A Sound Vision

Learn more about this Southern Oregon couple

Sound & Vision Wine Co. s co-founder Carmen Nydegger. ##Photo provided by Sound & Vision Wine Co.
Joe Chepolis, Sound & Vision Wine Co. s co-founder. ##Photo provided by Sound & Vision Wine Co.
Lineup of Sound & Vision wines. ##Photo provided by Sound & Vision Wine Co.
An example of Sound & Vision Wine Co. s unique wine labels. ##Photo provided by Sound & Vision Wine Co.
Sound & Vision Wine Co. s co-founder Joe Chepolis crawling out of a tank. ##Photo provided by Sound & Vision Wine Co.

By Andrea Jacoby Oshell

“Endlessly fascinating…” is how Joe Chepolis and Carmen Nydegger of Sound & Vision Wine Co. answer the “Why wine?” question posed by Rich Schmidt on the Oregon Wine History Archive Podcast. And, as we know, many fascinating stories begin with a bottle of wine. After Chepolis and Nydegger married in 2015, they started mulling over a possible wine business.

But these two didn’t awaken suddenly in love with each other and wine. Instead, a lengthy, meandering journey joined them from East to West. Nydegger grew up in the easternmost town in the United States: Lubec, Maine, Chepolis in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Eventually, both worked in Salt Lake City where they eventually met “the old-fashioned way,” at a bar with mutual friends. Ever since, as Chepolis puts it, they’ve been “raising hell, and stirring sh*t up.”

It’s About the Journey

Their wine adventure also began in the traditional fashion. Nydegger was an experimental consumer and Chepolis an experimental buyer, both enjoying accessible, inexpensive Italian wines. However, their epiphany didn’t occur with one specific wine. In 2013, because Chepolis’ mom loved the soap opera Falcon Crest, the trio visited Napa Valley’s Spring Mountain Vineyards, where the TV show was filmed.

Chepolis and Nydegger remember the experience as special. Upon their arrival, they were served samples of Sauvignon Blanc while relaxing in chairs overlooking the amber rows of vines basked in sunshine. They had an amazing, memorable tour and tasting, without any pretentiousness. This experience sparked their desire to start a wine business.

A Decade in the Making

They continued working in Utah, often dreaming about their own wine business while regularly visiting Napa and Sonoma. After getting married, the couple jumped at the opportunity to build their dream home in the hills of Talent near Nydegger’s parents. Chepolis “lucked into a winery job” at Quady North and Barrel 42 Winecraft. They also discovered two small vineyards need some TLC and grapes requiring a home at harvest. So, with that, Sound & Vision Wine Co. officially opened in 2018.

The journey of starting a wine brand is rarely easy. Besides making wine, Nydegger and Chepolis needed a place to showcase and sell it. With their first few small batches, they decided to create “The Deck” as Nydegger lovingly coined it, in the summer of 2020. The Deck was designed as a collaborative outdoor space at their home where small groups and boutique winemakers could safely gather. They partnered with Goldback Wines’ Andy Myer, Sara Garr of Circadian Cellars and North Bar Cellars’ Kevin Breck. Unfortunately, their collaborative efforts lasted mere weeks. On September 8, the devastating Almeda Fire burned through Ashland, Talent and Phoenix, destroying homes and businesses, along with the area’s air quality.

When the Smoke Cleared

In spring of 2021, the couple joined Goldback Wines and Rob Folin of Ryan Rose in opening Catalyst Wine Collective in the Phoenix Industrial Studios. The cooperative approach developed at The Deck transformed into a light and bright space with unpretentious and relaxing wine vibes. But while the original Catalyst Collective was opening, another local winery was grappling with the tough decision about how to move forward.
Brian Denner and Clea Arthur of Simple Machine lost their entire winery and inventory in the Almeda Fire. They were determined to rebuild. It was a trying time, but the wine community united to support them. Barrel 42 Winecraft donated space and equipment, while vineyards contributed grapes and winemakers volunteered their time. They worked tirelessly, reopening their doors in October 2021.

