Bottleology – Desert Wind Winery with Greg Fries
January 28, 2010 by Dave Bender
Whether it’s a trip to your local grocer, a voyage through the back roads of the Northwest wine country, perhaps the magnetic draw into your favorite wine shop, or an in-depth read of your favorite WINO Magazine blog entry (Bottleology!), I can pretty much guarantee that you will cross paths with Greg Fries—or at least have a run-in with his value driven wines.
Greg Fries is a really nice guy, but FAR more importantly, Greg Fries is a winemaker. He’s worked very hard to get to where he is today, and he has spent many years managing and making wine for his very own Desert Wind Winery. With the help of one very influential woman (Ms. Mother Nature—strictly business), some great vineyard sites in Eastern Washington and Oregon, a degree from UC Davis and a pilot’s license, Greg has been able to contribute to the world of wine in a big way.
[Purple] HAZE-lnuts: Commonly referred to as “filberts,” these nuts can be found all over Oregon. I refer to them as Greg’s family’s “gateway crop,” a crop that they ultimately replanted into vast g rapevine vineyards (vitis vinifera). When Greg was younger, his family farmed cotton and tomatoes in Californ ia. Growing up in that kind of environment most likely sparked his interest in agriculture and also played a key role in Greg’s decision to go to school for Agricultural business.
You See!: Going to school and getting an education CAN be fun! At UC Davis, Greg earned a degree in Fermentation Science. He took a beer brewing course, and as luck would have it, while he was there, his family started a winery! It’s called Duck Pond Cellars. JEALOUS!!!
Prince: In 1982 a great song called “1999” was released by a man who changed his name to a symbol. On that note, in 1999 Greg became a certified pilot! He owns a Mooney Ovation II (I translate that to, SWEET) that he flies for both business and pleasure (perhaps not in that order). Greg’s family owns vineyards in Oregon’s Umpqua Valley, the Willamette Valley and in Eastern Washington. Greg is very involved in the management of these vineyards. Additionally, he helps run the family wineries; Duck Pond in Dundee, Oregon and Desert Wind in Prosser, Washington. “The ability to fly myself between all those locations is a big help, and I enjoy it as well,” he added. Sorry ladies, I checked for you–Greg’s already taken.
Who Are You?: “I’m driven, and I really enjoy working to build our brand and make better wines. I get up early, and I work long hours, but that’s what I enjoy doing. I do whatever it takes to make our business run smoothly; on opening weekend at Desert Wind, I spent most of the weekend fixing plumbing issues and flagging traffic. It isn’t always a glamorous job.”
Memory Lane: When I asked Greg if he remembered his first wine experience, he said, “Two early wine memories come to mind, and they’re pretty different. The first was visiting the wine areas of France with my family when I was sixteen. We toured Champagne, the Medoc and Saint Emilion. I spent my 16th birthday in Champagne. The second memory is playing the drinking game, “Quarters” with a jug of Carlo Rossi [in high school].” I’m a flip cup guy myself!
Collect Call: I asked Greg if he collects anything. He said, “I have a collection of Native American rock tools (like mortars and pestles) that I’ve found through the years.”
Your Fly Is Down [Stream]: Fly fishing is a pastime that Greg enjoys most and wishes he could do more of–it’s also a hobby that I’ve found numerous winemakers enjoy. Maybe it must be the craftsmanship of the equipment used; the handmade bamboo rod and the marveled precision of a high quality reel. The stalk of the elusive prey (Little Nemo), basking within the shadowed edges of a river bank and the art of the line and fly placement. OR, perhaps Greg and these other winemakers who enjoy the sport so much, are simply after a meal to pair with their newly released white wine! Regardless, I just made myself hungry.
I2I: I asked Greg what Washington wineries he looks up to, or at least who he sees eye-to-eye w ith. His response was, “I respect Mercer Estates (a newer winery here in Prosser), because their wines are a well-crafted expression of Washington State.” So, I called Mercer Estates, and they said, “Greg is our biggest customer, we think he has a [wine] shopping problem, but MAN is he good at the game Quarters!”
YODA: If Greg were Yoda he’d say: “To take more classes, if I had to do it over to further my knowledge, right after college, I would. To get things right, before harvest and fermentation, you only have one shot. Focused on providing great value, we have always been.”
A Mouth Full: Desert Wind Winery, 2007 Ruah, Columbia Valley, Red Blend, $20 1675 cs.
48% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16%Cabernet Franc
Ruah is Desert Wind’s flagship wine and Greg’s favorite wine to make. Greg believes it’s the ultimate way to showcase Washington’s best grapes. It’s a wine he says, “has really taken on a life of its own.” Ruah is an ancient Hebrew word for “wind, breath, or spirit,” which is fitting for the name of the winery.
I smelled this wine for longer than usual. It wasn’t so much because it was truly unique or life altering, it was just because it was quite nice. It smelled of coffee extracts and little cocoa nibs slathered over mahogany, with fennel pollen and baked red currant. Pleasantly and meditatively, I “chilled,” hovering over the aromas bleeding out my glass of Ruah. It was a nose from a wine that I could have walked away from, knowing full well, that I would have enjoyed my tasting encounter. BUT, I didn’t, so I had a taste! The taste of Ruah is what you’d hope for from a wine from Washington for $20. The elements that assured me of its value came from the overall length, the quality of the tannins and the oak integration. I enjoyed the drying elements—again the experience made me hungry!
Find this wine soon! Hopefully you’ll be grocery shopping, and when you do, please make sure you throw some extra meat in your cart for me…and to enjoy it with Ruah!
Desert Wind Winery
2258 Wine Country Rd
Prosser, WA 99350
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