Last Updated on November 3, 2022 by rise25
Luke Wylde is the Co-founder of Statera Cellars, a two-person company he runs with his best friend, Meredith Bell. A proud member of the queer community, Luke expresses his identity in how he does things as a winemaker. He is also passionate about sustainable employment and hopes to observe this practice as they expand Statera Cellars.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Luke Wylde tells his story as a queer in celebration of the Pride Month
- How does being a queer winemaker affect his style of winemaking?
- How wine became an outlet for Luke’s expression
- Why is Statera Cellars still a two-person company?
- Luke talks about the impact of B Corporations in workforce sustainability
- Luke discusses his winemaking philosophy
- The increasing demand for glass and packaging alternatives
In this episode with Luke Wylde
Sustainability in winemaking has been a highly discussed topic lately. However, the term is often misused and rarely completely understood.
Aside from observing environmentally sound practices, wineries also need to focus on sustainable employment to grow a thriving business. You want to make sure their skills, talents, and energies are used effectively and appropriately and people are compensated fairly for their work so that wineries can prosper along with their workers.
In today’s episode of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast, Drew Thomas Hendricks and Bianca Harmon welcome Luke Wylde, Co-owner of Statera Cellars, to talk about his experience running this two-person company with his best friend. Luke also shares his vision for the company, the future of packaging, and how he aspires for sustainable practices to be the bloodline of its operations.
Resources Mentioned in this episode
- Barrels Ahead
- Drew Thomas Hendricks on LinkedIn
- Bianca Harmon on LinkedIn
- Andrew Januik on Legends Behind the Craft podcast
- Luke Wylde on LinkedIn
- Statera Cellars
- Lares Wines
- Meredith Bell on LinkedIn
Sponsor for this episode…
This episode is brought to you by Barrels Ahead.
At Barrels Ahead, we know that your business is unique. That’s why we work with you to create a one-of-a-kind marketing strategy that highlights your authenticity, tells your story, and makes your business stand out from your competitors.
Our team at Barrels Ahead helps you leverage your knowledge so you can enjoy the results and revenue your business deserves.
So, what are you waiting for? Unlock your results today!
Welcome to the Legends Behind the Craft podcast where we feature top leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry with your host Drew Hendricks. Now let’s get started with the show.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 0:19
Drew Thomas Hendricks here I’m the host of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast. Right talk with leaders in the wine craft beverage industry. Today’s episode is sponsored by Barrels Ahead. At Barrels Ahead, we work with you to implement a one of a kind marketing strategy. One that highlights your authenticity, tells your story and connects you with your ideal customers. In short, we help wineries and craft beverage producers unlock their story to unleash their revenue, go to barrelsahead.com today to learn more. Bianca Harmon our DTC strategist is joining us again today. How’s it going? Bianca?
Bianca Harmon 0:52
It’s going good, Drew last time I talked to you. I think we talked to Andrew up in the Washington area. And so today I’m excited to talk to Luke in the Willamette Valley.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 1:06
Yes, we’re shifting in states today we have Luke Wylde on the show. Luke is in wine. Hello Luke. He’s the owner and winemaker for us to Statera Cellars. But Willamette Valley winery exclusively devoted to Chardonnay. Luke runs Statera, along with his friend Meredith Bell, and he also has his own label Lares Wines, which allows him to explore different styles and push his creativity in Luke’s own words, he’s a firm believer in Legend, and immersing himself in all things fantastical, driving in spaces and wrestling with magic. Welcome to the show, Luke.
Luke Wylde 1:39
Thanks so much.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 1:40
And I just want to wish you a Happy Pride Month.
Luke Wylde 1:42
Yeah. Thank you. The great month to be queer.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 1:46
Yes, it is.
Luke Wylde 1:47
I mean, it’s always good time to be
Drew Thomas Hendricks 1:48
Oh, yeah. You’re looking fantastic today. So for those of us like this, the Pride Month, tell us a little bit about it and kind of to us, so I’m straight. And I’d need to learn more about this. educate us.
Luke Wylde 2:05
Yeah. So I, I grew up in a very conservative background, and I’m kind of like a baby queer in terms of having been like publicly out, it really only came out, I think, officially in 2019. I’m turning 40 this summer. So for me, it was kind of like a delayed response of publicly recognizing my queerness. My spouse, they recognize it for a very long time, I’m married to a woman. So like, from the outside looking in, we look like the normal kind of white heteronormative couple. But you know, the more that we have examined and explored ourselves with one another, the more that we’ve kind of unlocked the potential of our personalities. And for me that looked like recognizing that I’m a gender queer, non binary person, and really allowing myself to lean into what that looks like. For me. Pride Month really does give me an opportunity to celebrate that quite publicly. Take part in some pride events here in the valley. I’m actually doing on this Friday, I’m doing the world’s first queer Wine Fest here in the United States, it’s gonna be in the valley. And, you know, I think like, taking some pride in who we are, and celebrating that because, I mean, let’s be real. Have you ever met a queer person that’s not a heck of a lot of fun. And we like to have a lot of fun together. So it’s a good opportunity to have parties all month and, and celebrate our queerness actually celebrate the authenticity? Well, yeah, big time, wherever
Drew Thomas Hendricks 3:44
you may want to express it. So within the Willamette community talk about being like a queer winemaker, and how that affects your sort of winemaking styles and your expressions.
