DEEP ROOTS BEAR FRUIT
They were up at daylight making preparations in the cool of the morning to bottle their newest wine, a 2003 Sauvignon Blanc.
What started as a "hobby out of control for five years," Rod and Jeanne Gilstrap have rooted into a family legacy.
The couple first experimented with wine making years ago in Illinois when they moved into a house with a concord grape arbor. Was it a very good wine?
"Not really," Rod Gilstrap admits, adding with a grin, "but we drank it."
Although Rod's career took their family all over the country Â— the couple have lived in "29 permanent houses" Â— in 1991 they came home to set down roots.
Moving back to the Grand Ronde Valley they love and where the couple grew up, Rod and Jeanne Gilstrap decided to try their hand at growing grapes in Cove, a proven fruit growing area of the valley.
Though previously no one had much success with grapes there, the Gilstrap family patriarch isn't the type to listen to what others say he can't do. In 1992 the Gilstraps planted grapes.
Until recently, Gilstrap Brothers was the only winery and vineyard east of the Cascades in Oregon. Though they are now one of two, with more than a decade behind them, Gilstrap Brothers Winery will always have the distinction of being Eastern Oregon's first winery and vineyard.
Several times a year now, three generations of Gilstraps gather in Cove to harvest grapes or bottle wine or tend to the vines or whatever needs doing Â— so, how often do they actually come to work at the winery?
"Whenever we need to," Ted Gilstrap, Phoenix, says simply.
Indeed, last week, the Gilstraps' sons Warren, Seattle, and Ted came home for an historic bottling Â— the Gilstrap's first Sauvignon Blanc.
This 2003 wine joins the label's previous four offerings of a merlot, a cabernet sauvignon, a chardonnay and a unique light red wine the vintner calls Rio Grande Ronde, named for the Grande Ronde Valley where it is produced.
This is the Gilstraps' second year of selling wine Â— they first offered the 2001 harvest in 2002. In June 2003 they began selling the 2002 harvest. Their reputation is building and sales have been good.
"We're way ahead of last year," Rod says.
Gilstrap Brothers Winery is located at 69789 Antles Lane, Cove.