Second Generation Blossoms
Story by Karl Klooster
The dream of many successful business owners is to have their children take an interest in the work that provides the family livelihood, with the idea in mind that one day they will want to take the reins.
As the Oregon wine industry matures, it's not surprising to see a second generation of growers and winemakers emerge. Enticed by the unique challenges and rewards of this fascinating profession, they are carrying forward a family legacy.
Each story has its own twists and turns, but the bottom line remains essentially the same: It centers around a special sense of accomplishment; bringing forth something special from the soil and creating something even more special from it.
Unlike most agricultural commodities, wine is an end product worth many times more than the cost of the fruit from which it is made. A cherry may be baked in a pie, a pear canned, or a nut dry roasted, but none has the added value of fine fermented grape juice.
Talent, dedication and sheer enjoyment of what they do describes the next generation of winery owners and managers who have begun to make their own mark on a maturing industry well on its way toward world acclaim.
Following are the stories of second-generation members of winery-owning families, whose considerable talents and youthful vitality are already quickening the pace of that upward march.
Every one of them grew up with the culture of viticulture and enology almost literally coursing through their veins. Their contributions appear destined to shape a bright future for Oregon wine.
Adam Godlee Campbell
Elk Cove Vineyards • Gaston
Joe and Pat Campbell turned over management of Elk Cove Vineyards to their son, Adam in 1999. The winery's co-founders held the helm of their winery just south of Gaston for years, guiding it from modest beginnings to a 46,000-plus case producer.
Adam was the only one of the Campbell's five children who chose to follow his parents into the business. "All of us helped out when we were kids," he said. "But dad and mom encouraged us to pursue our passion. We weren't pressured to work for the winery."
As it turned out, Adam was the only one to find his calling in the vineyard and winery. After high school, he took two years off to work harvests before entering Lewis & Clark College in Portland.
He spent his junior year studying in Australia then returned to finish out his final year at Lewis & Clark. Following graduation in 1994, he joined Elk Cove full time.
By 1999, having worked side by side with his parents for five years and learned all sides of the business, Adam was ready. "My parents said, 'It's your baby now,' and retired to Portland," he said. "They love the winery and they're still involved. Just not day to day."
Alex & Alison Sokol Blosser
Sokol Blosser Winery • Dundee
Given the good fortune that both her son and daughter ultimately made a commitment to the pioneering Dundee Hills winery, Susan Sokol Blosser was able to step back in January 2008.
Typical of winery families, as children, Alex and Alison were involved at harvest. But for both of them, the decision to join the family business came only after testing the waters elsewhere.
Alex said "I loved the camaraderie of the wine industry, especially during harvest, but my folks were running a business, and when it came time for me to get a real job, there was nothing open at Sokol Blosser."
He put in a year as vineyard foreman at nearby Archery Summit, then decided he'd better get an education. Four years later, a degree from Portland State in hand, reality struck when he realized that from a job standpoint, what he knew best was wine.
"I landed a sales job with Columbia Distributing in Portland and did well enough that Mom took notice. She said the winery needed stronger sales and marketing, so why not come to work for the winery?"
It didn't take long for them to reach an agreement, and in 1998, Alex became a full-time employee of the family business. Six years younger, his sister earned her MBA and picked up experience with a high-tech company and Nike before joining her brother in 2005.
"When we knew Alison wanted to get involved, we attended the Austin Family Business program at Oregon State," Alex said. "It was very valuable for planning transition and succession."
The two were named co-presidents in 2005, sharing management responsibilities and decision-making. "Alison and I discuss everything," Alex said." We see eye to eye. It's working out very well."
Ben & Mimi Casteel
Bethel Heights Vineyard • Salem
Since the planting of its first vineyard in 1977, Bethel Heights has been an all-in-the-extended-family enterprise. Twins Ted and Terry Casteel, their wives, Pat Dudley and Marilyn Webb, respectively, and Pat's sister, Barbara Dudley, were the founding partners.
Co-ownership now includes six additional family members, with Terry and Marilyn's son, Ben, and Ted and Pat's daughter, Mimi, playing the most prominent second-generation roles.