Luke Wylde 3:56
You know, I used to think that it didn’t have any impact on like, the way that I do things. And the more that I examine my, especially with the Lares Wines Lares Wines, the the more that I examine those wines, the more I do see just how much of a reflection those wines are, in my own sort of kind of queer personality and identity. A lot of the way that looks is on the label artwork. The label artwork is super colorful, often features rainbows are some sort of like gradient of a rainbow and I started making those wines before I was out and so I didn’t even really like think about it at the time that my, my social life which has a lot of queer elements to it, even before I was out, gave me a lot of space to be comfortable and in kind of expressing these versions of this like kind of queerness non binary and life and, and I think that the more that I’ve leaned into, like really publicly recognizing my queerness the more that the more that I just kind of allow the wines to also be reflections of how much fun I’m having in that like that I am not afraid of being this kind of person anymore
Drew Thomas Hendricks 5:16
fitting the wines into a specific style that they think the public wants to see. Well, yeah, definitely less themselves.
Luke Wylde 5:24
Yeah, I mean, I went from, you know, thinking like, oh, I need to be making like making single variety type lines, to now I’m making wines that are like grapes and apples. And this year, I’m making like, another kind of fruit kind of CO format with Pinot Noir. So well, not that I’m not that I’m the first person to be doing that. But I think a big part of why I’m doing that is, is wanting to make wines that are going to be like, elements of the kind of party that I want to be at or are are going to be reflections of that kind of fun and colorful personality.
Bianca Harmon 5:58
So do you think wine has given you like an outlet for you to be able to really share and present who you are and what you believe and stand, you know, stand behind?
Luke Wylde 6:08
Yeah, I think it does, you know, I never felt like I had that freedom working for other people. And I often felt like held back, but by other by working for larger companies, to be fully myself. But owning my own labels has really given me the opportunity to lean more into kind of that sort of creative outlet in terms of winemaking. And then I didn’t realize at the time, that kind of by proxy, it also gave me an opportunity to be more myself in person. And in general, because like when I go out to a big kind of public wine tasting, and I’m showing one of my wines, like I get to be me, I don’t have to be a representative of another company, um, you know, a 5050, owner ups to Statera and I own Lares and I don’t have to act like some sort of like, Agent of some, like old white people owned, you know, Shadow conservative type company that doesn’t really fit my values or ethics. So it was really
Bianca Harmon 7:13
well, and in that, if I recall, look, you know, you really take pride in taking care of employees and practicing the right. Things in regards to the employees. And can you elaborate a little bit on all of that and what you do?
Luke Wylde 7:28
Yeah, I’m glad that you remember that. I think that this is a broader conversation that I think every company should be having. Meredith and I are really, we’re a two person company. We don’t have employees. We will, I hope, you know, starting this year, as we’re trying to, like, expand and grow, we will. But we, as negotiations that are not landowners, we purchase fruit from all over Oregon this year, because of frost, it’s going to be all over Washington as well. Yeah. And we’ll definitely talk about Frost too, because I think people should talk about that for for this vintage for Willamette Valley. But one of the things that we set as a model for ourselves is that we’ll only purchase fruit from vineyards that can prove they’re paying living wages, and providing some access to health care for everybody, even temporary seasonal workers that are just there for a couple of weeks picking grapes. Access to healthcare can look like a lot of different things, it doesn’t mean like when you show up, you’re gonna get your BlueCross BlueShield card and you get to like, have your $30 premium. It’s not like that for your copay. Rather, it’s, it’s like, some access looks like people know, they’re not going to lose their job or be screwed. If they get hurt on a job picking grapes for a couple of weeks. Hopefully, you know, like, as we grow and expand, and hopefully we own our own vineyard, at some point, we will be able to offer everybody more substantial health care. And for us, it looks like you know, paying people transparently like ideally, if we were, you know, running our own tasting room, which hopefully we’re going to be opening when the summer here in Portland. If I have a part time employee, I’m gonna let them know what I’m making. And I’m hoping that they’re starting wages is somewhere in the kind of mid 20s as a part time person, not like somewhere in the fifteens because anybody knows that 15 bucks an hour as a minimum wage is which is around where it is here in Portland. It’s not really a living wage. And that’s not really like, everybody knows that that’s the case. So we think that, like purchasing fruit with these sorts of values in mind makes our fruit decisions better. On top of purchasing fruit that’s you know, only organic or biodynamic. This year is going to be a stretch because of the big Frost’s so there’s going to be some sustainably farmed fruit purchased. But purchasing fruit were the owners of that land, which is already kind of occupied land anyway because everything was native land And now To wait on companies are planting vineyards here and claiming it is theirs and their own sort of weird, colonized way. Owners of that land are showing that the people that are working that land have just as much value as the sort of ethos of their farming. Because at the end of the day, if people are so hung up about organics and biodynamics and the natural wine community, but don’t really give a pause, or a second thought, to the value of the life of the people that are farming that land, then we’re doing something really wrong. And we needed to look in the mirror and ask ourselves if this sort of like, like holier than now natural winemaking 00 mentality actually fits our ethics and our ethos for how we’re living our lives for everything else.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 10:46
That makes complete sense. We it’s it’s it’s really so timely that you’re talking about this, the that workforce sustainability, we’re treating a you know, an egalitarian workforce has been a topic over the last few episodes that we’ve had in anecdotally, the the winemakers and the winery, people that run the wineries, if they do give these living wages, they do give health care, they do have some sort of commitment to their workforce, they’ve seen that they’ve seen productivity increase, they’ve seen happiness increase, and I’ve seen that have provided work that’s not relevant. It’s not even just this not prevalent, even if you start just paying the people more, it’s a whole, that’s a whole commitment to the workforce.
