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Rachel Rose, Winemaker & VINEYARD MANAGER

rachel@brynmawrvineyards.com

...working in a Biotech research lab, she never imagined herself elbow deep in active wine ferments within just a few years; however, wine finds a way.

Rachel Rose graduated with her B.S in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Fresh out of college and working in a Biotech research lab, she never imagined herself elbow deep in roiling wine ferments within just a few years; however, wine finds a way. For her it was through food. Cooking was her hobby through college and her first couple years of professional life, and as she gained a job with stable income, she was able to start pairing her meals with wine. Each wine she tried opened her eyes to new regions and new varietals, and she picked up a job in a tasting room on weekends to grow this newfound interest. Meeting with a winemaker, she realized that not only were geography and climate huge factors in wine, but biology and chemistry as well. Wine quickly became a fiery passion, but unlike most passions, her education actually applied to this one. She realized she might have that chance that every 20something dreams of, the chance to explore the world with an active, hands-on profession that could actually lead to a stable future. Already feeling exceedingly restless in the lab setting, she debated what and where to study before taking off for Australia to learn viticulture for a year.

Well one year became three years, by the end of which she had her M.S. in Oenology and a postgraduate diploma in viticulture. At the University of Adelaide in South Australia, she had a unique educational opportunity. South Australia has an exceedingly diverse set of converging climates. Hundreds of varietals can grow successfully in a relatively constrained space. The University provided a full winery so Rachel could work with this stunning array of grapes in a hands-on, experiential fashion, taking a new-world approach to microbiology and soil chemistry. In the Adelaide Hills, Rachel discovered Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, igniting a love affair that grows stronger to this day. She knew either Burgundy or “the New Burgundy,” AKA Oregon, were in her future, and as a non-French speaking American woman, the latter seemed to make the most sense. To help that decision to come back to the West Coast were some family and a young musician/artist named Liam Stary, who Rachel met just a few months before she left for Australia.

 

JON & KATHY LAUER, OWNERS

Kathy@brynmawrvineyards.com
Jon@brynmawrvineyards.com

By the late 90s wine was in control of their destiny; all it took was a Kevin Kline monologue on a dilapidated vineyard in the Meg Ryan classic French Kiss...


Jon and Kathy Lauer grew up in small towns in the midwest with rather religious families. As one might imagine, early contact with wine was limited to communion, Bartles and Jaymes Wine Cooler, and maybe, just maybe, a white zinfandel thrown in the mix. When they met at a hearing in fabulous Yuma, Arizona, Jon had recently moved to San Diego and Kathy was still in law school at the University of Michigan, where Jon also received his J.D. Four weeks after that hearing, they were engaged, and four more weeks after that, they hopped in a car and went on their first road trip up the California Coast to visit Jon’s sister in the Bay Area. Spur-of-the-moment decisions would become a defining fixture of their lives together.

Now, the California wine industry in the 80s was in a golden age. A couple decades of establishment and global recognition had raised the bar for quality, yet tour busses and long, packed tasting bars were still a thing of the future. From Santa Barbara to the Russian River Valley, great wines were being produced at reasonable prices in small, family owned wineries. This trip was a flashbulb moment in their history; they both clearly recall the Newton unfiltered Chardonnay brought to them at the Sardine Factory in Monterrey that exploded any preconceived notion they shared about wine. A day trip to Napa was added to the itinerary, where they got that rare, excellent first tasting experience to which wine lovers worldwide can relate. It became the foundation of a lifelong passion that would follow and come to change their family’s path.

That family, though, still had to be had. First was Jeffrey in ‘89, followed by Krista in ‘92, then David in ‘94. Raising their kids came first, but wine was macerating on the back of their minds. Family trips weren’t to beach resorts but to Solvang, where the Lauer kids remember playing tag at Fess Parker Winery and Hide and Seek at Castoro Cellars while their parents sipped inside. Their social group revolved around monthly wine dinners where they and other aficionados explored wine regions throughout the world. Jon would pick the wines and Kathy would create food pairings, over the years becoming quite the skilled gourmet cook in the process. By the late 90s wine was in control of their destiny; all it took was a Kevin Kline monologue on a dilapidated vineyard in the Meg Ryan classic French Kiss, and Jon knew he wanted to grow grapes.

