The Lumos Wine Company is the product of the efforts of its owner/winemaker, Dai Crisp, who was first introduced to viticulture in 1986 when he helped his parents plant a small, 10-acre vineyard on their farm in Wren, Oregon. In 1990 he became manager of Croft Vineyards where he began to develop his own unique style of grape growing. Then in 1999, Dai took on the 100-acre site at Temperance Hill Vineyard, where he is currently manager. While always interested in the process of wine-making, it wasn’t until Dai had proven to himself and others that he could grow an outstanding wine that he finally made the leap with his own label.
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After several years of working with vineyards, Dai Crisp decided it was time to try his hand at making wine. He and his partner, P.K. McCoy, started Lumos with the help of Rob Stuart of R. Stuart & Co. in McMinnville, OR and Barney Watson of Tyee Wine Cellars in Corvallis, OR.
“I wanted to make wine for years; it’s just very expensive to start out,” Crisp said. Fortunately, he had the right friends. “[There is] a certain amount of equipment that you absolutely must have — and the equipment is very expensive. Both Rob and Barney said ‘get a product out there; figure out how to sell it — don’t invest in the winery stuff until you’ve got wine moving.’” They allowed Crisp to borrow space and equipment until Lumos found its footing.
And it did. Crisp makes a quaffable and complex duo of Pinot noirs (Lumos Pinot Noir 02 and Lumos Pinot Noir “Guam” 02), a soft melon-flavored Lumos Pinot Gris, and a crisp, Burgundian-style Lumos Chardonnay, which, by the way, is stellar with grilled fish. Customers are often curious about the “Guam” Pinot. No, it does not have any connection to the remote Micronesian island. Crisp dubbed this wine “Guam” because it is made from fruit grown on the most remote plot in Temperance Hill Vineyard
Crisp’s winemaking philosophy is minimalist: “I try to keep it pretty simple. I try not to have over-extraction. I let the fruit show what it has to offer, let it take its course.”
Crisp believes that much of what is great about wine happens in the barrel, in the aging process. “I don’t want our wines to be about the wood and the flavors that it imparts on a wine,” he explained. “I like what happens to the wine in the barrel. There’s a very slow rate of oxidation that occurs because wood is porous, and there’s also concentration over time because of the evaporation of water and alcohol through the barrel so, with time . . . it goes through a change that’s remarkable. I like a lot of time in barrels, but I don’t want you to be drinking firewood—too aggressive or oaky. I want you to taste the fruit, not necessarily the oak.”
On future goals for Lumos Crisp said, “Hopefully we can make a very high quality wine that appeals to people… And we’re trying to keep the pricing as reasonable as we can.” So far, he has been successful at keeping prices low. His Pinot noirs are in the $20–$30 range (but they compare to more expensive ones) and his Pinot Gris and Chardonnay are bargains, under $20.
Grapes for both the Pinot noir and the Chardonnay come from the same vineyard in Wren where Dai now lives with his amazing wife and three children, one goofy dog and two parakeets. The Pinot gris is grown just north of Corvallis at Logsdon Ridge Vineyard, another small family-owned operation.
All the grapes used in the Lumos wines are grown using organic-based fertilizers, certified organic fungicides and mechanical cultivation rather than herbicides. The grapes are grown to produce the greatest potential flavors and complexity. The Pinot noir and Chardonnay are cropped to less than two tons per acre and the pinot gris comes in at two and a half tons per acre.
In addition to understanding how Lumos wines are grown, it is also important to recognize the people who work so hard in all kinds of conditions to ensure the quality of the wine when it reaches you. In the vineyard, the work is done by Bruce Franklin and Javier Garcia and his crew. In the winery, Lumos has had immeasurable help from Rob Stuart and Ben Frum of R. Stuart & Co. in McMinnville, OR and from Barney Watson and Kelly Kidneigh of Tyee Wine Cellars in Corvallis, OR.