Joe Dobbes Stretches
His Entrepreneurial Muscles
by Cole Danehower
Oregon Wine Report
On a cold winter morning, winemaker Joe Dobbes purposefully tramps
around the muddy worksite of a new winery construction site, attentive
to every detail, authoritatively asking questions of the construction
manager. For a moment he stops and looks out over the incomplete concrete
walls at the acres of naked vines planted neatly across rolling hills.
He smiles. He is seeing a big part of his future.
What does a winemaker do after he's successfully spearheaded the quality
turnaround of one of Oregon's largest wineries (Willamette
brought to market one of Southern Oregon's leading brands (Griffin
Creek), and reinforced the reputation of one of the state's leading
Pinot noir labels (Torii Mor)? If you are Joe Dobbes, you give it all
up . . . so you can do it all again, but this time for yourself!
"It's all a little nail-biting," confesses Joe, "but
what is so exciting about what I am doing now is that I have the chance
to let the creative, entrepreneurial spirit inside me out-to work for
myself-which has been a goal of mine as long as I've been in the business."
The new winery-which Joe will exclusively
lease for the production of his, and the winery owner's, wines-represents
the culmination of
a long-held vision Joe has had for himself. Affectionately nicknamed "Hollywood
Joe"-as much for his leading-man looks as for his charismatic
self-assurance-Dobbes is putting his enviable winemaking track record
on the line by going-it-alone with his own wine production and consulting
company, Wines By Joe LLC.
And in the traditional Dobbes fashion, he is doing nothing in half
measures. Since leaving Willamette Valley Vineyards in the summer of
2002, Joe has started a daunting number of new activities that are
keeping him deeply involved in Oregon winemaking, from the Eola Hills
in the north to the Rogue Valley in the south.
The Fun of Making His own Wine . . .
One of Joe's key activities is the launching of his own label: Dobbes
Family Estate. "This last harvest we made about 2200 cases of
Dobbes Family Estate wines," he says. "I didn't have
somebody else's staff to tell what to do, I had to do it myself,
and it was
really great getting my hands dirty again. Even standing in the
middle of the press soaking wet at 1:00 in the morning with a power
Capitalizing on a long-held passion for Syrah and Viognier, Joe has
sourced grapes for his new label from southern Oregon and is planning
to release a number of different inaugural bottlings of Dobbes Family
Estate wines. Five single-vineyard Syrahs, a grand assemblage Syrah,
two Pinot noir cuvees named after his children (Amelia Rose and Griffin),
and a headily fragrant Viognier are all in the works.
"It really is the culmination of a personal vision," explains
Joe, "to be able to make my own wine in association with my family.
It's really hard work, but it is really gratifying as well!"
In addition, Joe is a partner in another new label called Villa
San Maurice, based in Napa County, California. From the 2001 harvest, Villa
San Maurice has released a Joe-produced Pinot grigio using exclusively
Oregon fruit. While the label at first appeals to those consumers intrigued
by the Italian aura of Pinot grigio, Joe is confidant that what they'll
discover upon pouring is a wine of more substance and character-thanks
to the Oregon fruit.
. . . And The Satisfaction
of Helping Others Make Theirs
Joe is equally busy applying his expertise to help other producers
make wine for their labels. For the 2002 harvest, Joe returned to
the famed Torii Mor label as consulting winemaker, continuing a role
he has played in recent vintages. "Making these wines is really
satisfying," he says. "I'm very comfortable at Torii Mor
because I know the people and I get to work with great fruit at one
of the great Pinot noir labels in the Willamette Valley."
Similarly, Joe is keeping his involvement
in Southern Oregon. He is Managing Director of Paschal Winery in
Talent, just outside of Ashland, with his sister, Renee. This commitment
brings him down to Southern Oregon every
few weeks for a few days at a time. But Joe doesn't mind the travel: "I
love it down there," he says.
Not content to simply rest on the laurels Paschal has earned since
it opened a few years ago Joe, in association with his sister Renee,
is planning a new growth path for the winery-one that will doubtless
increase his time spent in that part of the state.
"One of our challenges is deciding how to grow the brand and
make it different from Griffin Creek, Weisinger's, and the other producers
in the region," explains Joe. "So, we're looking at developing
Italian varietals for the Paschal name, including Sangiovese, Dolcetto,
Barbera, perhaps a little Rufasco. There's also a lot of Merlot and
Cabernet available in Southern Oregon, so we might do a Super Tuscan
blend . . . and then there's some really nice Nebbiolo that we might
look at as well . . ." To Joe, it's all opportunity!
Passion Fuels Endless Energy
Joe admits that having his fingers in so many pies is a bit
people think I'm nuts, but to me all of these things make sense," he
explains. "There's certainly a lot of risk-I have never had so
much financial responsibility on my shoulders-but these are all things
I love to do and that I know how to do. My whole career until now has
been preparing me to rely on my own skills and judgment. I believe
that passion fuels endless energy, and since winemaking is my passion,
I am confident that I have the energy to make all this work!"