Bianca Harmon 11:28
I will say to you personally, I worked in winery server for a very long time. And I actually was always taken care of at my wineries way better than I was ever taken care of anywhere else. And we had workers coming in from 45 minutes to an hour away from wineries I worked at, because it was worth it because of the wages the wineries were paying and the benefits they were offering versus what was being offered to them and surrounding areas. And I do like to say that i i live in St Alena, but I do like to say that I think that that is I think it’s really important. And it says something when you have people coming over an hour away to come work for wineries because they’re actually taking care of their people, unlike these other businesses. It’s a bummer. Yeah,
Luke Wylde 12:26
definitely some merit there. I do think, you know, this is part of the conversation that we kind of had in the sort of pre show vibe that we were chatting about, yeah, of like D center D centering our sort of white perspectives from how these things work. Because it’s pretty, it’s pretty easy. It’s three, ostensibly, white people, I don’t know your background, so forgive me, if I’m speaking out of turn here. It’s pretty easy for us to say like, Well, my experience has been great. But you know, not really thinking about like, the sort of black and brown people that are doing most of the farming and really considering whether or not their experience is matching ours. And that’s where we have a responsibility as white people to have a broader conversation around decentering our perspectives from the narrative of what everybody else has experienced looks like in a farming sort of that sphere. And, and this is where, you know, asking farm owners and asking vineyard owners and winery owners for some transparency around how they’re paying people, and not just the, you know, the white seller hands, like really everybody, like the people that are only working for you for the you know, a couple of weeks a year that you’re going to be picking, are they getting paid in an equitable way? Are you willing to be transparent about that? And for me, and Meredith, if the answer for them is no, that’s none of your business. We say then we don’t have any business with you. And we have had to not work with people because of that. And frankly, I’m not losing any sleep over it. Like I would rather lose some cool fruit, then work with some uncool people.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 14:10
Absolutely. Is you’re going through there and you’re vetting out the different vineyards. So you’re boots on the ground. What is your experience? How many people have you just had to just look away from? And how many, like what percentage of what I guess the question is, what percentage of the wineries are doing it? Right.
Luke Wylde 14:26
So I would say that, like, the percentage of wineries that are doing it right, is increasing, in large part because of what you were referencing drew about the sort of like the problems that workforce is having, in general, people just aren’t willing to work for less than what they’re worth anymore. And in a lot and for good reason. You know, I think the sort of like, Age of worker exploitation is still something that we’re in, but hopefully we’re kind of on the back end of that. As we have been having this conversation with folks A lot of people are saying, like, look like, you know, five years ago, I could pay a tractor driver, you know, just around minimum wage. Now, tractor drivers don’t want to work for less than, like 25 an hour. And that’s okay, like, great. That’s what I want to hear. The like, access to health care can look like a lot of different things. So as long as there’s some sort of like provision in there, like, that’s kind of where we have to land. Hopefully, we have some more like public health care at some point where all of us are covered. And that’s not even a conversation I have to have. It’s kind of embarrassing that in economy, this large and country that is, you know, purportedly this developed, still has as many healthcare problems as it does. But I think that’s kind of a common understanding that most of us have, you know, especially small business owners like yourselves, of what that actually it looks like.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 15:51
Is there an organization because I need to get your vineyard certified organic? And there’s a lot of, you know, there’s a lot of structure around certifying a vineyard, but what about certified sustainable employment? Is there some sort of organization that puts a seal of approval on it?