“What if it Works”

Nydegger, with her entrepreneurial mind, continued to ponder “what if?” In January 2022, when Denner approached them about making white wine in the Simple Machine space, Chepolis immediately shot him down. He says, “There was no way I was going to manage the small vineyards I was maintaining, work harvest at Barrel 42 and make wine at another location.” However, Chepolis never stopped thinking about Denner’s offer, eventually inquiring about a lease a couple years later, thinking, “We have to say yes to unique opportunities.”

Nydegger and Chepolis were no strangers to a new challenge either. Before starting The Deck, they planted a vineyard on their property, including a beloved and personal favorite black Italian varietal called Aglianico. Because the ground was extremely dry and rocky, each plant required a hand-dug hole. Nydegger states, “If our marriage survived the planting of that vineyard, it can survive anything… that was literal blood, sweat and tears…”

It’s a Vibe

Last December, Denner and Arthur, realizing their dream had changed, closed the winery. In an Instagram post, Simple Machine stated, “The road of life is twisty and unpredictable, but it is the people we meet along the way who fill our hearts, lend us strength and give us joy.”

Nydegger and Chepolis said goodbye to Catalyst Wine Collective and moved into Simple Machine’s tiny Talent winery space. They hit the ground running with a small but mighty force. The couples’ styles are apparent throughout the tasting room. Chepolis built almost all the furniture himself from Baltic birch. Nydegger chose cozy southwestern-style blankets, unusual plants and stunning artwork created by close friend, Michelle Boucher. Most days you’ll find Arlo, a gray-faced Boston Terrier, snoozing in the sun streaming in through a large, glass garage door.

The couple encourages visitors to enjoy their wine however it feels right. “The old mode of wine tasting is dead'', says Chepolis, “We want you to stay, hang out and feel welcome… we are all just trying to have a good time.” Obviously, Nydegger and Chepolis have the heart and the passion to make Sound & Vision, but not without some sacrifices. Last year, their French Bulldog rescue, Lucy (also known as Pig Missile), died. Her face is now perfectly captured on the Sound & Vision Primitivo rosé label. Five percent of all rosé bottle sales are donated to the Southern Oregon Humane Society.

Currently, they make 900 cases annually but have space to double production. Denner added equipment in the lease, including six 200-gallon mismatched, brightly-colored beer tanks. Designed for carbonating beer– they work equally well with wine. Nydegger states with enthusiasm, “We are upping our bubble game!”

Chepolis trusts authenticity and 7,000-year-old practices of winemaking. He focuses on vineyard expression, spontaneous (native) fermentation and, overall, minimal intervention. At the end of the process, Chepolis says, “We bottle when it tastes good.” When asked about making wine accessible to the younger generations, and how wine can still have the same impact it has for generations, he isn’t worried. “The kids will figure it out, and we will be there to sit down, welcome everyone in and talk to them.”

A Quick Postscript on Catalyst Wine Collective

After Sound & Vision’s departure, Goldback Wines is now partnered with Chad and Michelle Westbrook Hinds of Iruai Winery. They also recently decided they are ready for a change. In the winter of 2024, after Westbrook Hinds joined, the opportunity arose to “transform part of the newly reconstructed historic Malmgren Garage at 111 Talent Ave… Catalyst Wine Collective will not be moving on with us,” according to a recent email. They plan to open the new, as yet unnamed space in spring of 2024. “Our new space will blur the line between tasting room and wine bar, including inspirational international wine offerings,” says Myer and Westbrook Hinds.

Sound & Vision Wine Co.
717 South Pacific Highway
Talent, OR 97540

Andrea Jacoby OShell has been in the wine industry for over a decade first discovering her love of wine at a small neighborhood wine shop in Miamisburg, Ohio. She also discovered her love of writing during that time by writing and publishing background guides for the International Model United Nations Organization. She moved to Oregon in 2015 where her wine journey continued. She resides in southern Oregon and currently works for a small wine distributor. She also achieved her WSET level III with merit in 2021. In her spare time, you can usually find her meandering through old East Medford with her two dogs, Teddy and Luna.

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