Beverage Artisan: Teutonic Wine Company
Teutonic Wine Company 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!
When Olga and Barnaby Tuttle of Teutonic Wine Company started making wine, they wanted to create something completely different. The Willamette Valley may be known for its Pinot Noir, but these winemakers first set out to create a light white wine with high acidity and minerality while staying true to the terroir of the region.
We met up with the couple at the Southeast Wine Collective over a glass of sparkling Riesling to learn more about Teutonic Wines.
What sets your wine apart from others in the industry?
I first came to love wine when I realized that it actually has a sense of place. I love the idea of terroir, that certain qualities of a region influence the taste of the wine. It didn’t take long to find that I like wine from cold places with fierce acidity and intense minerality – wines that make food taste beautiful. Then I discovered the wines from the Mosel Valley region of Germany. I was inspired by my friends there whose influence set us on a path to make wines that are not in the typical Willamette Valley mode. We thought there was room for something completely different in the market. We looked for plants growing in high elevation, north-facing, older vines, and non-irrigated. We went to the Mosel Valley and found winemakers and mentors to foster our winemaking.
What has the response been like to your different methods among other wine makers?
When we first started making wine, we knew we wanted to make something completely different. But with our first vintage of white wine, many of our Oregon wine friends said, “What the hell are you doing, don’t do it that way, you’re going to ruin your wine!” And we were really afraid, and thought maybe we shouldn’t do it that way. But ultimately we stuck to our guns, and the first little bit of wine we made sold out very quickly in 2008.
What kinds of different methods are you using in your vineyard?
We’re minimalist. We do the least possible, and we’ve gone back to introducing indigenous species ground cover. The whole idea of terroir is trying to reflect the natural environment, so you want to nurture the natural biology in the soil, which ultimately affects the flavors of the wine. We also have beehives that help diversify the ecosystem and pollination of the flowers, and then you get honey, so it’s not just a mono-crop.
What does sustainability mean to you and your business?
For us, sustainability means doing the right thing because it’s right. It goes back to who and what we support – through farmer’s markets, or buying a product from a small, individual producer. We try to spend our money with real people – using our dollars to support something good. The way we treat our employees is also important – treating them how we would want to be treated instead of like livestock or a commodity. There are human, historical and philosophical notions of sustainability, things that you can’t put on a label.
What has surprised you the most since you started making wines?
We never expected that we’d make a living off of these wines. We just thought we would make a culinary political statement. We also never thought we’d sell outside of Oregon. Now we’re selling in Canada, New York, California, New Orleans, Boston, and the farthest we’ve sold is Barcelona. It’s really crazy. The first year was a big experiment. We made a delicate, acid-forward wine. We had heard so many of our friends say that nobody would buy these wines, but it’s like people were waiting for it.
What does the future have in store for Teutonic Wines?
We’re constantly creating project wines. We just can’t do the same thing over and over again. Now we’re really into making sparkling wine. Barnaby is also doing a project Riesling with two other winemakers – so it’s separated into three different hands and then blended. I don’t know exactly what the future holds. It’s always a surprise every year to see what kind of fruit we get a hold of, what crazy ideas will pop into our head. I think that’s what keeps us excited. We don’t do the same thing over and over – that’s just not part of our nature. We think people are looking for that, something new and different. We do new projects, but our philosophy about terroir and natural winemaking is always intact.
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