Luke Wylde 16:06
Yeah. So you can be like a certified B Corp. I think there’s plenty of companies that are doing good work as being a certified B Corp. But even locally, you know, we’ve seen like, anybody that lives here in Oregon is familiar with this kind of local natural grocery store called New Seasons, New Seasons locally, is doing. They’re a certified B Corp, but they’re doing a hell of a job to try to Union busts. They’re trying to prevent their employees from forming unions. So this seems anathema to kind of what the concept of being a certified B Corp is, why wouldn’t you want to have your employees unionized if you’ve gone through all the trouble of making sure that they’re already having a quality of life standard that B Corp makes you kind of prove in your in how you’re hiring people and how you’re like, giving them the sort of quality of life to via wages, time off, maternity leave, etc. And why why is having a union such a big deal. So in the same way that like, being certified organic means that there’s kind of a lot of stuff that you can still spray on the ground that is maybe not necessarily that good for the world. The same thing goes for a lot of these organizations, like, you know, ultimately, Meredith and I only purchase fruit, you know, for the most part, this year is definitely going to be an exception to that rule that’s organic and biodynamic, the same thing kind of goes, like, we don’t care if people are, are certified. And the reason for that is, most small vineyards don’t have the sort of liquid cash on hand, to get that really expensive certification. For us, it has a lot more to do with the, like, actual intention of the people doing the work. If you’re doing the work, I don’t really care if you got a gold star, right? Like the work is the work and it’s it’s kind of where you can find like a lot of joy in that labor too. And like I said, like, I sleep at night, like I didn’t used to sleep this well. And but now that my now that I truly am, like, like heading down this kind of self employed path as this, you know, kind of emerging little winery that has the sorts of standards, like, my dreams have improved, my sleep has improved, my social life has improved, even my professional life and the way that I can speak with my growers and other winemakers, I just feel so much more confident in the work that I’m doing. Because I believe in the work that I’m doing. And even
Bianca Harmon 18:38
if there’s one thing that you’re I mean, even if it’s just one person’s mind that you change by saying, oh, you can’t offer that to me, then fine. Like you can’t tell me if your employees are taken care of then fine, but it will get somebody’s mind thinking and ticking and, and that right there is enough reason to continue doing going down the path that you’re growing. I personally like you know, a little side story, but like I’m a home birth mom. And I, I shared something on Instagram recently about traumatic births and how you know, hospitals get too involved with women that don’t need all of this care. And I had two women reach out to me about it and share their experiences of something that happened at a hospital. And I and like I just asked for some books on home birthday. And I was like, that’s it. I did my part like I just like, okay, you know, like, somebody was like, I experienced this and it was terrible in this, like, can you give me some guidance? And I was like, Sure. And I was like, that’s it? I did my part. You know, even if it just gets one person’s mind thinking and doing the work that you’re doing. You can rest easy at night.
Luke Wylde 19:54
Yeah, good for you. I’m a home birth child. So it was my sister. I love it. So Um, you know, I think that like the Steinbeck said something kind of similar to this in Grapes of Wrath about how, as long as, as long as companies are at the center of profiting from food, there was always going to be hunger when poor people cannot afford their products. And the same thing goes for health care in the United States. And, and in particular, around the health care of pregnant women. And primate, I mean, especially women of color, that these are marginalized populations, women, on women just suffer from the hands of companies that really just want to profit off of their pregnancies. And if we’re profiting off of this sort of formation and foundation of life, then we’re really fucking up. I’m sorry, like, this is not okay. And I know the same thing. Yeah, I think we’re all kind of in agree. We all agree here, right. Like, it seems like common sense. But it’s difficult to get the sort of status quo of like, primarily white CEOs of these large companies, to, you know, not to take people over profit.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 21:21
All right. Very true words, I still going back on to the certifications and how the B Corp, I didn’t realize that it’s such a commitment to employment sustainability, I thought it had another thing to do with nonprofit. That question though, is like the ability to just purchase a seal to purchase a certification really is a must. If you’re not following through, through and through the organization, it’s more of a marketing ploy. The companies that have the money to get the certifications to get the B Corp, they they get the benefit from being able to display that seal, but they may or may not actually be living that as you mentioned, in the case of that store, through and through. So yeah, it’s it’s it’s good that you actually go out and actually investigate whether or not that’s true. So now you’ve got so you’ve got this fruit. I want to switch to it a little bit about your winemaking philosophy and style. And the decision to go like was to Tara and exclusively Chardonnay based on winery in Willamette Valley.
