A wine and cider blend has turned a metal building in a Cascade Business Park into a buzzing place.
On a recent October morning, it was crushing time for the heritage apples that go into Son of Man cider, and pressing and fermenting time for Buono Notte and The Color Collector wineries.
Jasper Smith established his Basque-style cider, or “Sagardo,” operation two years ago and puts it in bottles and kegs on site. In 2019, he welcomed start-up makers Graham Merkel of Buono Notte and Bethany Kimmel of The Color Collector.
“There’s three of us in here. It’s great; we’re all kind of at the same stage of getting small businesses off the ground. It’s super supportive and collaborative,” said Merkel, who, like Kimmel and Smith, creates his product by hand and virtually single-handedly.
Moving to Merlot
Merkel worked at Hiyu Winery in Hood River before starting Buono Notte two years ago. His Italian leanings are a reflection of having lived in Tuscany for years while growing up; his mother ran cooking schools there and other parts of the world.
Kimmel focuses mainly on Gamay Noir, while Merkel creates Sauvignon Blanc, Sangiovese, Dolcetto, Syrah, and a small amount of Pescado.
“It’s my first year making Merlot, which is pretty exciting,” he said.
Smith makes high acid, medium tannen ciders using wild ferments that he said “will get a little of that farmhouse funk without being overwhelming.” The cider will age in tanks until February or March, when he bottles again.
Kimmel also plans to experiment with a Gamay-Pinot Noir co-ferment known to the French as passe-tout-grains.
She said wine “is not a necessity but it’s something that brings richness and joy and creates connection, the meat and bones of what it means to be human and be alive.”
Kimmel worked with a number of wineries in California and New Zealand, and Willamette and Yamhill counties, but most recently worked for five years for Annalema Winery in Mosier. “Those guys are amazing. They’re pushing the limits but doing a lot of beautiful things there.”
Handmade in CL
The name of her winery was inspired by children’s book author Leo Leonni’s mouse character, who collects colors, said Kimmel, who grew up in North Carolina. She added that after college, she was traveling the world, teaching English and doing other things, “and trying to figure out my direction, sometimes frustrated but I’d call home and Dad would say, ‘Don’t worry, you’re collecting colors right now.’ So when I found my direction, I felt it was only right to honor that gift of time and space and ability to spend some time collecting colors.”
The colors are vivid shades of crimson as Kimmel works over the open-top fermentation tank, keeping the Gamay fruit cap (surface) moist to prevent bacteria and increase oxygen.
“You want to keep the cap wet. If it dries out, it creates an opportunity for bad organisms to grow and cause spoilage. By pouring, you also incorporate a little bit of oxygen and in particular these ferments are just taking off and the yeasts need a little bit of help and a little bit of love and the oxygen helps get them going,” she explained.
“I’m doing these long pour-overs, checking them twice a day,” she said.
“It’s hand-made wine,” Kimmel said. “We’re young start-ups and we’re doing our best and we don’t have a lot of money for equipment, but I’ve worked in a lot of wineries that have a lot of funding and it’s an amazing experience to have everything at your fingertips, but it’s a different experience to learn how to make it work with the resources you have available. I’ve learned a lot and I think I’ve become a better wine-maker,” she said.
“It’s not always ideal, but it’s been a really good experience.”