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From her hand to our glass

Some people live enchanted lives. Traute Moore, co-founder of South Stage Cellars, is one of those people, but just like old vines, hers is entwined as well.

In 1938, when Traute Fischl was 5 years old, she and her mother left Austria, “running from Hitler” to England, where they were safe, and waited. Her father, an engineer, was going to Chile, where she and her mother would meet up with him. But Hitler closed the ports and her father was conscripted into the army. In 1940, Traute and her mother traveled to St. Louis, where her mother’s sister and husband lived. Her uncle, a psychiatrist, had been a contemporary of Freud. Traute was 12 before her father was able to reunite with them.

Years later, while studying occupational therapy at Washington University, Traute met her future husband, Don Moore, in an anti-segregation club. Though she was unaware until later, Don’s father had been the superintendent at the mental institution where her uncle had worked. They married, and after medical school Don took a position in internal medicine in Pasadena.

Along with becoming a mother, Traute was active in the early days of the environmental movement. They had a weekend farm in Morro Bay, growing oranges and avocados, so she started selling in, and writing about, farmers markets. She became involved with the League of Women Voters and got her master’s in public relations. Her son Michael, now general manager of Quail Run vineyards, remembers, “She sat us down one day and said from here on out you guys have to make your own school lunches and cook your own breakfast because I’m going back to school.” She even helped launch the commuter carpooling lanes in LA. But as Michael reflects, “She’s done so much and so many interesting and diverse things in her life, but for all those different avocations and careers, it was farming that really just swept her away.”

A serendipitous window of opportunity opened when they had to replace a car window, and while stuck in Ashland over a weekend they decided to look for a farm. What they found was a small vineyard, Quail Run, in Talent, and when she walked into the house she “fell in love with the view. And so, in 1989, completely “by accident, not by design,” she says, they discovered the Rogue Valley and began farming grapes.

While Don remained in his medical practice for another year, it was Traute who ran the 15-acre vineyard and started learning about growing grapes, building trellises, training the crews, experimenting with what worked and what didn’t, and pioneering new ideas for viticulture in the valley. “It was a great learning experience,” she says.

This was not the first time she had been involved with an ancient art. While living in Pasadena she began designing, making and building large stained-glass pieces for commissions, which she says was “quite a job.” Michael remembers her making “these enormous things” for years when he was young. The imagery of fitting translucent, tinted pieces of glass together to create a piece of art has many of the same attributes that planting vineyards, growing grapes, and the pouring of a translucent, and often richly hued liquid into a glass has. The creation of stained glass from sand, minerals and metal oxides has its artistic parallels with growing grapes in soil, with minerals, and the surrounding terroir: Age-old techniques that are timeless, but inspire contemporary innovation. Michael likens “this thing of growing and planting ... it’s almost like sculpting. You’re taking a piece of land and imagining what to do with it and that is just super creative. There’s something creatively satisfying about developing a vineyard site that I think she really loves, just engaged with completely.” That engagement has matured into 13 vineyards and 31 grape varietals.

At 87, Traute is still involved in the daily runnings of the winery, although her focus is now more on the tasting room than the vineyards. Her aspirations for the tasting room to be not just a gathering of wines, but of people, music, art and community has come to fruition.

Each glass of South Stage Cellars wine is an expression of Traute’s life story. From her hand to our glass, Traute Moore has made a rich and vital contribution to Southern Oregon wine.

Reach Paula Bandy at pbthegrapevine@gmail.com and see connect with her on Instagram at @pbthroughthegrapevine.