Gilstrap Brothers Vineyard and Winery Firmly rooted and growing strong
“It was time to either ramp it up or ramp it down. And I think Dad will agree with me that we needed a serious marketing effort,” Warren says.
Rod Gilstrap nods his head in wholehearted agreement.
“It is very pleasant for me at this age to be on the edge and watch what’s going on,” he says.
And what is going on is experimenting with new wines and expanding into new markets.
Now nearing 80, Rod and Jeanne Gilstrap are happy to have sons Warren and Ted in charge. Warren oversees the winery year-round and spearheads the marketing and business plan. Ted, who lives in Arizona, is involved in the process and puts his own career on hold annually for the visit home during the two-month harvest.
“He’s really the one who has learned the chemistry of making good wine. There has to be a proper balance between the acid and the pH in order for the wine to age properly. That’s really been his thing,” says Warren.
Rod admits that the family planted the first vines in 1993 as more of a hobby than anything. After living all over the world, he and Jeanne came home to spend the rest of their lives in the valley where they grew up. Having dabbled with making wine from a concord grape vine, they decided to try their hand at growing wine grapes in Cove.
“No. I just did it because someone told me I couldn’t grow grapes here in Northeast Oregon,” he says.
And there you have it. Sometimes, it just takes a good stubborn streak to build a family legacy. Not only can one grow grapes in Cove, but one can make good wine.
“Our 2000 Merlot is as good as it gets,” says Warren. “Oddly enough, we bottled it on Sept. 11, 2001. We only have just a few cases left and we’re hanging onto them.”
Most of the grapes from which the winery makes its wine are bought from different growers in Washington state. They usually contract for 16 to 20 tons and pick them up in special half-ton containers and truck them back to the winery.
The French-hybrid grape they grow on site was chosen by Rod for its cold weather hardiness. When harvested, he says, the Kuhlman Foch grapes are juicy, sweet and delicious. The fruit is used primarily for producing the winery’s popular seller — the Rio Grande Ronde, a red wine named for the valley it comes from.
“The 2006 harvest was the best effort year to date off this property,” Warren says, adding that the Rio Grande Ronde constitutes approximately 17 percent of their total product.
“Technically, due to a long standing agreement between the U.S. and Portugal, we can’t call it a true port, but it is going to be a very good sweet, dessert port-like wine.”
The label for the new wine is still in the works. It will likely include the number 45, which represents the 45th parallel, like the new syrah.
The port is still aging in oak barrels, but if a taste test is any indication of what it will be like when bottled — it is definitely something to anticipate.
For more information about the Gilstrap Brothers Vineyard and Winery, go online to www.gilstrapbrothers.com or call the winery at 568-4646.