Awen Winecraft owners Sean Hopkins (left) and Tom Homewood at home in the Rogue Valley. ##Photo provided

Creative Juices Flowing

Awen a symbol of inspiration

By Tamara Belgard

What’s in a name? With one like Awen Winecraft, there’s a story to be told.

Co-owner Sean Hopkins — a self-professed liquid poet and grape alchemist — recalls in 2015 how he and fellow co-owner Tom Homewood — the team’s chief fermentation officer and wingman — knew they were going to start the winery, so the search for a name began.

Hopkins says, “We were really trying to walk the line of being sort of rock ‘n’ roll and remaining classy but not cheesy.” With several ideas on the shortlist, he started researching symbols and ancient ruins, things with deeper meaning that could be used for a logo. When he stumbled across the Awen, a Celtic/Druid symbol over 1,000 years old, everything fell into place.

“The Awen is the divine spark of creativity, flowing spirit, the symbol of all creatives, poets and musicians,” he explains. “The three circles, three stars and three rays are symbolic of the land, sea and sky.” According to Hopkins, it’s also an inspirational chant Druids used during ceremonies — ahhh oooo whennnnn, ahhh ooooo whennn.

Both Hopkins and Homewood share Welsh heritage, and both are musicians, so this concept immediately resonated. It was Homewood’s idea to flip the symbol, using it as the W in their name. And after many versions, they landed the Led Zeppelin II album font for the rock vibe they initially desired.

Awen Winecraft rosé ##Photo provided

Hopkins’s journey into winemaking started with his brother-in-law, Mark Militmore, teaching him the basics in 2005 at his home winery in Santa Cruz, California.

“In 2006, I started my first vintage at my own home winery up in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I say ‘home winery’ because we did not start small; that first year, I made six barrels of wine. I was the primary winemaker at the time, and I learned a lot from Mark, but once I had ‘the bug,’ I began doing my own research and studying.” He quickly discovered his own style and wanted to expand using the newly learned techniques. Homewood joined Hopkins in 2007, quickly catching ‘the bug’ as well.

Hopkins moved to Oregon in 2011 and began experimenting with Rogue Valley grapes. He became acquainted with local producers and says he was welcomed heartily into the wine scene. In 2016, the two launched Awen Winecraft.

Hopkins says they chose to remain in the Rouge Valley because of the amazing quality and diversity of fruit available. “We can get so many varietals to grow here at top-level quality. We believe it is truly the next great winemaking region in the U.S. and the world. Add onto that the natural beauty and the community and you have a perfect storm for living the good life!”

The winery’s production remains small: 1,000 to 1,300 cases annually distributed to specialty stores, select restaurants and direct to consumer. Awen manages a small 1.5-acre vineyard in the heart of the Rogue Valley in Medford, off Camp Baker Road; it’s planted to Zinfandel, Primitivo, Viognier and three clones of Syrah. They source fruit from both Rogue and Applegate valleys for about 90% of their production, working with premium growers like Quady North, Quail Run, Garvin Family, Pearl Family, Schmidt Family, Buren Family and Daisy Creek vineyards.

They prefer the flexibility of evaluating the current year and making decisions without being directly tied to a specific vineyard or varietal. Subsequently, the two produce wines they like, wines that fit their style. Hopkins says, “From that, we have been successful in developing a strong portfolio of award-winning wines that are unique and have a strong sense of balance across the palate.”

Over the course of the last four vintages, Awen has amassed a following with its Grenache Blanc, Albariño, Viognier, Vermentino, Chardonnay, Rhône white blends and rosé, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Sangiovese, Dolcetto, Syrah, Merlot and Zinfandel — though they do not make all these varietals each year. Currently they are experimenting with sparkling, producing a 2019 Grenache Blanc in the méthode Champenoise style; the wine recently entered the tirage phase.

Awen has partnered with Barrel 42, a custom-crush facility, allowing the owners to focus on building the brand, not to mention working with some of the best winemakers in the area. Hopkins says, “This has been a great partnership for us to date. The team at Barrel 42 allows us to make the wine in our style and provide guidance and feedback when required or requested.

“It is really a nice partnership, as Tom and I have been making wine for 13-plus years, so we definitely have our own processes, which Barrel 42 is happy to follow or let us know if they think it will cause an issue in the wine,” says Hopkins. He and Homewood still perform all the critical tasks: cluster and berry sorting, winemaking plans — including yeasts, additions, feeding plans, barrel program, enzymes, etc. — as well as acid trials, blending trials and more.

Awen is in the permitting process of its new tasting room in Jacksonville, which the duo had hoped to open in April or May. “We have some delays due to COVID-19 but are still planning on moving forward with that opening as soon as possible,” Hopkins says. “Long-term, I’d like to be able to quit my day job and work full time in our own facility. Beyond that, we hope to grow the business to around 5,000 cases per year.”

With wines that embody the creativity and flowing spirit their name represents, that level of success will undoubtedly come quicker than expected.


Awen Winecraft co-owner Sean Hopkins says, “Right now, my favorite wine pairing is our 2016 Grenache Blanc and pho — super spicy!” He also enjoys an acid-forward Albariño and ribeye steak. “I love the counterbalance of the acid to the fat, and the fact that it is not the traditional pairing excites me and pleases my sense of adventure in food.”


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