Q. You had a deep dive entry into the wine business?―― When I was approached by Jimi’s winemaking friends ‘to help run the business’, I didn’t have any choice, there was nobody else to do it. As I got into it, I fell in love with the people. I had never been in an industry so full of talented and passionate artists who didn’t care about money and weren’t competitive, just an amazing group. Then Chris, Jimi’s assistant winemaker who actually blended the wines in spring 2005, approached me and said if you want to try keeping this going, I can be your winemaker. So, I said yes, and here we are 18 years later.Winemaker Chris Williams & Janie Brooks HeuckQ. What are the core values from Jimi that make Brooks unique, and how have you evolved them?―― When he started the winery Jimi was pretty emphatic about certain things. One was biodynamically farming grapes which wasn’t really happening in the Willamette Valley at that time. He also believed Oregon was the perfect cool climate for Riesling. It was the first main white varietal in the Valley, but over time people realized it is too hard to grow and sell, so a lot was being grafted over. His original mission was to find any Riesling still planted in the Valley, which is how he ended up finding our estate vineyard, which was planted in 1973, and he started farming biodynamically in 2002.Part of Jimi’s approach to making wine was getting as many different components, clones, aspects and vine age as he could, and keeping them separate in the cellar until he got to the point of blending. It’s all about blending to get style and balance, without manipulating your wine. The year he passed away he was working with 12 vineyards, and now we work with about 35, with the same mentality. We try to get different clones, vine age and aspects, so we have a lot to work with in the cellar. Jimi was using 2.5 ton fermenters during harvest to make 2,500 cases, and we still use 2.5 ton fermenters making 20,000 cases. So, we haven’t changed our approach to making wine, and it is definitely the harder way to do it.Q. Tell me about Riesling which is a passion of yours―― It is now! I knew nothing about wine when I got into the business. I took a class at UC Davis right away so I could understand the processes of growing grapes and making wine, and it still didn’t click. At the Riesling Rendezvous in 2007 is where I really got my ‘aha moment’ about how amazing Riesling was, because we were able to taste Rieslings from the 1940s, Rieslings in every style. I quickly realized its versatility, range, and ageability, and a lot of things that other varietals don’t have. Since then, Riesling is all I’ve sold for the last 18 years, I don’t have to sell the Pinot Noir, it sells itself.Q. How does Chris approach winemaking ‒ when do you decide you are making single vineyards or blends?―― For Riesling, we keep everything separate just like we do for Pinot Noir. Outside of 4 or 5 single vineyards, the rest vary by vintage depending on the residual sugar in them. Some vineyards we’ve worked with for years such as the Bois Joli Vineyards in Amity Hills, it’s at a higher elevation and west facing so it gets afternoon sun, always end up being riper fruit than from an east facing vineyard, so Chris always leaves a little bit of residual sugar in that wine. How much depends on tasting when it gets close, before he decides to kill the fermentation.For the Pinot Noir, we have anywhere from 10 to 20 bottlings each vintage. Again, a lot are single vineyards and if we have particular clones from a vineyard, Chris will make a wine that shows them because that’s what the grower chose to plant. So, we end up with a very diverse range of flavour profiles of Pinot Noir. Blending is where the art and the work come in. For the 3,000 cases of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, it takes about 3 months to taste all the barrels and figure out what the wine is going to be. We approach all our wines the same, whether we make 100 or 3,000 cases. Which is why our entry level Pinot Noirs tend over-deliver for their price points because they are not made in one big tank then adjusted, they are 2.5 ton fermenters, in their own barrels.Q. The estate vineyard was planted 50 years ago. Do you notice differences with vine age?―― 2023 will be the Brooks Wine’s 25th anniversary and the vineyard’s 50th. The estate vineyard which Jimi started farming in 2002 and we purchased in 2008, is 18 acre. 10 acres were planted in 1973, 5 in Pommard and 5 in Riesling. Just under an acre of Pinot Gris was planted in 1979, and the remaining is 777 and 115 clones of Pinot Noir that were grafted over from Chardonnay in the late 1990s. The vineyard is at 750 feet, which is pretty high for the Willamette Valley, in the Eola-Amity Hills. 