Name: Amy Wesselman
Winery: Westrey Wine Company
Number of years in business: 18
How would you describe your winemaking philosophy?
We focus on crafting elegant Pinot Noir wines, fruit-driven Burgundian-style Chardonnay and crisp, refreshing Pinot Gris. The wines are designed to be balanced and age-worthy, always complementing and enlivening the food with which they are served.
What wines or winemakers helped influence your philosophy?
Jacques Seysses of Domaine Dujac, Jean-Pierre de Smet of Domaine de l’Arlot, David Lett of the Eyrie Vineyards and Terry Casteel of Bethel Heights Vineyards.
How involved in grape-growing are you? Is there a particular vineyard site that wows you year after year?
We farm 22 acres on our own property at Oracle Vineyard in the Dundee Hills. Nonetheless, it is the Abbey Ridge Pinot Noir, grown by Bill and Julia Wayne next door to us that wows me year after year. They planted their vineyard in 1977, and there’s just no way to replace the complexity and depth of old vine material. Only seven acres at Oracle were planted in 1977, and we are very lucky to have those in our quiver, but most of our vineyard has been planted since we acquired the property in 2000.
How do you think your palate has evolved over the years? How do you think that’s influenced your wines?
I have always enjoyed wines that allow the fruit to show through first and foremost. Especially now that I farm myself, it is always compelling to try and capture the essence of what you have worked so hard to grow into the form [of] a bottle. One thing I will always remember and continue to apply in my winemaking is a piece of very good advice from Jacques Seysses during the year we interned in Burgundy: if Pinot Noir is not balanced when you bottle it, it will never be balanced. He was all about building structure and balance into Pinot Noir and letting the natural fruit flavor hang on that strong and balanced frame.
What kinds of food do you like to pair your wines with?
There’s nothing like a “lambsicle” (as my kids call rack of lamb) to go with Pinot Noir.
What changes are planned for coming vintages? Any new varietals, blends or propriety wines on the horizon?
I’m pretty much a stick in the mud when it comes to the Burgundian varieties and techniques. I don’t foresee us planting any Tempranillo unless my seven-year-old twins have something up their sleeves.
Is there a style of wine that you think appeals to critics that might not represent your favorite style? How do you deal with it?
For sure. It’s frighteningly common to see winemakers chasing after scores, both here and in Europe. We’re not about making big, extracted, alcoholic Pinots, though that style is what stands out in a line up at a blind tasting. That’s why we generally don’t send our wines off to the critics for scoring.
What do you drink when you are not drinking your own wine?
Other Oregon wines are fun to enjoy, but I’m personally a big Rhône hound and I love Spanish wines.
Do you collect wine? If so, what’s in your cellar?
We do have lots of wine in our “cellar”—that’s using the term loosely…it’s really just a big pile in the corner of our warehouse. There’s lots of Burgundy, Rhône, Oregon, Champagne, Spanish, Riesling and old Eyrie wines.
What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing the wine industry ?
Well, the recession has been hard on everyone, but we’ve always tried to keep our pricing fair, and I think that has helped us. The 2010 vintage was very small, but quality is very high. I think that will help people catch up on selling through vintages.
For more on Westrey Wine Company, check out our recent video interview with Amy on YouTube.