Luke Wylde 22:21
Yeah, so we started to Tara in 2014. For Meredith, it was it had a lot to do with, like seeing so Meredith went to UC Davis, she has a master’s degree in that in analogy. I think it’s it’s an amazing degree that like has really done a lot for our company. I went to Loyola Marymount and have a bachelor’s degree in theater. So like, my kind of path is way different than hers. So for Meredith, it was all about how Chardonnay is one of those very unique grapes that is kind of equal parts of reflection of terroir and winemakers hand. And, and I firmly believe that because you can make Chardonnay in myriad ways and be pleased with the results. For myself, it was that I kind of like Googled, like, best way to start a company when Meredith and I were like, Let’s start a winery. And it was like, have like, have your company be the first of something. So for us, I was like, well, there’s no Chardon, Chardonnay only place here in the Willamette Valley. And so we were like, cool, that’s the one. And so that sort of like, thinking brought us to very much kind of shared concept of making like Chardonnay is of place without any additions. So we don’t do any acid ads, we don’t filter we don’t find we had very little sulfur to the whole thing. We also don’t use any new oak. So like all of our Chardonnay, is it fermented and aged in neutral barrels, we over mintage all of our Chardonnay with the exception of the pet mat. And and we also don’t really like move the wine around a lot. We keep the wine on its fermentation leaves. Because we really like this sort of like prolonged oxidative photolysis flavor that comes about and seeing how Chardonnay, les Lee’s age and it’s become kind of like a primary flavor like our wines are super oxidative. I think like it’s if you try us to Terra Chardonnay, you are like oh my god, this thing’s like pretty plush. But a signature for us is also like maintaining natural acidity. So our pics are always kind of designed around keeping the pH where we want it to be. And then just making sure that those things are going to hang out and barrel for a really long time and, and benefit from that.
Bianca Harmon 24:59
Are they super Okay? be white or,
Luke Wylde 25:01
well, everything is a neutral French oak. But we don’t make anything with new oak. So they’re not okey in that they taste like oak. They’re okay in that they have had the benefit of being in that hyper oxidative environment of an oak barrel. I think that we could achieve the same results from being in a neutral Acacia barrel or a neutral chestnut barrel or a neutral any wood barrel. But yeah, because all of our barrels, you know, we’re picking, we’re buying girls that are at least five years old. So they’ve already been used five times, they don’t taste like oak anymore. The wines end up having all the benefit of being in a barrel without any of the flavor of toasted oak on it.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 25:45
Yeah, I haven’t, I haven’t tasted your wines. But visually, they look super interesting, funky, and in the most positive thing possible, like looking at the colors and the unfiltered pneus of them, they look just like something I’d want to taste through them. When someone comes to stutter, and they kind of taste through your wines, they’ve got to be surprised with the variety because a lot of times, wineries seems to have a house style where there’s you know, you can see the different vineyard expressions. But with you it looks like like the full gamut of the shirt named varietals, and all of its different expressions beyond just the vineyard.
Luke Wylde 26:17
Yeah, that’s the goal. I mean, that’s kind of speaks to that, that kind of concept that Meredith has that Chardonnay is both an equal reflection of terroir and also the winemakers hand in it. And so for us, you know, having this kind of opportunity to really focus on this one grape has given us the has just given us the kind of headspace to imagine, like, how many ways can we make Chardonnay in a natural way. So for us that looks like it’s never going to look like a dessert wine, because we wouldn’t be able to, like get a wine to stick being sweet and sticky, without, you know, having to filter it. So like we’re not going to filter any of our sterile wines. But it does mean that we can make skin contact wines or it does mean that you know, we have a barrel of Chardonnay that’s been sitting on floor for six years, we have you know, a celerra of a single vineyard Chardonnay that’s on its fifth year, we have this wine that we released called Rudy’s that is there, we basically like ferment wines to dry, and we never add any sulfur to it. And then we never topped the barrels, we just leave them alone for two years. And let them kind of develop this almost kind of like it’s almost it’s almost like fino Sherry that hasn’t been fortified. It’s like this hyper oxidative but like bright and crispy acid, just really pretty versions of Chardonnay that I don’t, I don’t see a lot of American Chardonnay winemakers, making wine this way. But they’re certainly, you know, are more and more people that are experimenting with the grape. Because we’re being you know, we’re being inspired by regions other than burgundy.
Bianca Harmon 27:59
So you’re doing
Luke Wylde 28:00
temperamental charts to Oh, yeah. Big time. We love it. I can tell by the color of it looks like yeah, not everything is that way, but we make a couple of them. They’re two different vineyards this last year. It’s a wine that we released called cuties, which is a Latin word for skin. I think that’s a good opportunity to talk about this stuff. Tara is a Latin word for balance. So our kind of concept between before this whole thing is that like, we really want these wines to kind of find a balance for themselves. And this symbol, like our logo is the this like kind of two opposite pointing arrows, which is a chemistry symbol for equilibrium. So for for us, it’s really hoping that these wines do find their own path, they find their own sort of resolution to the story that seems a little predestined when we pick the fruit. Like, how did those chemistries come in? Wasn’t the pH in a spot where we figured like this is going to make a wine that is going to be left on top and unsolved for two years? Or is that going to be a wine that’s just gonna be like, go to our, our patio natural, which is good, like the first one that we release? You know, no matter what we’re looking at the fruit when it comes in and just making a decision about like, what do we want this year and if the vintage is going to be pretty rough, like 2022 is going to be a really challenging year because it’s challenging as
Drew Thomas Hendricks 29:19
it’s gonna get and you don’t We don’t have fires to deal with.
