Posts Categorized: News

Outside the Winery w/ Winemaker, Cheney Vidrine

First things first. Keep your distance, wash your hands, and wear your mask. Please and thanks. That being said, for those who love the outdoors, (like most of us here at UWCo), there are still plenty of ways to get outside and recreate responsibly. Join us as we follow one of our winemakers, Cheney Vidrine, to do just that. We explore the activities that many Oregonians know and love. From going vert at Smith Rock, to cooling off in the rapids of the Deschutes River. Then, letting gravity take us home, mountain biking from Timberline Lodge to Government Camp. Get ready, it’s going to be a wild ride.

6:30 am. Saturday morning. Terrebonne, OR. The parking lot at the trailhead of Smith Rock State Park looks something like an REI yard sale. Climbers slowly unloading all kinds of devices for ascending the 30 million-year-old volcanic Tuff formations. Counting each glimmering piece of gear with precise selection. Through the morning light, a familiar face (after he removes his mask) makes an appearance. Our very own Cheney Vidrine. As he makes his way past the cars greeting folks left and right, I wave a hand. We exchange greetings and go over the plan for the next few days. Listing off activities such as river rafting and downhill mountain biking as calmly as someone would explain a walk through a park. It is obvious Cheney is in his element.

Back home, Cheney is one of our talented winemakers overseeing the daily ins and outs that are required to create our delicious wines. Here in the central Oregon outback, Cheney is one of the many outdoor enthusiasts. What better place to take all that enthusiasm than to the birthplace of U.S. sport climbing, Smith Rock? We walked down the trail and crossed over the Crooked River Bridge. Just a hop, skip, and a jump, and we were at our first stop; The Morning Glory Wall. As I watched with a confused look on my face at the knot tying and climbing doodad organizing, I asked Cheney how he got into climbing. He said “Climbing was 2007. I was trying to get into whitewater rafting, but couldn’t afford it. My grad school roommate took me climbing. I was hooked. It was my only sport for a decade.”

As I watched Cheney and his rock scaling comrades go up and down the old lava wall, I was mesmerized. It was a beautiful way to start the morning. As the sun snuck over the edge of the peaks, the temperatures slowly but surely began to creep up. Luckily, we had a few (low alcohol) Riesling Radler’s and Strawberry Coolers to bring the internal temps down. The temps climbed higher and faster than anyone rigged up, so we decided it was time to pack up and head to the water.

An hour and 20-minute drive took us to the town of Maupin, Oregon. It was time to inflate the rafts, dish out the life vests, and sink the drag bag (the best way to keep those wine cans cold). We met up with some more of Cheney’s outdoor rec squad. After introductions were made and vessels were chosen, we launched. The cold Deschutes waters have never felt better than on this hot July day. After making sure my life jacket would probably keep me afloat, I figured it was time to ask Raft Captain Cheney some more adventure life questions. “So, when did you get this raft?” I asked, as I dangled one leg over the side and attempted my smoothest paddle. Cheney looked up, smiled, and said “I started rafting/whitewater kayaking in 2018. That’s when I essentially won the lottery: The Grand Canyon permit lottery.” For those that are unfamiliar, this is an incredibly lucky permit to draw. Cheney definitely has some good sportsman’s karma. With an even bigger smile and chuckle, he continues. “I didn’t think I would pick up a permit for years. I immediately bought a boat and forced my river friends to show me their ways.” We continued down the winding river with the sun to our backs and Cheney having us paddle “right side forward” or “left side back.” Everything was warm, calm, and serene. That all quickly changed once we hit some large rapids and a few folks, (including myself), went flying out of the raft. Laughing and swimming back to the yellow point of safety, we continued on our way. I looked back at the end of the boat just in time to catch a can of wine tossed over from our fearless captain. Not a bad way to cool down. After some hours of floating, paddling, bailing, and boat trading, we made it to the end of our river trip. We aired down the rafts and piled into Cheney and his girlfriend’s Anaïs’ Sprinter to take us back to our vehicles. It was time to make camp, and more importantly, make dinner.