After a season making wine in Burgundy and five years with Rex Hill Vineyards, Ben returned to Bethel Heights in 2005. His father, Terry, retired the next year, passing the winemaking duties to his son.
Mimi studied ecology and worked as a botanist for the U.S. Forest Service before realizing "I had left something very special behind at home." She, too, returned to Bethel Heights in 2005 and soon became general manager.
Ben and Mimi now run the company day to day but never have to worry about lack of ongoing support from family members. "We all love the winery," Mimi said. "For me, it's been that way ever since I started putting sticks in the ground at about 10 years old."
Luisa, Maria & Michel Ponzi
Ponzi Vineyards • Beaverton
Generational transition got underway at Ponzi Vineyards back in 1993, when Dick Ponzi relinquished winemaking authority to his daughter, Luisa. Extensive training in Burgundy and Italy's Piedmont District preceded her taking the position.
Sales and marketing have long been older sister Maria's strong suit, and she racked up some high-performance selling success as well as a bit of world travel before joining the winery in 1991 to work with her mother, Nancy, in putting the Ponzi brand into the marketplace.
Kid brother Michel's contribution is in operations. As a high-tech computer whiz, he has streamlined Ponzi's administrative and financial functions, overseen management of the family-owned Bridgeport Brewing Company - sold in 1995 to The Gambrinus Company - and construction of their new winery.
Music is his first love, however, and he composes in his home studio at the family's La Luce Estate Vineyard.
René Eichmann & Rick Kerivan
Bridgeview Vineyards • Cave Junction
Way out front in the next generation of Oregon winery managers is René Eichmann, who arrived from Europe in '81 to help his stepfather and mother, Bob and Lelo Kerivan, get Bridgeview Vineyards underway.
At 50,000 cases annually, the Cave Junction operation is today Southern Oregon's largest winery and the 11th largest in the state. Bob's grandson, Rick Kerivan, joined the winery in 1997 to help establish and manage their 100 acres of estate vineyards in the Applegate Valley.
"I may be the face of Bridgeview, so to speak," René said. "But Bob and Lelo are still very active owners. They are in the office every day and are involved in every aspect of the business."
An emerging third-generation is already on the scene, as well. Rene's older son, Andi, works in the vineyard and René Jr. works with his father at the winery. Each wants to continue in the area they are now learning.
Rick has a son, Andrew, who also is helping in the vineyard and wants to eventually get involved in the sales and business end of the winery.
Lange Estate Winery • Dundee
Though Don and Wendy Lange have no near-term plans for retirement from the operation of their Dundee Hills winery, their son, Jesse, first teamed with his father as co-winemaker and has been general manager since 2005.
The family works closely together on key planning while Jesse's day-to-day management role allows Don time to pursue his love of writing and performing music, which, he admits, gives him great pleasure particularly with a glass of Lange Pinot close at hand.
The Eyrie Vineyard • McMinnville
The passing of David Lett in 2008 left management of The Eyrie Vineyard to his son, Jason, who had already shown his winemaking prowess with Black Cap, a brand he established at the now-defunct Urban Wineworks in Portland.
Following his father's philosophy of letting the wine make itself, Jason is carrying the Eyrie legacy forward with the support of his mother, Diana.
Broadley Vineyards • Monroe
Craig Broadley put it similarly when describing his son, Morgan's role in the family's Monroe, Oregon winery. "Morgan has the energy," he said. "This is a small family business. Everyone is involved. But we couldn't do it without him."
Calvin Scott Henry IV
Henry Estate Winery • Umpqua
Roseburg's Henry Estate beats everyone handily when it comes to passing the land from generation to generation. Calvin Scott Henry III's grandfather came to the valley in the 1870s. Scott III founded the winery in 1972 and his son, Scott IV, "Scotty," who has been at his side since 1987, will ultimately assume management of the operation.
This glimpse into what has motivated members of Oregon wine's second generation to carry forward the family tradition remains incomplete. The children of numerous winery owners are waiting in the wings, some still youngsters, others just starting to learn the ropes under the tutelage of their parents.
More will step forward over the next several years to claim their place among leading producers around the state. As time goes on, members of the third generation will further strengthen the connection as owners and operators of these deeply rooted family businesses.