By John ~ September 24th, 2008.
As I was looking back over my notes from our favorite wineries out of well over 100 winery visits since April of this year, I noticed a common thread running through a number of them—a grower background. However, it was not necessarily a grape grower background. In fact, several of the better ones including Fielding Hills (WA), Gilbert Cellars (WA), Watermill (OR), and Williamson (ID) have a tree fruit grower background.
So how does this give them an edge in winemaking? I have several thoughts on this. First, they each have their own vineyards, thus having complete control of the entire process from bud to bottle as well as getting the first pick of their fruit for their own wines. Second, their fruit growing background probably gives them an edge in vineyard management skills. Third, if they are not the winemaker themselves, having their own vineyards probably gives them an edge in finding a superior outside winemaker because he or she would probably like to work with a grower whose grapes they might also like to access as well.
How could this grower background not be an advantage? If the grower does not really own a great vineyard site or does not have the right winemaker to get maximum expression of their grapes in the wine, they could be just another mediocre producer. And I would especially be wary of the situation where a grape grower starts losing some of their contracts to sell their grapes, and then starts up a winery just as a way to utilize their grape production.
In sum, when you find a winery with a grower background whose wines you like, you probably have found something special that will be consistent over time.
Filed under: General Wine Information, Vineyards