In preparation for his visit to three ABC locations this week, we sat down with Erath winemaker Karl Weichold to talk winemaking in Oregon, Pinot Noir and what’s next for Erath.
Tell me about what brought you to Erath.
I got my start in Texas. I graduated from Texas A&M with a biochemistry degree in 2006 and then I was actually supposed to get into pharmaceutical sales right after college. But the weekend before I was supposed to go start there, I went and worked at a winery with a friend of mine and just fell in love with it. So much so that I tore up the papers for the job and ended up getting a job for half the amount of money and haven’t looked back since.
I made wine in Texas until about 2009 when I decided that I wanted to move to Oregon. I really love the wines in Oregon and I just thought that if I’m going to make a career out of this, I better go somewhere where I love what I’m making. So I moved up here in 2009 and took a job with a company called 12th & Maple Wine Co… [Then] when my current position became available in early 2015, I thought it’d be a natural fit, so I applied for it and got my dream job. I joined Erath in April of 2015.
What makes Erath Pinot Noir stand out from others?
What I think is interesting about our philosophy in terms of winemaking is we try to showcase the fruit at its purest expression—we’ve developed methods of production that really don’t take away much from the fruit itself… We let the vineyards speak for themselves.
Can you tell me a little about your Pinot Gris?
We started making Pinot Gris with the first wave of winemakers here in Oregon back in the mid to late 70s when we were starting to figure out a lot of the Pinot varietals were able to be grown well here in the Willamette Valley. We have a pretty considerable depth of experience in terms of Pinot Gris production and what we found works best for the Oregon style of Pinot Gris is a relatively ripe pick—we try to pick it at peak ripeness to get both some lush fruit but also crisp acidity. We stainless steel ferment all of our Pinot Gris so that we can maintain a lot of that crispness and a lot of those fresh flavors that might get muted by barrel fermentation.
Is there anything you want people to know about Erath?
While we may be one of the most established, oldest and widely distributed Oregon wineries, we still take great pride in making wines of place and wines that feature a specific grower or site. It’s an ethos that hasn’t been lost in production since we started in 1972. In addition to the Pinot Noir people see in stores, we specialize in small lot production that might showcase a single vineyard or even a single clone from a single vineyard.
What’s next for the winery?
We recently announced the purchase of a vineyard in the Dundee Hills which is a relatively high elevation site planted to Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir that we’re really excited to work with. You’re going to see some really interesting stuff in terms of the brand’s history be made available to the broader market soon. Stay tuned!