If there is such a thing as the luck of the Irish, winemaker Owen Roe's David O'Reilly has found a pot of gold in the Pacific Northwest wine business.
O'Reilly is a dapper man - meticulous in appearance and in his work. When he smiles, there is mischief in his eyes and smile crinkles-a sign that smiling is a frequent behavior.
Everything about Owen Roe that O'Reilly touches has to be the best. It is almost an obsession with him. From huge, gorgeous wines to hand-numbered bottles and objects of art gracing his labels, O'Reilly spends the money for a total package.
"Every thing we do is meticulous," said O'Reilly, 37, one of 12 children born in Belfast, Ireland. "What we do is totally uncompromised. It is a lifestyle that includes hard work, but the product is thoroughly rewarding."
Everything O'Reilly does is also thoroughly Irish. The wineries associated with O'Reilly- Owen Roe, O'Reilly's - have ties to his former homeland. Owen Roe was named for Owen Roe O'Neil, a great Irish patriot.
"I like to tell people that I got involved in the business to follow an Irishman's dreams," said O'Reilly with a wink and an Irish brogue that comes and goes. "Imagine making a living by drinking!"
He jokes of course, because O'Reilly is dead serious about wine making. Although he enjoys the high ratings bestowed on his wines, O'Reilly says he is more satisfied with great taste.
From Harsh Life to Lush Life
The combination of his Irish heritage and obsession about being the best says a lot about the affable winemaker. His luck and his taste for the good life wasn't always granted.
As a young child in Belfast, the O'Reilly family - all 14 of them - was of modest means. Life was harsh, and often violent as the family witnessed a depressing catalogue of death and injury due to sectarian violence.
O'Reilly said two of his uncles were murdered, a sister suffered a traumatic injury, and one never knew when and where a homemade bomb would explode. His family scraped up enough money to move to British Columbia, Canada just before his teen years, and O'Reilly never looked back.
"I'm sure the past did have some impact on why I want the best from what I produce," O'Reilly said, thoughtfully. "I'm not like Frank McCourt in Angela's Ashes-I choose not to look back and dwell on the past."
On to Oregon
Instead, O'Reilly looked to the future, majoring in philosophy at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, CA, where he met his future wife, Angelica. It was there that he discovered a love of land and soil. He worked at a small winery in Southern California performing all the tasks necessary to get the wine out the door.
"If you want to study truth and reality, it's grounded in nature," O'Reilly said. "The wine business is drawn intrinsically to nature and soil. You don't get into this business to make a fortune - I was drawn to it."