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Cody Wright Has Purple Hands

Second Generation Winemaker with a 21st Century Style

by Jean Yates, February 2009

Purple Hands is "a winery and wine that is not about pretentiousness or class, but all about the spirit of making wine." Such is the philosophy of Purple Hands' Cody Wright.

Explaining the origin of the winery's name, Cody describes the time of year when everyone's hands (and much else of their clothes and bodies) are purple from the juice of the grape, as a special time. He recalls the experience of walking into a store, a restaurant, a winery supply warehouse, and seeing other people with purple hands, and recognizing their common experience in the harvest process.

Cody is in his '20s, and grew up around wineries and vineyards (his father is Ken Wright, of Ken Wright Cellars), and made wine at home, an interest that has grown into Purple Hands and jobs with wineries in Oregon, California, Australia, and New Zealand. Founded with friend Matt Giannone, who left the business last year, Cody is now sole owner and winemaker.

Cody has a strong vision of the winery he is creating. Purple Hands is about connecting with the grape and its environment. It's about handcrafted wine, handpicked grapes, hand work as the wine is made, and a hands-on relationship to the vineyard, the vine, and the wine. He tells of his deep awareness of the environment in which the grapes are grown, and of the way their relationship to the wine grows in the process of picking and sorting the grapes, of handling, pressing, and working with the pressed grapes and juice during fermentation, and in choosing the blend and completing the process with bottling and labels.

It's exciting to meet a guy who will be carrying Oregon wine forward through the 21st century. Their obvious celebration of all things wine says that the next wave of Oregon wine will not be entirely mechanized, big business. He says: "Although mechanization is quickly pushing its way into our worlds there are still some industries that are connected with their environments. This label was born to celebrate the connection our hands have with our environments and this product. Here in the northwest we are part of the wine, handpicking the fruit, hand sorting for the best bushels, and hand punch downs. I take pride in creating a wine to celebrate life, love, work, tears, and all that the spirit endures. Viva la Purple Hands!"

I met Cody quite awhile ago, when he was in his mid-teens. He walked into Avalon Wine and asked me for a part time job. I asked him what he knew about wine. Reaching up on the shelves, he proceeded to point out a dozen wineries and told me about their wines, the people, and their vineyards. He had a depth of knowledge surprising, to say the least, for one so young. I didn't realize at the time that he knew most of the winery owners from visiting them, going to school with their children, and helping out at harvest. Cody got the job, and spent a bit of time at Avalon, flattening cardboard, putting price tags on bottles, and loading shipping boxes.

Cody, now 29, was an aspiring professional ski boarder when I first met him at age 16. His thoughts about college were vague, to say the least. I attribute, in part, the effects of excellent parenting to his successes at University of Oregon (a degree in Environmental Science), and his skilled work at harvests in Australia, New Zealand, and Oregon over the last few years.

Cody grew up making wine with his family. His Dad, Ken Wright, must have shared his love of the wine making process with his kids, as Cody clearly has the same passion. These days, Cody lives in Portland and assists in winemaking and vineyard management for Ken Wright Cellars, along with the Purple Hands project. Cody is an important part of Ken Wright Cellars, recently taking over their white wine program.

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