Luke Wylde 29:23
It’s too early to say
Bianca Harmon 29:25
about the frost, you said that there’s been a big frost issue and up that right.
Luke Wylde 29:32
Yeah, we, we had a frost event around, it was in April. And it it was like for the place that I was working at the time. They they account for having lost around 90% of their crop. The the like, low end of loss that I’ve seen is still around 40 or 50%. So considering that in 2021 we have really heavy rain right around flowering and most places lost between 25 and 30%, maybe even more of their crop in 2020, we had a really big smoky year during, during vintage. You know, this is now our third year in a row of looking at some pretty extreme, extreme weather challenges that are really yucky and are young. So can
Bianca Harmon 30:23
I ask something do you stick to in a case or situation like this where you’ve had multiple years in a row, and it seems like everybody is suffering from it? Are you still sticking to just buying fruit from the Willamette Valley area? Or have you branched into California at all? Or is Do you primarily stick with that region?
Luke Wylde 30:42
Yeah, that’s a great question Bianca. We so we have kind of primarily focused on the Willamette Valley. For as long as we’ve been making wine. We used to purchase fruit from a vineyard in Washington called silo. We stopped buying that fruit a few years ago when sort of some corporate overlords made it a little more challenging for us to do so. This year, and then a couple years ago, we started purchasing fruit from a smaller Aava which is south of the Willamette Valley called Elkton. Really tiny like there’s, I mean, there’s only 150 People that live in ABA in the town there. So it’s a really small ABA and settled River Valley. One of our friends planted a vineyard there and we were super impressed with what he was doing. And so we’re committed to purchasing fruit there from for a really long time. So outside of the Willamette Valley, Elton Strattera is still just going to be purchasing fruit from the Willamette Valley Elgin today, or this year, we may be purchasing fruit from the Columbia Gorge from a new site that’s coming online. I’m gonna go visit them and a couple of weeks once flowering and kind of everything has happened. The frost delayed everything by quite a long time. So we’re we’re still not even seeing like flowering happened here yet. So we’re, we’re super delayed, like anecdotally, you know, we were picking towards the end of August, beginning of September last year, and this year, we’re not gonna be picking anything till around Halloween.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 32:10
Probably a very interesting year. It could be you know, there could be some really special ones made with with limited production there.
Luke Wylde 32:17
Yeah. So for Larry’s though, I am purchasing fruit from Elkton from the Willamette Valley and then all day yesterday, I was driving around and kind of central eastern Washington, looking at some fruit from some what will be new sights to me, but some I’m gonna take some longer contracts on like there’s a winery up there called hedges, which is a biodynamic, amazing site up on Red Mountain ABA in Washington. And so I mean for me like having the opportunity to purchase like hedges Red Mountain biodynamically. Farmed serraj is like cool sign me up right like I’ll take that and I think Larry’s is a really good brands to show off just like what a gorgeous vineyard that is and maybe like a slightly unconventional way than what hedges like kind of currently has in mind, but I think they’re gonna like what I ended up doing with it.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 33:09
For Larry is where do you get you said, you were looking like beyond burgundy and Strattera for inspiration. Where are you getting in regions of the world your inspiration for your Larry’s mourns?
Luke Wylde 33:20
So for first Tutera I’ll start there. I think like the Willamette Valley has done itself a disservice by comparing itself to burgundy. saying like, Oh, we’re on the 45th parallel parallel. So as
Drew Thomas Hendricks 33:34
burgundy every French firm decides to buy vineyards there,
Luke Wylde 33:38
right? But I mean, it’s, it’s kind of a, it seems kind of dumb. Like, why would you as the sort of, like, emerging brand call, its it would be like, you know, we’re not trying to be like, Pepsi to Coca Cola, right? Like, this is truly like a wine region that has the opportunity that Willamette Valley has the opportunity to make its own name. And so making your name and comparing yourself to somebody else is like, if Kobe would have just like, been constantly being like, I’m just like, I’m just like Michael Jordan, like, well, then nobody wants that, right? Like, we just want you to be Kobe, like, just be Kobe, you’re great. And the Willamette Valley has done itself a disservice there. I think Meredith and I, for the most part, draw, like a lot of our inspiration for what we want to do with Chardonnay from the Jura because, and you can kind of see it in our bottle shape too. Because like, frankly, those wines are great. And that’s kind of what I want to drink. And if I’m being honest, like, I don’t know, a lot of like small producer winemakers that can actually afford to drink burgundy, but I can’t afford to drink Jura. So like, it makes sense that the stuff that I would draw inspiration from is what I can actually afford, instead of being like, I’m gonna be Oregon’s DRC because like, that’s never gonna happen. It’s literally never gonna happen. For Larry’s like, I I hesitate to say that I don’t drugs Like inspiration from anywhere, but I really am trying to make wines that are representations of the region where I’m from and where I live. So like for Larry’s, I really just want to make stuff that tastes like we’re gonna taste like Washington
Drew Thomas Hendricks 35:16
about that fruit, the fruit component, because I’ve gotten really interested in that kind of wine fruit blends.
