When Oregon’s first winemakers broke ground in the Willamette Valley in the 1960s and ’70s, each passing year came with a struggle. Now, the vines are rooted securely and the wines are savored from Toronto to Tokyo. And as more and more winemakers have entrusted their progeny to carry on their lives’ work, the focus has multiplied: innovative marketing, sustainable certification, new tasting rooms and wineries—and raising yet another generation of winemakers.
So what drives the children of so many Oregon winemakers to follow in their parents’ boot prints? According to Alex and Alison Sokol Blosser, who inherited Sokol Blosser Winery from their mother, Susan, in 2008, the world of grapes casts a powerful spell. “Pinot noir is not an easy grape to grow,” Alex says. “It takes a lot of passion to do it year after year. When you grow up watching that kind of dedication to something so difficult, you either think your parents are insane or really cool. It gets in your blood and sucks you in.
Here are five more Willamette Valley wineries where grape-loving offspring caught the fever:
Lange Estate Winery
Jesse joined dad Don’s winemaking team in 2006, and the father-son duo continues to produce some of the state’s best pinot noir. Jesse has strengthened the estate’s commitment to sustainability. Try: 2010 Three Hills Cuvee Pinot Noir ($40)
Adam Godlee Cambell
Adam took over from his parents in 1999, and he’s now working on doubling the family’s Yamhill vineyards. He’s planting new varietals, exploring low-intervention winemaking practices like gravity flow, and continues to produce award-winning pinot gris and pinot noir. Try: 2012 Pinot Gris ($19)
Luisa and Maria Ponzi
Luisa was one of the first next-generation winemakers in Oregon—she’s been melding her passion for classic Burgundian practices with the family’s established New World style since 1993. With the help of her sister Maria, director of sales and marketing, Luisa will launch a new tasting room overlooking their vineyards this summer. Try: 2011 Tavola Pinot Noir ($25)
Ben, Mimi, Jon & Jessie Casteel
Bethel Heights Vineyard
Launched as a mash-up of in-laws, brothers, sisters, and cousins, Bethel Heights has been a family affair since 1977. The next-gen team is made up of four cousins. In 2002, they launched a blended “Best Of” reserve pinot noir in addition to the winery’s signature single-vineyard selections. Try: 2010 Casteel Reserve Pinot Noir ($60)
Proving that it’s not just the big guns that attract family talent, the relatively small Broadley Vineyards is now co-owned by the son of founders Craig and Claudia Broadley. Morgan has continued the family’s legacy of complex, whole-cluster pinots that capture the essence of the South-ern Willamette Valley, while experimenting with other varietals like grenache and syrah. Try: 2011 Claudia’s Choice Pinot Noir ($50)