“Why would you go to school to learn how to make wine? You should learn how to grow grapes.”
After working for restaurants, wine stores and distributors, Dan Rinke developed an interest in organic/biodynamic wines and enrolled in winemaking courses at Fresno State in California. He attended a dinner with Michel Chapoutier and spoke about his intentions. “Why would you go to school to learn how to make wine? You should learn how to grow grapes,” said the famous Rhone producer. Dan soon switched his major to viticulture.
He worked as an assistant winemaker while in school and then answered an ad placed by Dag Johan Sundby - a Norwegian who after traveling the world, and serving as a UN rifleman on the Israeli/Lebanese border, decided he wanted to open a winery in Oregon. Dan says both he and Johan consider it advantageous to be new players in the established wine scene. “We’re a small winery with nothing to live up up to. We can be adventurous and try new things.”
Johan was completely open to Dan’s desire to transition their vineyards to organic and then go further and practice Biodynamics. Their vineyard was certified Biodynamic in 2010 and the winery was certified in 2011. They are producing around 3000 cases annually and sell the excess grapes from their 63 acres to other Biodynamic wine producers. Dan would like to see them double their own wine output in the future, but says selling grapes to other wineries will always be part of their business. They’re even looking into keg wine sales; Oregon is about to pass a growler law for wine sales at restaurants and stores.
They are producing two brands; Johan Vineyards is the flagship label and Farmland is their more affordable line. Their next goal is trying to create their own AVA. Johan Vineyards donate a portion of their proceeds to help lobby for small family farms and help other small producers.
The Johan Vineyards 2009 Nils Reserve came from a hot vintage in the Willamette Valley. “We harvested about two weeks after everyone else.” Great acidity with low alcohol and fruit-friendly. “It’s filtered, which I don’t normally do unless it really needs it.” About 70 cases were made and bottles retail for $45. “Nils” is a family name, which they trade off with “Johan” every generation.
Learn more about Johan Vineyards at johanvineyards.com.