Hamacher Wines was founded in 1995 by Eric Hamacher and his wife, Luisa Ponzi. With the goal of creating truly complete elegant wines, Hamacher works closely with growers from a diverse group of vineyards to secure all the necessary components. Careful vineyard management, combined with traditional minimalist handling in the winery and skillful blending prior to bottling result in supple wines of balance and richness.
He is now making wine in Oregon, and his 97, 98, and 99 Pinot noirs are all beautiful, world class wines.
The newest addition to Oregon's wine country will be the Carlton Winemakers' Studio, a sustainable building project that blends a new small business concept with old-world wine-making techniques.
It won't have massive stone arches or extensive, manicured grounds. It won't have 10-gallon fermenters and hydraulic pumping equipment. And that's just the point: Eric Hamacher, his wife Luisa Ponzi, and business partners Kirsten and Ned Lumpkin are setting out to prove that small wineries can realize the efficiency of a larger operation without sacrificing quality.
"Oregon's wine industry was really founded on the backs of small wineries. It was never well-financed," Hamacher said. "To pay for a production facility, either you had to raise the price tag of your wine or produce it in large quantities, and both would change the picture of what we're trying to do."
Hamacher Wines Inc. produces small quantities of premium wines from a space rented at another winery. "All that I got out of that was my little corner to make the wine," Hamacher said. "I never had the ability to use the winery as a marketing tool or bring people out to taste. I was like a roommate without house privileges."
Carlton Winemakers' Studio is an attempt to change that not only for Hamacher, who will act as the managing partner and be a tenant in the facility, but also for five other independent wine makers. Hamacher said he has more tenant interest than space available, and he expects signed letters of intent from future tenants by next month.
The two husband-and-wife teams who are equal partners in this project have complementary backgrounds. Ponzi and Hamacher are experts in wine making and winery design. The Lumpkins have a background in construction. Their "retirement folly," as Kirsten Lumpkin describes it, was planting 30 acres of Pinot Noir grapes and one acre of Pinot Gris at their Lazy River Vineyard in Yamhill.
Ned Lumpkin will serve as the general contractor on the Carlton project, which is due to break ground the first week in January after design review is completed next month.
Thoughtful green building techniques such as daylighting, grass berms to insulate the cellar, movable walls to accommodate growing tenants and recycled materials are designed with the intention of earning a silver LEED award.
Hamacher believes the approximately 12,000-square-foot Carlton Winemakers' Studio will be the first in the country to earn a LEED award for environmentally sound building techniques. He also believes the cooperative building and organization will be the first of its kind.
From a wine maker's perspective, the building is special for its efficient production line design, which will allow many wine makers to work side by side, and for its gravity-flow wine-making process.
"We are working on the highest-quality wine making using the oldest technology--plus a forklift," Hamacher said.
The gravity-flow process would typically involve seven stories, as grape juice flowed from the crush to the fermenter to the barrel to the bottle. But the process can also be accomplished by using a fork lift to hoist the barrels and fermenters to the second story of the facility, then letting the wine run downhill into its next stage of processing. Hamacher believes the pumping process, especially when used on delicate Pinot Noir grapes, degrades the quality of the final product.
"This is going to give customers something they've never had before," Kirsten Lumpkin said. "This project will bring together five or six people who care about wine and who make it very well. Can you imagine what it will be like to be a fly on the wall as they talk and share their expertise?"
When the building is complete in August 2002,
the wine makers expect it will have the capacity to produce 12,000 cases
per year and cellar two years' worth of wine.
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