Day two. After a beautiful night spent under the Milky Way with Cheney and Co., we packed the rigs to head to our third adventure. Mountain biking down Mt. Hood. We took the back road through Tygh Valley and headed to Timberline Lodge. Once there, we found some parking for all the adventure mobiles. Cheney and Anaïs have a sprinter that they travel to all their adventures in, but it’s more like an REI on wheels. Complete with a kitchen, sink, and mini garage under the sleeping quarters. While assembling his mountain bike and dawning more protection gear than I saw in the last Batman flick, I hovered nearby. My curiosity must have been written on my face. Cheney leans over and says “Mountain Biking started in 2017. After years of many of my friends nagging me to buy a bike. I fought it because I didn’t want to climb less or hurt myself. I’m glad I finally gave in. It is the best!” It was time get off this mountain. Sophie, their trusty dog, joined in for the mountain run. We raced down the road to meet up with the two-wheeled human batteries at the halfway point. There were a few fun jumps that were hit with significant speed. There’s a saying in the mountain biking community; “the slower you go, the more likely it is you’ll crash.” Apparently, that is the truth because they were flying.

After all that adventure, the squad met up at the Government Camp Dairy Queen for some cold treats. It was a weekend for the books to say the least. Gravity was tested in a number of different forms. We flowed with and fell into some of the most beautiful waters the state has to offer. Whether you’re cracking cans under the Milky Way or sipping cold wine coolers from a raft, Oregon is one hell of a state. Remember to stay safe out there. Abide by the rules and respect your fellow humans. We’re all in this together. Let’s try to see as much beauty as we can. Until next time.

#pinkiesdown

Photo credit: Austin White @austingwhite  austinwhitephotography.com

Safety and Self Expression: Making your very own Mask

 Joanna
Here at Union the safety and security of our employees is our utmost concern. Although our production facility is operating more or less uninterrupted to make sure everyone out there has access to our wines, there are real and dedicated people showing up and working every day making that happen. We have to make sure these fine and friendly folks overseeing the process stay safe and remain healthy.
 
As COVID safety becomes an excepted part of our daily lives, people have begun to use the necessity of wearing a mask as a personal expression of their style and interests. We support that 100%, which is why when our Enologist (don’t worry, an explanation will be provided forthwith) came to us and said she was making stylish and comfortable homemade masks, we asked if she wouldn’t mind sewing a few for her fellow employees who might need a little joie de vivre in their facial covering.  
 
She was more than happy to contribute.
 
Joanna
Please meet our Enologist (and mask maker,) Joanna Engel. For the uninitiated, an enologist is basically a wine scientist. Most of her days are spent testing the acidity, sulfur, sugar levels, and overall taste of each wine throughout the fermentation process. Joanna first worked with Union as an intern back in 2018 but has traveled the world from California to New Zealand working wine harvests. Since then, she has happily settled in Oregon and taken up a full-time position at Union, not only as the Enologist but as their Safety Supervisor as well, which in these trying times really requires some forethought and strategy. Currently, Joanna is working on how to safely execute Union’s grape harvest, which is coming up very soon.
 
On top of all this responsibility, she somehow found the time to sew about 40 new masks for her fellow employees!
 
So, without further ado, let’s talk about… 
 
Mask Pattern
 You can find the full pattern for free HERE. Joanna is a self-taught seamstress and she found this pattern when searching around the internet. The reason she liked it was because unlike the cloth masks that cover your entire lower face, these are sculpted to just cover the necessary parts, while still providing full protection. Joanna advises that if you get to a point in the pattern that is causing confusion, just look it up on YouTube, where there are hundreds of helpful videos.
 
The other great aspect of this pattern is an inside pocket to add an extra filter if you feel you need it. Just google ‘Carbon Mask Filter’ to find many options. Once you have sewn the mask, Joanna recommends a simple standard elastic, secured with crimping beads. She leaves the elastic a little long and the beads uncrimped, allowing the wearer to custom fit the length of the elastic to their face and then crimp the beads themselves.
 
Crimp the beads
Now that you’ve got the skinny on how you can do this yourself, let’s take a quick look at the Union packaging facility, and all of these beautiful masks not only in use but modeled expertly by our staff.
 
