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Westrey Wine Company

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Westrey Wine Company's Amy Wesselman and David Autrey (Wes-trey), two young winemakers in Oregon, create great wines at great prices. They met at Reed College in Portland, worked for numerous wineries (Amy: Domaine de l'Arlot, Rex Hill, Eyrie, and more), (David: Domaine Dujac, Adelsheim, Cameron, and others), and merged their efforts into Westrey Wine Company in the early 90's .Founded in 1993, "Westrey" represents the collaborative winemaking of Amy WESselman and David AuTREY.

Westrey's Wesselman and Autrey have developed a style of winemaking that is distinctively "Westrey" while allowing each wine to communicate its vineyard of origin. Both Autrey and Wesselman take part in all aspects of wine production, from vineyard to bottle.

Westrey's winemakers say:
"Westrey wines are styled to showcase fruit in a context of blanced texture, acidity and alcohol. Extreme care is taken at harvest to pick when the grapes are at their peak of balance between acidity and ripe flavors. Since Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris are among the most delicate of grape varietals, each winery process is carried out as gently as possible."

"Upon arriving at the winery, Pinot Noir is destemmed directly into fermentation vessels to keep handling to a minimum. Next, a shorter fermentation, utilizing indigenous yeast wherever possible, is completed by pressing immediately at dryness to ensure that the majority of extraction occurs before the presence of alcohol. The percentage of new oak barrels used for aging is determined specifically for each vintage and vineyard lot, so that oak flavors complement, rather than compete with varietal character."

Westrey Pinot Noirs are bottled unfined and unfiltered. Reserve and single-vineyard bottlings emphasize Westrey's commitment to Pinot Noir.

Westrey Wine Company is located in McMinnville, Oregon, which is in Yamhill County in the heart of the Willamette Valley wine region.

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Philosophy blended into each bottle of wine at Westrey Wine Company

By Christina Kelly 6/01

“A bottle of wine contains more philosophy than all the books in the world.” – Louis Pasteur

At Westrey Wine Company, philosophy is an integral ingredient in the making of each bottle of wine – a classic philosophy.

The ancient Greeks and Romans all had things to say about the pleasures and characteristics of wine. “In vino veritas (In wine is truth),” says Plato. Hippocrates said, “Wine is an appropriate article for mankind, both for the healthy body and for the ailing man.” In Homer’s Odyssey, he wrote, “Wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile.

Winemakers Amy Wesselman and David Autrey (WESselman and AuTREY = Westrey) both have philosophy degrees from Reed College in Portland. Both were intrigued with the wine industry while studying at school and both wound up working at several wineries to earn extra cash for college.

Winemaking became a way of life for the couple after graduation. And following the winemakers to the winery were all the philosophers from their studies, consuming many nights from Austey and Wesselman, debating the various viewpoints.

“Philosophy came in right at the start of the winery,” said Wesselman, who now works for the International Pinot Noir Celebration. “It folds into how we view wine and winemaking. It is a partnership all the way – all decisions that happen to the grapes are made by the both of us.”

Autrey agrees that the couple shares a love of philosophy and analytical thinking.

“Winemaking is like the balance of life – you blend different ways of thinking with creative ways,” said Autrey. “It’s also an ability to hold contradictory viewpoints. Wine creates a union between an individual set of tastes while creating something that appeals to a wider range.”

Living together, working together and creating wine together could be a strain for some young couples, but the training from philosophical studies prepared them for inevitable disagreements when couples work so closely together.

“Argument is an exercise,” Wesselman explained. “We can argue about what we’re doing without personalizing it. It is fundamental in philosophy and it helps when producing wine. Wine is subjective and there will be times when we don’t agree. We will listen to each other’s arguments.”

Based in McMinneville, Westrey produces about 3,200 cases per year, specializing in Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay, with reserves from selected vineyards. They also produce small amounts of Zinfandel. All of the grapes are purchased in Oregon, although the couple recently planted about five acres of Pinot Noir grapes on property purchased in Yamhill County.

Autrey said Westrey wines are produced to have more structure and aging potential than many Pinot Noirs. The couple work to produce secondary flavors with earthy characteristics. They both prefer a minimalist approach to wine – buying the best grapes available and tampering very little with what goes into the bottle.

“If a wine is not balanced before it goes into the bottle, it won’t be balanced when it’s opened,” said Wesselman. “We want wines with good aging potential, but we also adhere to the notion that a young wine does not have to be tight and tannic when consumed.”

The wines are unfined and unfiltered – another minimalist approach.

Although Autrey has now devoted himself full time to the winery (he quit working for other wineries last year), Wesselman still keeps a day job to help pay the bills. She is one of the organizers for the 15th annual International Pinot Noir Celebration, scheduled this year for July 27 to 29. The event is sold out, but she is hoping the festival spreads this year’s message of sustainability to all winery owners.

Who knows? Perhaps if you visit the winery, you might start an argument, or a discussion about what Euripides meant when he said wine was a gift to man that allow him to forget his grief, sleep, be oblivious of the day’s troubles and act as a medicine for misery.

Both Wesselman and Autrey will have some ideas.

