Following a successful opening gambit, Irvine Vineyards is moving on to the next phase.
In short order, the operation has added acreage, taken on a new partner and is now building a tasting room and winery off Emigrant Creek Road.
During the next two years, Irvine & Roberts Family Vineyards plans to increase production from nearly 6,000 cases of pinot noir and chardonnay to 10,000 cases, Managing Director Michael Donovan said.
Although Irvine Vineyards wine has been poured at Harry & David and Old 99 and events, a tasting room at 1614 Emigrant Creek Road a few minutes southeast of Ashland is a significant development.
"We toyed with the idea of a tasting room and hotel in downtown Ashland, but decided this was a more important direction to go," said Donovan, who joined the organization in 2013. "At the end of the day, people want to go to the vineyards and go to the source. They'd much rather go to a winery in the countryside. They want to know the story behind the wine, where it's not about music, the property and other commercial activity. We wanted to preserve the quiet and beauty of the upper Emigrant Creek Valley."
Doug and Dionne Irvine's leap into the industry followed a European trip during their daughter's study abroad in 2005.
"We had a couple community events at our home," Dionne Irvine recalled. "Every time we had a winemaker over, they'd ask, 'Do you understand what you have here?'"
Irrigation rights coupled with morning sun proved a temptation too great to resist.
"We were enchanted with wine and vineyards," Irvine said. "We thought, 'Let's give it a shot.'"
They consulted with Greg Jones, Southern Oregon University's renowned viticulture climatologist, about which grape varieties would thrive in the five acres surrounding their home and began planting.
"It was a little bit of a hobby at first, then quickly we realized it was work," she said. "But we got bit by the bug and fell in love with the entire process while we were working on our first wines."
Recently, Doug Irvine's sister and brother-in-law, Kelly and Duane Roberts, became partners in the enterprise. The Robertses own the Historic Mission Inn & Spa in Riverside, Calif., a four-diamond AAA property.
The 80-acre estate is adjacent to the Klamath/Siskiyou National Forest on a ridge of volcanic red soil with excellent drainage.
"The grapes love it," Donovan said.
In 2012, the vineyard was expanded to about 27 acres. An adjacent 28 acres have been acquired, with chardonnay planting slated for 2017. Roughly two thirds of the acreage is pinot noir and a third chardonnay, with one acre set aside for pinot meunier, a component used for sparkling wine.
The 2,700-square-foot tasting room designed by Kistler + Small + White Architects of Ashland and built by Adroit Construction will be positioned above the vineyard blocks at 2,200 feet elevation with the 10,000-square-foot winery built nearby into the hillside.
Irvine's vintages have been produced under the guidance of consulting winemaker Robert Brittan, along with local winemakers Herb Quady of Quady North and Brian Grubber of Barrel 42 Custom Winecraft. By the 2017 harvest, Irvine will have its own winemaker.
"We're looking for someone with the right chemistry and experience, because we want to make one of the best premium wines in the world," Donovan said. "Doug and Dionne came into the venture not having any experience in wine, so they've relied on the best people they could find. Year by year the process has been to move our product to the forefront, using best farming, best winemaking and best selling practices."
Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.