August 13, 2002
It was hot. 102 degrees hot.
Why were we bottling our first A to Z Wineworks cool climate Pinot Noir on the hottest day of the year?! Sam had managed to find this one day window on Rob Stuart’s new bottling line which had left me with less than two weeks to name the company and the wine, design a label, get TTB approval and get labels printed.
After a very long day, the small group of us finally sat down and had pizza that Cheryl brought over. It was after 11PM and outside the temperature had finally gone below 80 degrees. My kids, Will and Hadley, a couple of their friends, Sam, Bill and I were joined by a few workers. Surrounded by walls of wine boxes (2600 cases), I looked around and it dawned on me that not Sam, winemaker, or Bill, business guy, or Cheryl, pregnant and still working for Chehalem, were going to be responsible for selling all of that wine… I was! Yikes. I quickly multiplied 2600 x 12. Double yikes. 31,200 bottles sounded like an impossibly large number. Me and my big ideas.
In those pre-Sideways days, Americans still didn’t much know about Pinot Noir or believe that Oregon could make fine wine. No one was clamoring for another bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir. What did we think would be different for A to Z? Simply that we weren’t greedy and didn’t have any overhead. There wasn’t any quality Pinot Noir under $20 at that time from anywhere and so we opened a category that today is quite crowded.
And the wine was quality. Food & Wine Magazine named that first wine the best American Pinot Noir under $20. And there was a market for quality for value so the wine began to be pulled through and we grew. Four years and post-Sideways later we got the same nod from Food & Wine but this time produced almost as many cases as we had bottles that first run. Two years after that A to Z Pinot Noir was named to Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines of the year list and we had more than doubled production again.
I guess as it turned out, A to Z Wineworks was hot!