About Westrey Wine Company

New Vineyard Adds
New Dimension for Winemaking Duo

By Cole Danehower
Oregon Wine Report
© OWR 2002

As you might expect from two former philosophy students, the wine-making duo of Amy Wesselman and partner David Autrey are very-dare we say it?-philosophic about their vocation.

"One of the joys of winemaking," reflects David, "is that even though you can go back into your notes and trace every decision you made everywhere along the line, you never know exactly which decisions resulted in that great bottle of wine you have in your hand right now."

Amy feels similarly. "I know that I'm a control freak, and it is nice for me to be in a lifestyle where, as soon as I get my little piece of ego going that says 'I'm pretty much in control of things here,' Mother Nature comes along and says 'Yeah, right-why don't you just let go of all that because you're not going to get it.'"

And yet, to an outsider, it sure looks like Amy and David do "get it"-they continue to craft outstanding wines despite their lack of control over mother Nature.

"You gain experience over the years about what works and what doesn't," says Amy, "and in any given vintage you can combine whatever you've learned-but one of the great things about winemaking is that each year you face a different set of calamities that challenge what you think you know."

And since 1993 when they started Westrey Wine Company, David and Amy have learned a great deal about the kind of winemaking they want to pursue.
"I think one of the reasons we've been successful as a team," explains David, "is that we agree on a broad set of parameters that create the context for where we are going."

So, when it comes to making the day-to-day vineyard management and winemaking decisions, David and Amy are guided by their general principles.

"For instance," David continues, "we strongly believe in the notion of terroir-we really believe that each site will give you something unique." Amy agrees: "I think one of the most important things in our winemaking approach is to look at each vintage and each vineyard and work to bring out their positive aspects, let them express themselves to their best potential."

Another component of Westrey's style is the importance of balance in their wines-even to the point of going slightly out of the mainstream.

"We generally look for wines with higher acidity levels," says David, "certainly more than the general American wine press is willing to accept! We shy away from the American 'fruit bomb' style of Pinot noir. Wines with focus and acidity-reflected for instance, in our 1998 Abbey Ridge Pinot noir-are important to what we are trying to do."

Westrey also stands out in a third area of stylistic focus. "It is important for us to accentuate texture on the palate. We diverge here from the more general
American style where aromatics are more important than texture," explains David. "Unfortunately, the American palate doesn't tend to care about mid-palate and length, but these are the things we want our wines to display."

An example of how this works can be seen in their Chardonnay program. Westrey produces both a Willamette Valley and a Reserve Chardonnay, but unlike many producers, the two wines are not diferentiated by the amount of barrel ageing-each gets the same wood profile (25 percent new oak, 25 percent 1-year old, and the remainder neutral)-but rather by their overall sensory characteristics.

The Reserve Chardonnay, then, is composed of individual barrels that David and Amy feel display the stylistic variables they are after. "We go through each individual barrel and try to think about the site and the terroir, and then choose for the Reserve those that show the best characteristics of terroir, structure, and balance, plus a little greater richness in the mid-palate and length," explains David.

To achieve these characteristics, David and Amy pay attention to crop yields and vineyard management first, and then modify their cellar decisions based on the individual circumstances they face.

For instance, they employ a variety of different yeasts for their Chardonnay fermentations, each designed to bring out what they see as the most desirable characteristic of the lot. Then they ferment in barrel for as long as possible, in order to achieve optimum texture.

"In order to preserve the wonderful spice that one vineyard tends to give up," explains Amy, "we'll use a yeast that complements that characteristic. Another site may tend to be fatter and bigger, and we'll use a different yeast that will perhaps accentuate the acidity."

Such willingness to experiment and vary their procedures depending upon individual circumstances, they feel, results in more delicious wines-and a more interesting winemaking experience for them.

Westrey Wine Company started out buying fruit from some of the Willamette Valley's best vineyards. Their first release was in part comprised of grapes from Abbey Ridge, Bethel Heights Southeast Block, and Freedom Hill vineyards.

And while they still work with a variety of fruit sources, Westrey now has their own vineyard to develop- they recently purchased just under 50 acres, next to Abbey Ridge Vineyard (a location they've worked with for years)-adding a new dimension to their winemaking challenge.

"Every winemaker dreams of having complete control of their own vineyard," says Amy. "It allows you that connection with a certain piece of property over a lifetime of winemaking, learning its idiosyncrasies, how it responds to different vintages and varietals, different locations within the vineyard, different harvesting situations-it just can't be matched."

This spring Amy and David planted 10,000 Pinot noir vines on a little over 5 acres of their new vineyard. "Now we'll have the opportunity in the vineyard to experiment and learn what its unique terroir will be," comments Amy. "It's very exciting!"

"There really was something special about that property," agrees David. "We feel it will produce the kind of wine we're looking for."

For Amy and David, the dichotomies inherent in the winemaking endeavor are endlessly fascinating.
Winemaking feeds both their creative drive and their intellectual curiosity. For them, wine is truly at the
intersection of art and science.

But beyond this, and clearly a key part of their success, is the just plain joy and excitement they find in winemaking.

"Why not do what you love to do best?" asks Amy.
"We're not in this business to make piles of money or piles of fame either, we're in this business to have fun. If we have to compromise that, it wouldn't be fun
anymore and we'd go be doctors and lawyers."



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