He took a winemaking course at UC Davis and planted half an acre of Italian varietals on the family’s hillside home in San Diego. As a recently retired, full time stay-at-home dad, he could tend to the site while the kids were in school, and within a few years he was producing some surprisingly drinkable table wine. The goal, though, was not to make drinkable wine, it was to make great wine. That just wasn’t possible in San Diego’s monotonous climate, and by the turn of the 21st century, land prices in other parts of California were astronomical. Jon, bored of the constant sunshine and unchanging weather, was feeling restless, and as his kids got older, his eye went North.

Oregon had been Jon’s conscience since the mid 1990s, and he visited with David in 2002. While David went to the Gorge with his grandparents, Jon toured several different AVAs, but a last second stop in the Eola-Amity Hills grabbed his heart. Here, he saw that same energy he felt in California as a consumer decades before, those smaller, family-owned wineries making stunning wine in a non-pretentious setting. It was everything he loved about the wine industry, everything he and Kathy dreamed of doing one day. Plus, it was green. After 30 years of San Diego’s uniform shades of browns and yellows, he needed that. All that was left was finding land, which he did in the late 2000s. Bryn Mawr Vineyards was a tiny winery that needed a lot of love, but he saw the depth and potential in the few wines produced and the stunning neighborhood around it. He had flashbacks to French Kiss, to Kevin Kline’s Luc Teyssier crouched over rocky soil explaining the potential of the land to produce great wine. Kathy, never having visited Oregon, was far too easily convinced by his enthusiasm to go forward with him, and another spur-of-the-moment decision brought them to Bryn Mawr Vineyards in December 2009.

Initially, Jon was planning to learn how to make Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on the job, but he quickly realized he was in over his head. These varietals in this climate were exponentially more difficult to grow and maintain than what he had done in San Diego, and the bar for quality in this neighborhood was astronomical. However, in a ridiculously lucky twist of fate, a young winemaker had answered the previous owner’s ancient advertisement on the Chemeketa message boards for someone to live onsite and manage the vineyard just a week before they bought the property. They met this young woman with a mind-blowing résumé and hired her on the spot to take over vineyard and winery operations. Suddenly, they had a winemaker.

When The Lauer family and Rachel Rose took over operations at Bryn Mawr Vineyards on January 1, 2010, there were 4 acres of established grapes and a whole lot of promise… and that’s about it. Sheep ran loose in the vines, three stray roosters sat in a very sad chicken coop, a faded mint-green double wide trailer was falling apart, and the hand-built house/basement winery was rife with molds and bacteria. There was no glamor to be had. Kathy, never having visited the site before purchasing it, was flabbergasted at her husband when she saw the site. This was not “the dream,” this was more work than they had ever had to do before. And it was raining constantly! That said, every time they drove to the vineyard from Salem, they passed by wineries they’d known and loved for decades, and they could rest somewhat-easy knowing great wine was just waiting to be made.

By 2012, 11 acres of overgrown blackberries and scotch broom were removed, 4 acres of vines had become 15, and it became a waiting game. Liam redesigned our logo and branding, bringing our winery into the modern age with some slick new labels. The basement was renovated and expanded, allowing the tasting room to grow and hours to expand. Each year brought more and more work to be done, and Jon and Rachel only have so many hands. They needed some help, and luckily there were a few Lauer kids who wanted to give it.

From the start, the three grown kids could be seen running around the tasting room on busy holiday weekends, but all later took on more serious roles at some point. Jeff and his eventual wife Nina spent two years here, one after graduating undergrad and one after Jeff finished his M.B.A. at the University of Oregon. Nina was instrumental in establishing tasting room protocol and wine club management in the early days, and Jeff and Jon laid out many acres of vineyard together. Post-M.B.A. Jeff was able to apply his knowledge to our growing small business and steer us in the right direction long-term, but he has a beautiful daughter now and we can’t afford him anymore. Krista attended college at Willamette University in Salem, working the tasting room during weekends and summers. She is adoringly known in the family as the Director of Criticism.

 

DAVID LAUER, TASTING ROOM & WINE CLUB MANAGER

David@brynmawrvineyards.com

... Don’t be surprised if he’s pouring wine with one hand while racking barrels with the other!

David spent his summers back at the winery during college and has become full-time since graduating. Bryn Mawr Vineyards is the only job he’s ever known, but it’s pretty tough to narrow down what his job actually is! While his card says sales manager, he has worked in almost every imaginable setting, from vineyard to cellar to national sales. He currently manages Direct to Consumer Sales in the tasting room and the wine club, but during harvest he’s hosing out the press long after sundown. Don’t be surprised if he’s pouring wine with one hand while racking barrels with the other!