90 percent of our Pinot Noir comes from the Hills which is really the biggest benefactor of the Van Duzer winds, causing a 15°F drop in the afternoon in summer. In terms of vine age, we do a bottling of our old vine Pommard, and there is definitely a different level of complexity in these older vines than from vines planted in the late 1990s. In Crannell’s Vineyard below us, which was planted over 17 years, we’ll get 115 clone which was planted in 1984 and 2000, and keep them separate in the cellar and you can see the differences with age.Q. Tell me about the recent vintages?―― We didn’t make wine in 2020 due to smoke inversion from fires on the east side of the Cascade Mountains which just sank into the valley. The Air Quality Index (AQI) that says you shouldn’t go outside if it is over 150, was between 500 and 700 for the whole second week of September which is when some people were already picking, we wanted to be out sampling, and nobody was even allowed to go outside. With our biodynamic ethos that looks to create balance in the winery, we just couldn’t work with compromised fruit.2021 was great, the yields were low so we don’t have a lot of volume, but there’s good concentration. 2022 will be a beautiful cool vintage, with low alcohol wines. A year ago we had brought all our fruit in by this point, so it’s crazy that we haven’t brought anything in yet, but I think we are starting this weekend (October 1st). It will be a more traditional Oregon harvest, and we are super excited. These are the years that polarize winemaking quality, those who get it and those who don’t. There are a lot of new winemakers in Oregon who haven’t seen a vintage like this.Q. How do Demeter, B Corporation, 1% for the Planet and Ecologi and fit into your vision?―― I’m a big believer in both accountability and transparency. If we’re going to work so hard to do something, I want it to be consistent with industry standards and the general public be able to look at it and see what that means. We’re the only winery in the country and probably the world that can say it has those 4 memberships and certifications. It’s important to me and our customers, because it really gives another story and compelling reason to buy our wines. The Demeter certification is for biodynamics, which Jimi bought to the table, and we received certification in 2013. To push the envelope in terms of environmental and social good standpoints, we became a certified B Corporation in 2019. It’s a difficult process but definitely made us a better business, and put us in to a network of like-minded companies. In 2019 we joined 1% for the Planet, giving back 1% of our revenues each year to a certified environmental based non-profit. In our case it is ‘Kiss the Ground”, which promotes education and media around regenerative agriculture. In 2021 we joined Ecologi which is about paying it forward. We purchase enough carbon offsets for my team’s transportation, as well as any company air travel. Also, for every $50 we earn we plant a tree, or purchase solar energy in third world countries. We have planted over 40,000 trees since we started.Q. How do you ensure your contract growers meet your biodynamic criteria.―― While not all of the vineyards we source from are biodynamic ally farmed, 95 percent are either organic, biodynamic, Live certified, which is a northwest certification for low-input viticulture and oenology , or Salmon Safe[i] certified. So everybody is following some sort of sustainable farming practice.From the cellar door, there is a 360°panoramic view of the vineyards below and Mount Hood, Oregon’s highest peak. A popular destination for travellers, it has been named one of the ‘100 Best Fan-Favorite Destinations in Oregon’ (Oregon Business Magazine) for four consecutive years.《From Village Cellars》The Brooks logo, an ouroboros dragon that bites its own tail to form a ring, is a symbol of eternity, immortality, and reincarnation, as its beginning and end coincide. Chris Williams, the winemaker who continued Jimi’s legacy and helps make Brooks wine to this day, had a tattoo of a rooster inked on his left arm at a studio in Tokyo during his visit to Japan in 2019. “I think a tattoo is a sign of who you are, and I wanted to make that mark in my favorite country, Japan,” Chris said thoughtfully.Click here to read the article introducing Brooks’ sustainability initiatives in VC Spring Catalogue 2022.[i] a peer-reviewed U.S. ecolabel, linking site development and land management practices with the protection of agricultural and urban watersheds.