THE CAMARADERIE OF THE PARKING LOT

A few weeks ago, our team was standing in the cellar making final plans for our Wine Club Pick Up Party. We were focused on logistics, such as moving barrels to make room for the event, making plans for a winery bathroom makeover, as well as sharing our hopes for this year’s harvest. There was a collective pause as we looked around at each other, only to say, “This job we do is wild.”

In the shortest summation, that sentiment is incredibly true. Winemaking is a year round effort which showcases a passion for not only the final product, but also for the process which requires constant attention to the details. We’d be remiss to not acknowledge how challenging harvest can be. The day-to-day hours are unpredictable and inconsistent; picking times and dates are dependent on weather, a fault in equipment can set a project back hours, and there’s the added toll of every aspect of the job being physical. If you are like us and like to throw a dinner party, you’re all too familiar with knowing that there will be dishes after the party ends – and the same goes for the winery during harvest. An all too familiar sensation during this season is sticky, and plenty of our crew’s time is spent sanitizing and cleaning the cellar. 

Jordan, production winemaker, holds a bottle of the 2013 Vignette – a wine from his first vintage at R. Stuart. Photo by Camille LaRocca-Carrillo.

When our team is in the thick of the work, the immensity of the task makes it easy to become short-sighted and forget that in two years time, people will be savoring the very things their hands are working on. 

One of the most effective snaps back to reality is when our team is sitting around a harvest dinner table. Our team is notorious for bringing a variety of wines to the table, whether they are R. Stuart wines or from producers we admire. As we begin opening bottles, the stories begin flowing as much as the wine. 

“Do you remember this vintage?! The winery was so cold that year!” 

“When we tasted this last, we talked about how great it would be in a few years – let’s open it next.”

“2013 was my first vintage in the cellar – I wonder how this tastes now…”

As our team tastes wines which all of our hands have handled at some point, it grounds us back into our personal why. At R. Stuart, we consistently talk about how we are making “wines for life.” In those moments at dinner, we are living and breathing the very credo we share with our customers. When good food, good wine, and good people are put in combination with one another, magical moments come to existence. The depth of enjoyment we gain from those moments around a dinner table reinvigorates and solidifies our understanding of how important our work can be.

Left: R. Stuart’s first fruit seen sitting in the glow of the morning sun peeking over Buchanan Cellars.
Right: Each harvest, the “crush gates” go up to create a safe traffic flow for forklifts and delivery trucks.

The value of our work is also echoed by the physical location of our winery. Located only 6 blocks from our tasting room on Historic Third Street, our winery’s warehouse (formerly used by Buchanan Cellars for grain storage), sits right in the heart of the Historic Granary District. We are surrounded by other notorious wine producers, such as Brittan, Winderlea, Lumos, and Goodfellow. We thank goodness on a long day that our favorite local coffee shops, Flag & Wire and Mac Market, are mere steps away from our winery. And with equal gratitude, we’re next door Grain Station Brew Works and down the street from Heater Allen Brewing – where you can often find the Stu Crew enjoying a few pints of Pilsner after the press loads finish.

Rob, Casee, and Karen take a moment to celebrate a successful party.

Being right next door to wineries who are in the thick of harvest as we are builds an undeniable bond among our parking lot. There have been late nights when another winery’s crew member saw our lights still on, and then offered to help us with our final punchdowns of the night – just so we could all go home at a decent hour. This was, of course, after they had already completed a tiresome day themselves. When a forklift breaks down in the middle of the parking lot, crews come out like ants to sugar to get it out of the way and then offer up their machines for loan. We keep each other excited as we watch the first lots of fruits roll into each other’s facilities, plucking grapes out of each others’ bins to see the quality of the fruit. The Brittan team regularly eats lunch outside as a crew and we love being able to wave hello right from our front door.

We are often asked the question, “Is there competition between wineries in the Willamette Valley?” To which our response is: there is more camaraderie than competition. We are all creating a product which we are passionate about, personally enjoy, and want to see each other succeed with. By creating a community between wineries, we have opportunities to collaborate and get to know each others’ products – which is always mutually beneficial. 

Many visitors to our area desire a sweeping vista and the beautiful vineyard views (which we also highly recommend), but we happen to be biased toward our plot of paradise right in downtown McMinnville. We invite you to feel the joy of our winery’s neighborhood through a private Taste of Place seated tasting, or a cellar tour and tasting with our team. We can’t wait to see you!

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