First up, Alexandra Scharpnick. Her official title is Customer Experience and Hospitality Specialist. Since there hasn’t been as much socializing lately, Alexandra has stepped up to the role of overseeing shipping. She’s also the unofficial “mama bear” of the packaging facility, making sure everyone is safe and has snacks to keep up their energy.
 
Alexandra
Alexandra
Next up is Meredith McGough, head Production Winemaker. Meredith oversees the packaging facility and keeps all the many moving parts running smoothly.
 
Meredith
Meredith
Chris Miller oversees all the maintenance at the packaging facility. He wears many hats, and now he’s got a double scoop mask to match.
 
Chris
Chris
And finally, we have our Warehouse Support Specialist, Jenna Morris. A more recent hire, Jenna has quickly ingratiated herself as a full-fledged member of the Union family.
 
Jenna
Jenna
So in conclusion, we just want to say thanks again to Joanna:  Enologist, Safety Specialist, and mask-maker extraordinaire. She truly represents the heart and soul of the Union Family…and we’re definitely not kitten around.
 
Joanna
Photography and Text by David L. Reamer. (@dlreamer)
 
Masks by Joanna Engel.  @jo_will_run_for_wine

Get Involved

Hello,

We have been spending some time reflecting as a team, thinking about the issues facing our country and community, and we have put together the beginnings of a list of resources that we have found helpful. Our hope is to support efforts to bring awareness around the Black and LGBTQ communities throughout the year, every year. We will continue to work and to listen and to educate ourselves.  We want to see a change and are open to conversations, collaborations and suggestions on any ways we can do more.

Please join in on our discussion. Leave comments about how you are feeling, what you have learned, any resources you have found helpful in the Comments Section below.

Thank you.

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Welcome to “the 115”: Union’s Bottling and Canning Facility

Here at Union Wine Company, we believe that good wine should be accessible. A while back we came up with an idea to put our wine in cans. Now, six years later, the canned wine industry is taking wine to places it has never been (literally). 

We want to give you a behind the scenes peek into our packaging facility so you can see the process that goes into bringing our cans—and bottles—into your hands.

Underwood PG

Our packaging facility which opened in 2018 is the largest canning and bottling facility in Oregon. When running at full speed, it can go head-to-head with a Coca-Cola bottling plant. The 115, which is what we call it because its’ address is on 115th Ave. in Tualatin, is capable of holding up to 40,000 gallons of wine at one time, and we can produce 4,300 cases of canned wine in a day. 

Simply put, that’s a lot of wine.

This has been a huge upgrade from our early days as a company when we had to rent a mobile bottling truck for each round of production. As the demand for our wines increased, opening a packaging facility was a necessity. We have a total of nine full-time employees who are experts in the field and run our packaging plant year-round. 

The packaging process.

Packaging begins when bulk pallets of empty wine bottles and recycled cans arrive at our facility. 

The 115

Union Wine Company

Fun Fact: One of the greatest pros of using cans over bottles is that each can is made out of 70% recycled materials. 

Cans and bottles are then moved by our staff onto a feeder where they will be rinsed, cleaned from the inside out, and marked with a tracking code.

Bottles are then sparged—or flushed out—with inert gas (Nitrogen) and cans are purged with compressed air after passing an ionizer, allowing any particulate to be blown out.

Union Wine Company

After being thoroughly cleaned, the can or bottle makes its way to the filler where it gets filled with the proper vintage of wine. The ends of cans are then sealed shut and screw caps are applied to the bottles. Before the cans of still wine (non-bubbles) are sealed, a drop of nitrogen is added at the top to prevent the wine from oxidizing. 

Our can filler is capable of filling 200 cans per minute, and the bottle filler is able to fill 100 bottles per minute.

The 115

Underwood Canned Wine

 Fun Fact: The Vintage of each wine is printed on the bottom of every can. 

After being filled and sealed, the product goes through another rinsing tunnel to get cleaned off. The cans are then put into 12-pack cases, and the bottles go to a drop-packer for cases of 12 as well.

The same wine goes into the cans as we put into bottles. 

