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Naumes expects to double wine output

Naumes Crush & Fermentation expects to double its wine production in its second year, moving nearer to its 500-ton capacity.

The start-up on Medford's North Central Avenue squeezed out 200 tons of fruit for 10 customers last fall, and winemaker Chris Graves anticipates topping the 400-ton mark in 2016 with new clients and more acreage harvested in the region.

"We were building our facility up to and through the crush, so there was a little bit of a learning process," Graves said. "This next season we will understand our infrastructure and equipment much better and have our system dialed in."

Although there is neither a tasting room nor onsite sales at the facility, grape growers and vintners got a window into the operation during an industry open house Thursday. The custom crush facility — located in a former Rogue River Orchards packing house — is owned by Mike and Laura Naumes of Naumes, Inc.

All the fruit processed last year at Naumes Crush & Fermentation was grown in the Rogue Valley, with the equivalent of 1,800 cases produced. Next fall, the number of cases will rise to more than 3,000, Graves estimated.

Graves said 70 percent of the facility's clients are from the Rogue Valley, with the remainder of the processed wine going to the Umpqua and Willamette valleys.

Some of the processed grapes were juiced and sent to Willamette Valley wineries in tanks, which is far better than trucking grapes, he said.

"When you are trucking the fruit out on the roads, the grapes are beat up and out in the sun," Graves said. "Time is of the essence, so rather than have fruit delivered, you have it converted to bulk wine or have it bottled here."

Ray Nuclo, winery operations manager for King Estate outside Eugene, said the new facility will be a big boost for the local industry.

"It's a vibrant area that could use help with fermentation capacity," Nuclo said. "There are lot of small operations that don't have the capital to start their own facility, so it fits in well."

Even though tonnage will greatly increase, Graves said more than two-thirds of next fall's crush will still be for local clients.

While only about 5 percent of the grapes processed last year were white varietals, the winemaker expects that to jump to about 30 percent in 2016, led by chardonnay grapes.

Graves said vineyard owners sometimes struggle with nuances of grape growing, and he has made a point to connect clients with consultants.

"Wine quality is a function of grape quality. It all starts with the vineyard," he said. "We had some grapes that arrived in less than ideal condition last year, but we have the tools to clean up the fruit."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.

Laura Naumes, co-owner of Naumes Crush & Fermentation in Medford, talks with Kyle White, a retired Naumes employee, during an industry open house Thursday. Mail Tribune / Greg Stiles