Luke Wylde 35:21
Yeah, I started in 2020, making sparkling wine of Pinot Gree reasoning and apple cider. The kind of the kind of original concept for it for me was kind of like, a COVID fever dream because I got COVID, super early in 2020. But the I was inspired by Nate ready up at high you and Dan ranky done it art and science. They make some kind of cider, wine, hybrid things that I think are really delicious. For me, it was one wanting to make like another again, like regional representations of beverages, which is like apples have been growing here a lot longer than grapes have. So it stands to reason that the stories of both of those things, like there’s space to tell them together. Another is that like, I’m getting older, and I want to drink things that have lower alcohol and having something that’s when 2530 40% apple cider really lowers the alcohol of the whole beverage. So instead of drinking something that’s going to be 12 and a half 13%, alcohols and all wine, suddenly, you’re hovering around in the kind of eight nines for something that’s got apple cider. And frankly, like, if you want to hang out and have a picnic, and safely drive home, share a bottle of bubbles that’s 9% with a friend. And we’ll never be upset by having less alcohol.
Bianca Harmon 36:45
I love it. I want to though, to you brought up your bottles. And I know that that that’s a big touch point for you, too, in your business is glass and packaging. And I’d like you to kind of touch on that for us. Before we get too carried away with time.
Luke Wylde 37:03
Yeah, so time does fly when you’re having fun. And I just looked down at the clients like holy smokes that went by now.
Bianca Harmon 37:09
And it’s just it was like, We need to talk about this because I know it’s Yeah.
Luke Wylde 37:13
So I think glass is a very serious conversation that large producers need to be having more and more around the worlds because the last I checked, we really only have around maybe 20, maybe 30 years left of sand left on planet Earth that we can that we can mine, that is of the quality to make windows. And to make glass bottles really are the same kind of glass that goes into a window, it’s the same kind of glass that goes into a glass bottle. Because we only have 25 to 30 years of this left, it means that we either have to get super creative around like alternative forms of packaging, or we have to adopt, you know, more reuse, not just recycling, because even if you’re recycling a bottle, let’s say you’re making like you’re gonna crush down a bottle and you’re gonna blow it back into something else, it still requires 30% new product to make a bottle again. So no matter what that system is not like a closed system of recycling. It is a problem that we’re running out of glass, not just for bottles, but I mean, construction is not slowing down. And people are going to want windows on their buildings. And modern architecture calls for really big huge glass panels, and you know, modern distribution of, of wine and lots of other packaged goods, calls for huge lots of glass bottles, things that can be distributed kind of all over the planet. We really should have a broader, industry wide conversation about what’s next, like glass is not our future. It cannot be it never will be. And we are really reaching the kind of the brink, like the edge is coming up where it’s going to be so unsustainable in terms of costs. And I’m sure that most producers you talk to you now are speaking to how difficult it’s becoming to find glass.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 39:11
Oh, yeah, that was the supplier. But even before that last year, I had a long conversation with Erica here a bit global package. We were talking about the weights of the bottles, and then she’s been looking into what’s called natural glass. Because most of the wine bottles can’t really use that amount of recycled glass in it because they’re not clear enough. Natural glass has the bubbles looks almost like a petroleum bottle. One of those Yeah. And that and there’s a little bit of that going on in Italy right now. But right now there’s no class plants that can actually handle that and produce a bottle, especially in United States that has to come from overseas, which increases the cost and the amount of energy it takes to actually get the bottles to the winery.
Bianca Harmon 39:51
Yeah, I just had actually which they should be. They’ll eventually be coming on the podcast but a woman Oh, it’s out A mother and daughters and they have one like luxury brand, but they’ve started another wine brand. And they’re using PET for their bottles. Great. And they’ve, and you know how everybody wants glass, you know, but it’s, you know, I don’t know, it’s pretty cool. And they’ve built the packaging to that you basically, when you finish these bottles, they all fit back in these in this packaging and everything goes right into your recycle bin. And the daughter went to school for science, like this big science science degree. And so they have manufactured these PHE bottles, they all fit into this packaging, so that no Styrofoam, no other stuff is added into it. And they go back in and they go back into the recycle.
Luke Wylde 40:47
Love it. See that, like creative solutions to pretty dire problems are, are what we have to look at, like, necessity is the mother of invention, kind of old proverb, were really like staring down the proverbial barrel of of having this sort of necessity. But I think a lot of the way like, a lot of our kind of consumer patterns and behaviors are still driven by this sort of narrative that like things are cool, like things are good. Like we’re not up against, you know, crazy inflation and supply chain issues. Still like consumers if everything’s fine. Right?