Still with me? While this entire process may sound complicated, it takes only half an hour from start to finish.  

The 115

Cans have a lower environmental impact than bottles.

As a company, we have always been committed to the health of our planet and making sustainable choices for our future. Whether it is through our winemaking practices, or through promoting recyclable products, we always think about how we are impacting the environment.

Why are cans more eco-friendly than bottles? 

While both cans and bottles are recyclable, bottles leave the larger carbon footprint of the two.

The transportation of bottled wine creates 20% more greenhouse gases than transporting the same amount of canned wine. This is because bottles require more cardboard to package and take up more space in trucks. Aluminum cans are simply easier to package and ship and the environment benefits from this choice. 

Underwood Wine in a can

From production to hands, and back again

Another benefit of aluminum cans is that they are 100% recyclable and the process of getting them back into production is faster than you might expect. From the time you toss a can into a recycling bin, it takes only 60 days for it to be fully reused and back on supermarket shelves. 

We love our wine, but we love the global community we live in too, and we hope with our new packaging facility we can continue to move towards a greener future. 

Earth Day 2020 and Our Garden at Amity Vineyards

Amity Vineyards

Today is April 22, 2020, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and the earth is going through some strange times. The air is clearer and cleaner now than it has been in years, the skies and oceans are quieter, and I’m sure all the creatures and plants are enjoying the respite from our typically busy lives. That should all be good news on this momentous Earth Day, and it is, but unfortunately, this has all come at a huge cost to humans. We at Union Wine Company hope that there is an end to social distancing soon and that everyone stays healthy until the public health experts and epidemiologists come up with a solution that allows us to go back to “normal.” However, we also hope that we—the collective we—come out of this smarter and more aware and in tune with the choices we make and how they affect Mother Earth. We have an awesome opportunity to make some changes and scale back some of our typically polluting ways.  

During this time of remote work and fewer activities we may also have gotten into some better eating habits, and maybe are even growing more of our own food, or looking to local farmers markets for fresh, organic produce. Another great thing to do is to join a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture.) CSA’s are a fantastic way to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer.  

As a company, we have always tried to be responsible in our winemaking and grape growing. We are LIVE Certified Sustainable at our winery and at Amity Vineyards. Dry farming has always been in practice at Amity, and we have a history of working to create a beautiful bio-diversity at the vineyard that benefits all of us.  

Amity Vineyards Blueberry

Amity Vineyards was planted nearly 50 years ago with own rooted vines. At that time, and now, there is a passion for not only growing grapes, but also for keeping the natural biodiversity strong by growing flowers, fruit trees, and vegetables. There is a 30-year-old blueberry bush on the property, a giant fig tree, and a huge apple tree. Peonies and lilies have been favorite flowers at Amity from the beginning. And, today at the vineyard we have citrus in the greenhouse and olive trees beginning to grow along the driveway. 

Amity Vineyards Garden

In 2017, to keep up the tradition of cultivating more richness and biodiversity at the vineyard, we brought in a full-time gardener and vegetable farmer extraordinaire, Mandy Caldcleugh. Mandy plants and maintains a beautiful vegetable garden high on the hill of the vineyard. Her efforts sustain the land and bring in beneficial insects and pollinators, creating a diverse ecosystem that keeps disease pressure down and facilitates a more holistic environment. Additionally, Mandy focuses on growing vegetables, flowers and plants that go to our families and friends at the winery and will eventually sustain our hospitality program and tasting room.  

Amity Gardens CSA box

Lucky for us, Mandy provides all employees a bin of vegetables on a weekly basis about 9 months of the year—a free Union benefit that we all enjoy and that helps to keep us healthy.    

Right now, in the garden at Amity, you’ll find leeks, green garlic, spring onions, shallots, radicchio, frisée, fava greens, and purple sprouting broccoli, also borage and bees friend. And very soon we’ll be enjoying lots of potatoes, beets, carrots, turnips, lettuce and kohlrabi, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards…I think you get the idea.
Amity Vineyards garden

Oh, and the rhubarb is producing and all the strawberries are flowering.

We wish you a Happy and Healthy Earth Day! 

Stay well and take good care of our earth.