Evesham Wood and Le Puits Sec Vineyard are owned and operated by Erin Nuccio.
Erin purchased the winery from former owners Russ and Mary Raney in 2010 after working with Russ for several years. They have a superbly farmed organic vineyard, a label synonymous with quality at a great price, and legions of loyal fans.
With the change of hands at Evesham Wood Winery, Pinot noir enthusiasts are finding the same remarkable wines they've collected through Evesham's 25-year-old history. The beautifully nuanced wines continue to express the unique flavors of the organically certified Le Puits Sec vineyard, and the wines continue to deliver exceptional value.
Often when a winery is sold to a new owner, the new winemaker wants the wine to reflect his or her personal taste and style. Winery loyalists wonder if their favorite wines will disappear or at the least, dramatically change with the new ownership. That simply didn’t happen when Erin Nuccio purchased Evesham Wood from Russ Raney. Anyone who says otherwise is itching for a fight! (We know Evesham wines inside and out - it’s one of our favorite wineries, and we buy, cellar and drink them regularly.)
"I had a tremendous amount of respect for Russ and his style of winemaking," Erin said. “I knew Evesham was a special place and that it should not be changed or compromised."
Erin had worked with Russ for several harvests before the idea of buying the winery surfaced. Nuccio originally wanted to start a winery from scratch to express his own winemaking voice. In fact, when Russ first approached Erin about buying Evesham Wood, Erin turned him down.
"I knew the answer was no," says Erin. "I didn't want to take over an existing winery. I didn't want comparisons. I didn't want people to think I messed with something that they thought was special."
What sealed the deal for Nuccio was that his own wine, Haden Fig, could co-exist with Evesham. It would become the label for Nuccio to take some risks and challenge his hand at winemaking.
"When I realized it was possible to do both Evesham Wood and Haden Fig, I knew this is where we were headed," he added.
It’s important to understand a key reason Russ offered to sell Evesham to Erin - Russ was confident that Erin would utilize the same winemaking and grape growing philosophies that Evesham was founded on. “Our philosophies on wine making and vineyard management are virtually identical,” confirmed Russ.
He also knew Erin would keep the name. “That was music to our ears," Russ said. "I guess I wanted to have a legacy, at least for the vineyard.”
Russ and Erin remain close. They taste through barrels each vintage, particularly during the selection process for Cuvee J, Evesham’s top wine.
The Wine Bug
A man born with a chef's palate, Erin intended to study at a culinary school in the Washington, D.C. region when he got a job at a prominent wine shop. As he tasted, studied, and sold wines, absorbing information from knowledgeable wine professionals with years of experience, he felt the nibble of the wine bug, which turned into a full blown chomp. He ditched culinary school to work in any and all kinds of wine sales, importing, and distribution.
When his wife, Jordan, decided to go to veterinary school in Massachusetts in 2000, Erin sold wine for a distributor distributor while trying to figure out where the wine industry might take him. The couple decided to head west after Jordan's graduation in 2005 to see where he might possibly open a wine shop and she might open a veterinary practice.
The Nuccios traveled to Washington and Oregon (too rainy!), and to Northern California, where they eventually settled in Berkeley. The Bay Area exposed Erin to even more wines and enthusiasts, and brought him closer to Napa and Sonoma. His evolution of thought turned to winemaking; he wanted to find a special place in which to showcase his winemaking style.
"The reason I didn't make wine in California was that I couldn't passionately make wine in California. I wanted to believe 100% in my wines, and I couldn't express my winemaking style under those growing conditions."
Even while Erin was studying in California he wanted to make wine in Oregon. "I had realized exactly what I was meant to do with my life. I was just in the wrong state."
Erin and Jordan had talked a lot about moving to Oregon, but the issue of Oregon's rainy climate had been a sticking point. After 45 straight days of rain in Berkeley, Jordan realized that a soggy winter wasn't such a bad thing. Now she says she can't imagine living anywhere else.
After moving to Portland in the summer of 2007, Erin's plan was to spend a couple years as an assistant winemaker while looking for vineyard land and gradually launching his own winery. Erin emailed only one winemaker - Russ Raney, then owner and winemaker of Evesham Wood, asking for a job as Russ' assistant.
Russ said “no,” but he invited Erin out for a visit to the winery. Upon their meeting in June, Erin and Russ immediately became friends. They spent the whole day together in the cellar and vineyard and found incredible common and shared perspectives on wine, winemaking, and viticulture. Erin figured the day was going so well, why not ask Russ for a job again? The answer, again, was no. But Russ suggested he work harvest at Evesham and offered to let Erin make his own wine there.
While Erin felt it was the right thing to do for the 2007 harvest, he planned to seek an assistant winemaker job at a different winery after harvest. Later in fall, Erin was at a party talking with an accomplished Oregon winemaker, who commented that the greatest Oregon Pinots he had ever tasted had been made by Russ. That's when things finally clicked: the opportunity to make wine with Russ, even without an official job title or really any structure, was something Erin couldn't pass up. He knew he'd come back in 2008 and stay until he got kicked out.
Evesham Wood annually produces about 5,000 to 6,000 cases of wine - 85 to 90 percent of it is Pinot Noir. Haden Fig produces about 1,500 cases, primarily Pinot noir with small amounts of Pinot Gris, Pinot blanc, and Chardonnay. The estate vineyard, Le Puits Sec, has been certified organic since 2000 and dry-farmed long before that.
There is no fancy equipment, says Nuccio. The bottling and labels are done by hand. Volunteers come out to help during winery events such as harvest.
"One of the things I love about this place is that we are connected to the wine; we are connected to the soil in a very physical way," Nuccio said. "Smelling and tasting is our laboratory. It may take two times as long to get things done when you are working with gravity more than machines, but it is a way of life we enjoy."