A enterprise can’t merely rely on its heritage and historical past to succeed. It should have high-quality merchandise, providers, and concepts. For Sokol Blosser, one of the oldest and longest-running wineries in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, all of these qualities have fueled the household enterprise for the final half-century.
Sokol Blosser started producing what would later turn out to be acclaimed Pinot Noir wines from the Dundee Hills and Eola-Amity Hills AVAs in 1971. Launched by spouse and husband Susan Sokol and Invoice Blosser (who had married in 1966 after each graduating from Stanford College), the vineyard produced its first classic in 1977. It rapidly started successful awards and set requirements in the business.
In 2008, after 37 years operating the enterprise collectively, Invoice and Susan handed the reins on to 2 of their three kids, Alex and Alison. Alex Sokol Blosser is the head winemaker, whereas Alison is CEO. The brother and sister share the title of co-president, and really really feel they’re second-generation stewards of the model — and land.
Sustainability has been a key driver for the Sokol Blosser siblings. Their vineyard has quite a few certifications, together with being salmon-safe and USDA organically farmed. Its underground barrel cellar grew to become the first-ever LEED-certified vineyard constructing in 2002 in the U.S. In 2015, Sokol Blosser achieved B Corp standing, which continues to information the household’s dedication to the setting.
With Alex and Alison at the helm, Sokol Blosser vineyard has continued to provide award-winning Pinot Noir, and has added a range of colder-climate whites, in addition to a variety of glowing wines. In 2020, Sokol Blosser launched a brand new model, Evolution boxed wine. Its 2019 vintages of Evolution Fortunate No. 9 White and Evolution Pinot Noir, in 1.5-liter field format, are a primary for the household model.
“In the event you’d requested me 12 months in the past if we’d ever put wine in a field, I’d say, ‘hell, no,’ Alison Sokol Blosser says. However for those who requested her immediately if she’d do it once more? The reply is in upcoming launches in 2021: Evolution Chardonnay, in addition to Evolution Large Time Pink. Maybe unsurprisingly, she refers to Sokol Blosser’s boxed wine choices in pairs: “The Evolution [Lucky No. 9] White can have the [Big Time Red] pair, and the Pinot Noir can have the Chardonnay pair,” she says.
Under, Alison and Alex share with VinePair what drives the siblings to create compelling wines, how they’ve survived and developed in a worldwide pandemic, and what the future holds for the Sokol Blosser legacy.
1. What’s the better part of your job?
Alex: The most effective half of my job is harvest. I really like harvest. While you’re a winemaker, you so not often are in a position to focus on making wine. A lot of the relaxation of my 12 months, I’m working on spreadsheets, planning, vineyards — there are various features to winemaking that’s not making wine. It’s the hardest half of the 12 months, but it surely’s the time I can actually simply do the one factor I really like.
Alison: What provides me the most pleasure is once I hear from prospects who’ve had an incredible expertise with our wine. Whether or not it’s somebody celebrating a milestone and a bottle of our wine was on the desk, or a wine membership member serving in the navy in Europe who wished to get wine to share with others stationed there. [That wine club member] then despatched an image of all these guys of their navy uniforms ingesting Sokol Blosser. We had been half of their lives in an intimate approach with out being there. We had been on the desk and half of these recollections.
2. What’s a setback you confronted in your profession, and how did you get previous it?
Alison: For me, the largest setback was virtually a 12 months in the past — March 17  — and having to put off a few third of our workers. There was a lot uncertainty and worry. It was a really humbling and onerous second to have to put off folks we care about. Fortunately, we’ve been in a position to deliver again most of them. The silver lining is that each one of these challenges set us up for higher success for the subsequent 50 years.
Alex: It was when our mother fired me. She didn’t hearth me as a result of I used to be a schmuck. This was in the mid ‘90s. The vineyard wasn’t 100 p.c household owned; we owned 51 p.c of it. The opposite companions mentioned [they] couldn’t have greater than two Sokol Blossers working full-time. Our mother employed me as cellar grasp, and then the subsequent day needed to hearth me. That was a shock.
3. What’s the largest problem you or your corporation have confronted since Covid, and how did you tackle it?
Alison: The problem of laying everybody off was precipitated by shedding 50 p.c of our gross sales — shedding all of our on-premise enterprise, cruise and airline enterprise — in a single day. We needed to protect the enterprise to have the ability to come via on the different aspect.
Alex: Our winery crew continues to grow old. We knew sooner or later we’d have to modify to mechanical harvesting, even for our higher-end Pinot Noir. It’s a quarter-of-a-million-dollar funding, and the expertise is wonderful. Mechanical harvesting is the future.
4. What’s a major shift your corporation has made in the final six months that you just had by no means thought of earlier than?
Alison: In the event you’d requested me 12 months in the past if we’d ever put wine in a field, I’d say, ‘hell, no.’ However we did it and did it rapidly. We inexperienced lit that challenge April 1 and shipped in July. We additionally had rather a lot of pivots on the shopper gross sales aspect, [and] digital occasions we had by no means performed earlier than. Now Alex and I are Zooming into shoppers’ houses, doing digital tastings for folks, main them via a tasting. That’s been enjoyable, and now we now have tasting kits with 50-milliliter wines. And we had a flash sale. We thought it could be cool for our 50th anniversary to promote one of our Pinots immediately for the identical worth as one of the first: our 1977 Pinot, we offered for $6.75 a bottle. I believe we offered 970 circumstances in two hours. We thought we’d promote 300 circumstances. It was enjoyable.
Alex: We had been going to spend so much of cash throwing rather a lot of events. The celebration of an anniversary is the celebration of all the shared recollections we now have. We will’t throw events for distributors, gross sales reps, prospects … so $6.75 a bottle is what we are able to do.
5. What alternatives are there for up-and-coming expertise in your business?
Alex: We want robust backs in the vineyard for each harvest. This was the first harvest in 10 to 15 years we didn’t have worldwide staff. We could also be up towards that in 2021. Let folks know we want harvest interns. Apply now. Lengthy hours. Chilly beer.
Alison: Usually, I’d say we now have a scarcity of hospitality people who need to work in the tasting room, however that’s closed now. We anticipate we’ll open early summer season, and when that occurs, we predict there will probably be a scarcity of nice candidates. Everybody will probably be hiring. That’s an incredible alternative [for them].
6. What’s subsequent for Sokol Blosser?
Alison: What’s most instantly subsequent is we’ll be increasing the field wine. Long term, Sokol Blosser is of course restricted by what we are able to produce on our land. Now we have to repeatedly push the envelope on high quality. With Evolution, we now have extra flexibility and need to develop that model. The buyer is prepared to be adventurous and attempt one thing new. It’s as much as us to determine what that one thing is. It’s going to at all times be high quality.
Alex: And we’re doubtlessly shopping for one other winery or vineyard. That’s a chance over the subsequent coming years.
Alison: We’re absolutely planted out. Enlargement means to increase some other place. Our dad and mom purchased in the Dundee Hills when it was reasonably priced. We bought priced out of our personal neighborhood.