Carlton Winemakers Studio


Articles

New Boutique Co-op
in Oregon Thinks Green

by Lisa Shara Hall

Hamacher Wines Launches Nation's
First 'Green' Co-op Winemaking Facility

By Christina Kelly

 

 

Carlton Winemakers Studio-
Hamacher Wines
Launches Nation's
First 'Green' Cooperative Winemaking Facility

By Christina Kelly
northwest-wine.com Staff Writer
8/10/02

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 Wine Cellars.

 

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 in mind."

Tony Soter

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 Oregon wineries. He acted as a consultant on green design issues for a large California winery.

"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 energy."

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 for themselves.With 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 great 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 wine.

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."


Author 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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