you would on your own).
Somers bottled three
vintages at Cameron. Then, in 1999, he joined forces with Bill
Holloran, who was opening a new winery. Somers oversees both labels,
bottling 2,700 cases of J Christopher and about 1,000 cases for Holloran
Carlton Studio tenant, Bryce Bagnall, also dreams of owning a facility.
Bagnall’s career echoes Penner-Ash’s in several ways; both are
UC-Davis graduates, and both
a great deal about making wines first at Napa Valley wineries, then at
After working at Edna
Valley Vineyards in California for nine years, Bagnall spent
a year in Europe studying the wines of France. When he
returned to the U.S. in 1995, he settled in Oregon.
“My wife and I wanted
to start building a little something for our future,” Bagnall explains.
In 1999, the couple planted four acres of pinot noir at Ribbon Ridge, a
sub-region of the Chehelem area (currently being considered for American
Viticultural Area status) located in the North Willamette Valley.
Unlike Penner-Ash, Bagnall has kept his day job as winemaker and vineyard
Witness Tree Vineyard,
working on his own Bryce Vineyard wines after hours. (Bryce Vineyard was
closed after Bryce's death.) He’ll release his first vintage, 225
cases of 2002 Pinot Noir, crushed and bottled at the Carlton studio, in
Bagnall opted to go
directly into his own space at Carlton, jokingly referred to as his
“single-car garage,” because “our goal was to establish an identity through
retail sales, and Witness Tree didn’t want to be a part of that.”
Bryce Vineyards has the potential to produce 500 cases, all of which will be
sold from his tasting room.
"Wine Country Digest"
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Copyright © 2003-
Susan R. O'Hara. All rights reserved.