First 'Green' Cooperative Winemaking Facility
By Christina Kelly
northwest-wine.com Staff Writer
Carlton Winemakers Studio, soon to be the
nation's first "green" cooperative
winemaking facility, will open in several weeks, featuring an All Star
line-up of Oregon winemakers ready to produce high-end, premium wine.
The Studio, located southwest of Portland, OR, is the brainchild of
winemaker Eric Hamacher. The other wineries include Soter Vineyards,
Andrew Rich Wines, Bryce Vineyard, Domain Meriwether, Dominio and Penner-Ash
Each winery will operate independent of one
another, with separate cellars and staff, but all will benefit economically
from sharing state-of-the-art
equipment in the gravity-driven building designed to use natural light,
passive solar heat and recycled materials. The Studio has registered
with the USGBC (United States Green Building Council) for certification
when completed, and will be the first LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental
Design) certified winery in the US, encompassing crush pad, fermentation
room, laboratory, office, tasting room, case good storage area, bottling
room, cellars etc. Oregon's Sokol Blosser Winery has an LEED certified
cellar building now in operation.
Hamacher researched the environmentally friendly facility for several
years and said he knows of nothing like it in the world. He successfully
lobbied the state Legislature a few years ago to pass legislation allowing
multiple winery facilities.
"There are cooperatives who generally get together to make economical
wines," Hamacher said. "That's not what we have in mind here.
The winemakers associated with this facility look for the highest quality.
This is truly an artists' studio and it's all done with the environment
The studio boasts some heavy-hitters in the Oregon wine industry. Tony
Soter, an early master of California Pinot Noir and consultant to some
of the best wine producers in the United States, joined the project from
the beginning, saying he had faith in Hamacher's concept.
"I've made wine everywhere, in barns, warehouses you name it," said
Soter, who recently sold his Etude Winery to Beringer Blass Wine Estates. "Having
a good home for processing is really a necessity. The wine industry is
a capital-intensive business. This facility allows small producers to
continue making quality wines without having to invest so much money
upfront for good equipment."
Soter had the idea for a cooperative at his facility at Etude years
ago, where Hamacher worked as a winemaker.
"He had the right idea, but a bad building," said
Hamacher, who also helped design the Lemelson Winery and several smaller
wineries. He acted as a consultant on green design issues for a large
"It was a little like directed insanity," he added. "It
was about this time (late 1980s) that I started thinking about a facility
and how it could work. In all my research, I haven't found anything like
it in the world."
Ron and Lynn Penner Ash
When Lynn Penner-Ash announced last year that she was leaving Rex Hill
Winery to form her own small winery, she was already talking to Hamacher
about joining The Studio.
"We're so small, with just 1,900 cases per year, that purchasing
all the equipment and a facility was too much for us," said Penner-Ash,
who eventually will build her own winery in the future with her husband
Ron. Currently, Penner-Ash has her own label at Rex Hill, but next month,
she will move everything to The Studio.
"The winemaker studio was perfect for
us. And, as a winemaker, I think it will be neat to work side-by-side
with the other winemakers
and see what they're doing. It should also be a lot of fun."
Penner-Ash will release her 2000 Willamette
Valley Pinot Noir next month, hopefully at the new facility. She said
she is eager to harvest and begin
processing the grapes at the studio, saying this year's crop of Pinot
Noir and Syrah "looks beautiful."
Another top winemaker, Bryce Bagnall, winemaker for Witness Tree Winery,
will begin his own label this year at The Studio. Bagnall has known Hamacher
since the late 1980s, when they worked together at a California winery.
"We will probably be the smallest winery in the building," said
Bagnall, who plans to produce about 300 cases from his harvest this year. "I
have a big grin on my face these days-I am so happy to work with Eric,
and very passionate about working in a facility that uses alternative
Bagnall uses alternative energy products on his acreage, including bio-diesel
fuel. The fuel is recycled frying oil and Bagnall says some days, his
small farm smells like French fries and bad donuts.
"Using the winemaker studio will allow me my own identity," said
Bagnall, who plans to stay with Witness Tree as the top winemaker. "My
wines will be different from what I produce at Witness Tree because the
soil and climate of my land is different. I can afford to do this because
the winemaker studio has everything I need, separate from Witness Tree."
The eco-designed building and land is a joint project of Hamacher and
his wife, Luisa Ponzi, of Ponzi Vineyards and their partners, Ned and
Kirsten Lumpkin, owners of Lumpkin Construction based in Seattle.
Some of the green principles employed in the building include passive
solar; clear roofing material and large windows to increase natural lighting;
high efficiency windows, heating and cooling systems; rainwater collection
from the roof and ground water irrigation using a sump pump under the
building, recycled materials from deconstructed buildings; recycled concrete
for walkways and outdoor landscaping; and a significant use of specialized
blend of concrete and a high-strength recycled coal by-product. In addition,
more than half of the winery is subterranean, an efficient method of
keeping the temperature cool.
"This is a mission for me," admits Hamacher. "I
want others to be inspired by this building, and consider the idea
careful planning upfront it can cost the same as an equivalent sized
winery built without green features. You save money after the building
is completed because the design is so efficient."
Penner-Ash says she was inspired by Hamacher's design and would like
to eventually construct her own facility using the same concepts. Soter
says he will also consider it when designing his winery in the future.
"I feel very good about that," said Hamacher. "I
hope visitors take these concepts home with them, in addition to the
wines they can purchase."
The energetic and always thinking Hamacher designed the building so
that every space is used-everything from a rolling table for grapes to
a new barrel racking system. Each winery will have a small office, and
use of a tasting room, commercial kitchen and meeting room. The wine
studio plans to be open on Saturdays for the first year.
Growing up in Carmel, CA, Hamacher worked at fine restaurants in high
school, and always wondered why people would spend $100 on a bottle of
wine. He eventually became intrigued about winemaking and graduated from
the University of California at Davis in enology.
Hamacher worked a harvest in Oregon in 1987 before returning to California.
He told his parents he wanted to eventually start his own winery in Oregon,
making Pinot Noir. In 1995, Hamacher moved to Oregon. In 1996 he married
lifelong Oregonian Luisa and began making wine in Oregon.
"The average vineyard in Oregon is approximately five years old," said
Hamacher. "When people talk about letting a vineyard site express
itself in the wine, it's kind of funny to me, because we're talking about
baby vineyards here. It's going to take another 10 to 15 years to find
out what expressions come from our vineyards."
Numerous different clones and numerous different root stocks are used
in Hamacher's wines. He said he blends 30-year-old vineyard fruit with
5-year-old fruit to create a complete, complex, powerful and elegant
The Carlton Winemaker Studio will allow others to experiment and share,
Hamacher said. Better wine will come out of the studio at little cost
to the earth's environment.
"We have a stunning building that happens to be green," Hamacher
said. "Our building is reminiscent of big old barns that existed
in this area for a hundred years. It will be a good place to work, and
we will be good neighbors."
Christina Kelly worked as a newspaper reporter on the West Coast for
more than 20 years covering education, public safety, government, business,
environmental issues, entertainment and minority affairs. During the
same time, the Washington native began her lifelong interest in wine.
After two decades in the news reporting business, Christina decided it
was time to concentrate on her passion – the wine industry. She
is our indispensable staff writer and columnist.
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