Drew Thomas Hendricks 41:29
What do you think’s the next for? What do you what do you think might replace glass if we’re looking for an alternative package?
Luke Wylde 41:36
So, you know, I think the conversation around like where glasses from is a big part of this because like, if we’re looking at the the like equity of farm labor, then we should also be looking at the like equity of like how sand is mined. And frankly, like where most of the sand in the world comes from that turns into glass bottles is not mine in a way that I think would like jive with people’s like, kind of like, oh, this mine is biodynamic. But it took slave labor to make the bottle. So it’s like kind of shrugging that part off. There’s, there’s aspects of that, that I think are going to drive our behaviors of consumption to a little bit more kind of like localized markets, it’s going to become unsustainable to have these huge polluting ships doing like hauling empty glass from France, just so that we can export our wine back to France full of these bottles. So that’s, that’s obviously not the long term solution. I think ultimately, we’re just gonna have to kind of like, turn ourselves inward and start producing our purchasing more locally. So doing something like what they’ve done in France for, you know, hundreds of years, which is like, show up at your local winery with your own jug LM up, though, you’ll pay by the leader. And that’s just kind of be like, you’re just going to drink what you’ve got there locally, doesn’t mean that we’re going to have the same sort of like, like, grocery store level like options right now where you can walk in and choose from hundreds of different products. Probably not, but there’s hundreds of different wineries nearby and you could probably purchase from people locally and be pretty happy with the results.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 43:11
I love the idea of the refillable growlers or the JUGS for wine. Nowadays, I wanted to have a store called jugs where we just sold one white and one red. Never got off the ground. No, I
Luke Wylde 43:22
bet because I bet there’s a lot of disappointed customers, when they walk in, they’re like, dang it fillable stuff.
Bianca Harmon 43:29
There used to be a liquor store, were close to where I lived, and you would go in and they had the wall of beers. And then they have an outsider’s and you would grab your jug, and you would fill it up, and then you would just go pay for it. And then you will come back with your jug. And it was fantastic. I mean, we had a conversation with a girlfriend of mine recently, about like, if we really want to get down to the root of the issue with glass and that kind of stuff to going back to where like you have you go into the grocery store and you fill up what you need of dry goods, and your glass jars and all of that, like, bring it back to all of that not even just the wine aspect of it. But you’re using what you need versus having a plethora of things and glass and items in your cabinets
Luke Wylde 44:16
100% That’s exactly the direction that we need to be headed. And we we should not place all of the sort of like responsibility on the consumer for fixing these, like those sort of larger problems that are systemic in terms of like how capitalism has set us up to just kind of over consume as an individual. But I do think that we get to make some healthy decisions for ourselves particularly around like the amount that we’re consuming. And that comes you know, under a microscope, when you’re filling up a bottle and you’re like do I really need to take on five of these bottles of wine or can I just take like, one at a time and just use that same thing goes for like honey and olive oil and lots of other stuff.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 44:59
You Yep, yep. Very, very true. So Luke is we’re kind of wrapping down here. I like to ask him any shoutouts you want to give any big respect right now in the industry?
Luke Wylde 45:10
Yeah, definitely. Vivian is the winemaker from RAM cellars. I really love all of her wines. She makes wine not too far away from my house. She and I are actually going to be pouring at this beer Wine Festival on on a Friday. She makes this Roussanne that I’m just like, absolutely obsessed with and I want to drink it. Whenever I see her. I’m like, did you bring it like I try this right now. And I already mentioned Dan Ranky. From art and science and art and science is just a huge inspiration to me. Dan ranky consults with Johan vineyard here in the Willamette Valley now and he was the grape grower there for a long time, Meredith and I have purchased Johan vineyards fruit for a long time. And so like anything he touches is just gorgeous. And I would be remiss to not mention Johann to think Morgan Hall. They’re the winemaker. She’s an incredible person and her dedication to this to this vineyard and the wines that they make. They’re just out of this world.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 46:13
Awesome. Very, very good. And I really wish you a happy festival. Friday, it sounds like a fantastic event. Yeah, we’re gonna get found out more about us to Statera and Lares Wines.
Luke Wylde 46:27
I think like Instagram is a really good place to hit us up. You can follow us on Instagram. I tend to be a very like conversational person, as I think you’ve learned in this podcast. So if anybody ever has any questions, like we’re pretty transparent, and we like to open like open dialogue with folks. So hit us up. Ask us Anything you want to know about the wines. And that’s a great place to get started and then we can kind of go from there.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 46:54
Sounds fantastic. Well, Luke, thank you and I’m gonna grab a bottle this patio. That looks fantastic. Yeah, let’s get you one. So thank you very much. Have a great day.
Luke Wylde 47:04
Thank you. Bye, y’all.
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