Beverage Artisan: Sokol Blosser Winery

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sokol-blosser-tasting-room-1024x768Sokol Blosser Winery is a 2014 Local Hero Award nominee in the Beverage Artisan category. Read about the Local Hero Awards and the nominees. Voting is now closed. Winners will be announced at Summer’s First BBQ on June 12 – get your tickets today to feast with the Pacific Northwest’s finest!

Approaching the Sokol Blosser Winery, you notice a couple things out of the ordinary: solar panels line the edge of the vineyard and the sleek tasting room is like no other you’ve seen before.

The first generation of Sokol Blosser winemakers came to the Willamette Valley in 1970 with liberal arts degrees and no farming experience – just a love for great wine. Today, the second generation sibling duo of Alison and Alex Sokol Blosser still make a top-notch Pinot Noir and several other wine varieties. They have made also sustainability a top priority. We sat down with Alex Sokol Blosser to talk about his family business.

How did the company start, and how did you personally become involved in winemaking?
My parents started making wine back in 1971, so we’ve been doing this for a long time. I was born in the industry, so that’s how I got exposed to it. The good thing is that my parents never pushed me in this direction. I never thought I would be doing this when I was a kid, but after I went through college and did some other things, I finally realized how much I love the business. So coming back and working here made a lot of sense.

What does sustainability in your company mean?
Sustainability permeates every aspect of our business. It’s not a department, or a silo—we try to engrain sustainability in everything we do. It’s about a triple bottom line: planet, profit, and people. Our vineyard is organic-certified. Our barrel cellar is the first LEED-certified winery facility. All of our full-time employees also get benefits. One thing about trying to be sustainable is putting the most important part of our business first – our employees. We’re always trying new things with sustainability, such as sourcing local, green products and our packaging.

sokol-blosser-vineyard

What do you draw your inspiration from?
Everything inspires me. I keep my eyes and ears open, and I really feel my goal is to be plugged into the world. When you become a winemaker, artist, or whatever, you’re looking for things that are interesting. Take the architecture of the tasting room, for example. The reason we chose Brad Cloepfil as our architect is for his unique designs. This building – it’s interesting. His vision was for the building to blend with the landscape. When you drive up, it’s unassuming; it creeps up on you because it’s so natural. He says it’s as though it’s “emerging from the earth.”

I heard that you’re working towards the Living Building Challenge. Could you tell me about that?
We are going for the Living Building Challenge with the new tasting room building. You have to be open and operating for a year so you can prove everything you wrote down. We are going for net zero energy, and we’re realizing how big of a challenge that is. I think at the end of the year we’ll realize that we need to put in more solar or not wash any glasses. So it is quite a challenge, there’s no doubt about that. I think it will be something we’re working on not just this year but next year as well. It would be the first winery building to achieve the challenge.

How has your business changed since its beginning?
My parents have instilled in us an ethic to stay relevant to the times, while at the same time holding onto our history. You do that by continuing to do new things, like building this new tasting room. As far as grape growing and wine making, our goal has always been to be in the top echelon in terms of Pinot Noir quality coming out of Oregon. What’s changed about that has been how we grow the grapes – we started farming organically in 2002 and got certified in 2005. The wine making has changed a little bit, but overall it’s very similar. We’ve learned a lot about grape growing since my parents started in the 70s.

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