Our People

Our People

Our People

Rachel Rose, Winemaker & VINEYARD MANAGER


rachel@brynmawrvineyards.com

...working in a Biotech research lab, she never imagined herself elbow deep in roiling 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 ferments within just a few years; however, wine finds a way. For her, it came 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 20-something dreams of, the chance to explore the world with an active, hands-on profession that could actually lead to a professional 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.

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. Liam and Rachel would live on site for our first five years, and she nurtured wines of stunning complexity and character from her young vines.

 

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. Early contact with wine was limited to communion, wine coolers, and 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.

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. It exploded any preconceived notion they shared about wine. A day trip to Napa was added to the itinerary, where they got that rare, excellent 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, 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 & Sales Director

David@brynmawrvineyards.com

... the bridge between two worlds, winemaking and wine selling!

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 director, he has worked in almost every imaginable setting, from vineyard to cellar to national sales. He currently manages day to day operations in the tasting room, but he’s quick to jump on a forklift any time the winery calls. During harvest he can be found running the processing line and hosing out the press well into the night. He is the bridge between the two worlds, winemaking and wine selling!

 

Karyn howard Smith, Hospitality Director

Karyn@brynmawrvineyards.com

... Karyn was exactly the kind of woman we needed to tell us our ideas were enthusiastically misguided...

After almost a decade in the industry, the Lauer family was finally ready to find some help to run the rapidly-expanding hospitality side of things. With 15 years of industry experience, Karyn was exactly the kind of woman we needed to tell us our ideas were enthusiastically misguided, and this is what we SHOULD be doing. She rapidly took the reigns of the wine club, shipping, and fulfillment, bringing just the right hint of professionalism to guide us in the right direction. She was also the mastermind behind Taco Tuesdays and will continue to develop our event program. Hailing from North Carolina (or perhaps Massachusetts if you’re willing to dig deep), Karyn brings an unmistakable energy and confidence into any room she walks in. She has seen every curve ball this industry has to throw, and the woman can throw a hell of a party. Bryn Mawr already feels like a forever home for her, and unless we mess things up big time, she will continue to be an excellent addition to the family.
Our Vineyard

Our Vineyard

Vineyards

Bryn Mawr is a Welsh name that roughly translates to “High Hill.” Ranging from 650-890 feet on the Western crest of the Eola-Amity Hills, elevation is the distinctive characteristic of our site. As one of the steepest, rockiest, and windiest sites in the Willamette Valley, just a hundred yards can have a massive impact on sun and wind exposure, soil type and depth. We have multiple volcanic soil series striated throughout the property and quite the range of aspects, from true East to true West. Even though our vineyard is small, our block-to-block variation can be as great as entire regions!

One thing that has become clear to us is just how different our site is than others in the Willamette Valley. Directly to our West lies the Van Duzer corridor, a mountain pass in the Coast Range that acts as a massive wind tunnel for the rest of the state to receive cool ocean winds on hot summer days. We regularly see temperatures 5-7 degrees lower and winds much stronger than areas just 500 feet below us. As a result, our vines are a bit more stressed and slow-growing than those of our neighbors. Cool vintages bring us white knuckles in the fall, as our grapes often need an extra few weeks to achieve full ripeness and winter rains loom on the forecast. The payoff comes in warm vintages, when we are able to maintain acidity and verve with above-average hang time.

The early days of Bryn Mawr Vineyards were slow-going and exceedingly hands-on. Rachel lived onsite in the restored trailer with her now-husband Liam and put her training on site selection to work as she chose what to plant and where. With 4 acres of mostly Pinot Noir to build from, she formed a plan to maximize the potential of our vineyard. Not only did she need to learn how to deal with the extremities of our intense site, but three of her first four vintages also proved very tough years for Oregon wine. The home on the property had to be gutted to its frame while its basement was an active winery. The little wine she and Jon were able to make in those first vintages was stunning, but with only 500 cases produced per year, survival was far from guaranteed. Rachel admits she had her doubts, but Temperance Hill just across the street was her favorite vineyard in Oregon, and being able to see it every day assured her that great wine was just waiting to be made here.

Old Vine Tempranillo

Jeffrey’s Block is the oldest part of the vineyard, named after the owners’ oldest son. Planted in sections between 1994-1997, these 2 acres are primarily composed of Pinot Noir Dijon clones 113 and 115, with a dash of Chardonnay and Tempranillo on the Western edge. Jeffrey’s block is the closest we have to a “classic” Oregon Pinot site: It faces southeast, protected from the intense afternoon sun and wind the rest of the vineyard receives. The soil in Jeffrey’s block is a blend of fine Jory and Nekia type volcanic soils that retain more water than the rocky Ritner series that makes up the bulk of our vineyard. It represents the low-stress side of things, producing wines of supreme silkiness and purity.

