Del Rio Vineyards near Gold Hill is one of several local wineries where new winemakers will be taking charge. - Jim Craven

New crop of winemakers

Patrick Fallon settled in as the winemaker at EdenVale Winery in 2005, bought a home in southwest Medford and began refining operations.

He was part of Southern Oregon's rapidly expanding wine industry and working in one of its showcase locations. Then came a job offer from a winery in California's Sonoma County.

"It was in my old stomping grounds," said Fallon, who previously worked at Valley of the Moon Winery in southern Sonoma County. "And it was an offer I couldn't refuse."

Fallon is one of several Southern Oregon winemakers on the move these days.

Of the roughly 45 winemakers working from Ashland to Elkton, a half-dozen or so have taken on new duties, given notice they're moving on, or been let go in the past few weeks,

"Winemakers tend to move around, depending on their goals," said Kimberly Kinderman of Eagle Point's Agate Ridge Vineyard, where winemaker Will Brown is retiring. "There are so many types of wineries and jobs. For some, the goal is to get to a larger winery, but I think it's all coincidental because we have a growing industry here."

Fallon's new job at Jordan Winery in Healdsburg, Calif., grew out of a conversation between a former boss and his new one.

The new boss "was looking for a winemaker and told (the old boss) he was disappointed with the applicants," Fallon said. "There were a lot of new graduates with enological skills, but they weren't strong in the cellar. (The old boss) said 'I know the person you are looking for,' and I got a call while I was on vacation."

Fallon will depart EdenVale, where he developed a lab procedures manual and updated record-keeping, on Aug. 15.

"In the wine cellar you have to earn the respect that comes working should-to-shoulder," Fallon said. "They start the harvest (at Jordan Winery) on the first of September, so I'll hit the ground running. It's 20 times larger than here — 100,000 cases a year."

At RoxyAnn Winery, where new plantings have upped the Hillcrest Orchard to 80 acres of grapes, long-term changes are under way. Gus Janeway, winemaker since 2002, will become consulting winemaker following this year's crush.

"We're moving basically from what has been a 10,000-case production winery over the next three years to a 30,000-case winery," said Michael Donovan, managing director for RoxyAnn. "We want the new winemaker to come in and oversee the production growth by 2009."

Donovan wouldn't say what Janeway's relationship with his successor will be.

"It will be determined and ironed out as we move forward," Donovan said. "We don't want to hamstring anyone coming in artistically, but we want to follow the style Gus has established. This is a long-term thing for us."

Janeway will continue making his own Velocity brand at RoxyAnn.

"I'll spend a lot less time in rubber boots and in the seat of a forklift," said Janeway, who will oversee production quality and implement research and development.

He said RoxyAnn's changes, along with those of others in the region, are a reflection of industry growth.

"It represents a great opportunity for improvement and bringing in new blood and giving people currently here situations to better express their own styles," Janeway said.

He suggested RoxyAnn's next winemaker needs to recognize and express the best features of Southern Oregon, rather than impressing an outside wine style on the region.

"We need someone adventuresome and highly adaptable to the very unique requirement of winemaking in the Rogue Valley with its myriad complexities of varietals from pinot gris to syrah," Janeway said. "There are a lot of different vineyard sites and soil types and in many ways it's unexplored territory."

Meanwhile, at Del Rio Vineyards near Gold Hill, owner Rob Wallace is awaiting the arrival of a new winemaker after Jeff Kandarian departed.

Kandarian moved on to supervise white wine production at King Estate Winery near Eugene earlier this month. King Estate grows 465 acres of organic grapes and produces 130,000 to 150,000 cases annually.

Wallace said he shuffled through a stack of more than 100 resumes before settling on a new winemaker for Del Rio's 205 acres of grapes.

"He's a Frenchman from the Finger Lakes region of New York," Wallace said, but he declined to share his new man's name. "A lot of winemakers change jobs every year or two, going from France to Australia to Germany to Washington to California to Oregon. They're trying to get a resume with all facets of the industry."

West of Winston, in Douglas County, Kiley Evans, winemaker at Abacela, found himself out of a job after six years.

Neither Evans nor owner Earl Jones would comment on the matter, but Evans said he wasn't concerned about finding his next job.

"I have a number of options that I'm going to explore," Evans said. "I already do things regionally and have a number of consulting clients from eastern Washington to the Napa Valley."

While change in a growing industry is inevitable, losing a winemaker can have its drawbacks, said Mark Wisnovsky, president of Valley View Winery in Ruch.

"I've talked to different winery and restaurant people over the years, and when you're putting everything out there for the winemaker or chef and they leave, then what do you say?" Wisnovsky observed.

When a winemaker's signature is on the label of a certain vintage and a new winemaker comes along, it can have an unsettling effect, he said.

"Our winemaker (John Guerrero) has been here 22 years, but very few people outside the industry know his name because it's not on the label," he said. "If you have three or four vintages with a signature and then you get a new winemaker, it doesn't make that much difference, but it raises questions. The new person is taking over wine he didn't start. It's like a new chef coming in, sooner or later he's going to create a new menu."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

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