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MailTribune.com
  • Valley vintners form beneficial partnership

    Fly High, LongSword share production but not grapes with deal
  • Joint ventures are spurred by a variety of reasons. For Fly High and LongSword vineyards, both west of Ruch, it was just the neighborly thing to do.
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  • Joint ventures are spurred by a variety of reasons. For Fly High and LongSword vineyards, both west of Ruch, it was just the neighborly thing to do.
    Sandra King of Fly High Vineyard was ready to pack up and leave the Applegate Valley after her husband, David, died in 2004.
    That would have meant leaving behind a private airport and an 8-acre vineyard the couple had planted three years earlier. Her son, J.D. Cameron, moved to the area and encouraged her to stay on so they could develop the 100-acre farm.
    Staying put turned out to be a good move.
    The 2007 harvest produced a Pilot's Reserve Syrah, just now ready for release. Neighbor and winemaker Matt Sorensen of LongSword Vineyard took the 2008 crop and produced two San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition award-winning wines, Barnstormer's Red Tempranillo (silver) and Windsock White Viognier (bronze).
    Sorensen and Maria Largaespada began producing wine in 2002 and started operating a patio wine tasting area along Highway 238 in 2005. They were in need of a winery building.
    Two years ago, the owners of the two vineyards informally began talking about mixing their efforts, but not their grapes.
    "We talked about it and decided to have two brands, one winery and one winemaker," said Sorensen. "We segregate the wines. I do chardonnay, pinot and French Burgundy wines. Theirs are more Rhone, viognier and syrah. It's more preference of the families as far as style and the kinds of wines they like."
    LongSword began with one wine from one variety, making 224 cases its inaugural year. It now produces 11 wines from eight varieties and will produce about 2,000 cases of its 2010 vintages. Sorensen's wines have captured more than two dozen awards since 2002.
    While the grapes are kept separate, the vineyards now share a common logo. LongSword, a translation of Largaespada, and Fly High, honoring David King's flying days, are merged in the FHLV label, featuring the outline of pilot's wings with a biplane silhouette flying above an unsheathed sword.
    The logo is displayed at a shared tasting room near LongSword Vineyard, on its website and elsewhere.
    "We are starting to use it all over the place," Sorensen said. "People might be familiar with the LongSword brand, but they weren't familiar with the combination."
    A hangar built at Fly By Night Airport by David King will be converted into a winery in time for the 2011 crush. In the meantime, Sorensen continues making wine with equipment scattered among nearby wineries.
    "It started as a friendship and evolved from there," Sandra King said. "They needed a year-around place and we needed a winemaker."
    King described the eight people working in the joint venture as family, or extended family. Her father owned a manufacturing plant in Minnesota and she later started her own bookkeeping business and continues honing her skills in the new venture.
    "I've always been involved in family businesses," she said. "There are many blessings to a family business as well as some drawbacks. We really have separate areas of strength and that works out well. I'm somewhat limited on things I can lift. They keep me away from that — and ladders — but that's OK."
    She said Fly High Vineyard will plant five more acres in 2011 and another two-and-a-half the following year.
    "We have other land we could develop," King said. "But we want to see how this works."
    Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com.
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