Harvesting Krista’s Block

Krista’s Block came next, planted between 2000-2001. Kathy and Jon named this section for their 6 foot, red-headed daughter as it is entirely composed of red Pinot Noir grapes and reaches much higher into the vineyard. Ranging from 750-820 feet, Krista’s block starts flat but gets as steep as anywhere onsite, with a distinctive soil change as the slope picks up. This shallow Ritner series soils force the vines to dig deep into the bedrock just a couple feet below, coaxing out a mineral edge in the wines. It faces directly South, highly exposed to the full range of sun and wind that we experience. The berries from Krista’s block tend to be the smallest of any on the vineyard, producing intensely structured wines that reflect their high stress growing site.

David’s Block in Morning Sun

The first batch of vines Jon and Rachel planted in 2010 were all about increasing the diversity of the vineyard. These included a few rows of 777 and Pommard clones west and south of Krista’s block and a new, 2-acre section of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc east of Krista’s Block, named David’s Block after their youngest, a natural blonde. David’s Block was planted on the site of a former grazing area and walnut orchard, and was the easiest section to clear and plant. Similar in profile to Jeffrey’s block, the vines were able to grow quickly in a more sheltered, thicker-soiled section of the vineyard, protected from the wind . The rest of the property needed two years of love before it was ready for vines.

Our Formidable Ridge

By 2012, with stumps cleared, brambles fought back, and rocks moved, the site was ready for vines. There were three distinct sections; a steep, south-facing ridge, a west-facing slope, and a flat base section where the two grades met to the southwest. The Upper Ridge was given an extension to the existing 777, two acres of Pommard, two acres of Wädensvil, and, on the steepest section, half an acre of Dolcetto. The upper ridge is, like Krista’s block, very fast-draining and exposed, comprised almost entirely of Ritner soil. It has the steepest slopes on the property, ranging from 30-60%. Vines here struggle against the elements and produce intensely spiced wines.

Early Morning Riesling Harvest

On the West Slope, there was an issue. We couldn’t plant North-South rows like on the rest of the property without terracing, and we weren’t going to terrace, so we would have to plant east-west. This is not ideal for phenolic development in red wine grapes but potentially great for more sun-sensitive white varietals. Rachel thought about steep, rocky German hillsides, and she deliberately chose to plant part of this section with Riesling to maximize the slope’s potential. The rest was filled out with Chardonnay. The West slope receives the full brunt of afternoon sun and wind, contrasting factors that build wonderful balance without sacrificing intensity.

Looking Up from the Base

The Base Block was planted fully with 2 acres of Pommard in order to round out the more intensely structured wines produced by our high-stress blocks up above. As the flattest part of the vineyard and the base of two slopes, it has far less drainage and thicker, finer Jory and Nekia topsoil like Jeffrey’s block. The vines here produce wine with a rich, luscious character that balances out the intense spice and structure we see from the upper ridge, providing body and roundness for our Estate Pinot Noir.

 

2014 was the year things noticeably changed. A warm, dry vintage with almost zero disease pressure, even our youngest grapes gave great yields with surprising dimension. We shot up to 2,700 case winery, with five different Pinot Noirs, two Chardonnays, a Pinot Blanc, a Rose, and a Tempranillo. 2015 saw the addition of estate Dolcetto and Riesling to the lineup. A new winery came just in time for the 2018 vintage, and a new tasting room is to follow. Already a thriving boutique winery, we feel we’ve only scratched the surface of our site’s potential. The coming years will bring even more growth and change as our vines mature and Rachel learns her vineyard. Eight years and two wild boys later, she no longer lives onsite, but her connection to this vineyard and the Lauer family are unbreakable by this point; this is just as much her baby as it is theirs.

Estate Vineyard

Vineyards

High Hill. High Risk. High Reward.

Perched high on the western crest of the Eola-Amity Hills near Salem, Oregon, our sustainable 26 acre estate vineyard pushes the upper limits of Willamette Valley viticulture. Powerful maritime winds pouring through the Van Duzer Corridor marry with our shallow volcanic soils to produce intense and assertive grapes that challenge us to make wine.

Learn More