In the 80’s in California, a young man had a wine-making hobby, and a vision. But then that young man had two kids, moved to Oregon, and had a career spanning several decades. The vision waited patiently until one day, newly retired and finally caught up on every conceivable family handy-man project, the man said, “I will make wine.” And he did.
That man is my dad, Big Ed Wagner. Take it from me, the man is a perfectionist and his wine is *chef’s kiss* delicious. He started thinking about the wine-making he had so enjoyed in his earlier days, and decided that since he and his friends and numerous in-laws all enjoyed drinking wine, he should pursue it. But this time, it wouldn’t be mere fooling around in a shed with 30 little vines. This time, he would apply his machinist’s perfectionism to a large-scale project. Not only would he make wine, he would grow the grapes as well.
Fortunately, the old machinist had an invaluable resource: Christina Wagner, his wife, the master gardener behind the eight lush acres of gardens that surround Barnello Winery. When he confided in her in late 2012 that he needed a project and wanted to do it “the Wagner way,” she immediately started thinking about the sweet new little plants that would be coming to live with them. As Ed applied rototiller, ripper, post-hole digger, and all manner of other machines to the former horse pasture that would become the vineyard, Christina thought about the soil, determined the mulching process, and ultimately gave Ed the ok to plant 400 vines in September of 2013. That’s right, the vineyard was planted in fall, and it thrived.
They, and their kids Kim (that’s me!) and Ed, and several of the OG wine club members together planted 150 bare root Chardonnay vines and 250 bare root Pinot Noir vines, split between Dijon clones 115 and 777. Perfectly spaced along Ed’s perfectly aligned vertical trellis system, fed by the Willamette Valley’s native hemlock mulch, abundant rains, and clay soil, and heartened by towering firs, flourishing rhododendrons and other native plants, the little vines took off!
While they grew, Big Ed was hard at work learning everything he could about wine-making. He read old books and new research, took classes, and bought grapes from all over the Willamette Valley to make Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sangiovese, and Cabernet Sauvignon. He perfected his recipes and processes, and watched the grapes grow. In 2016, three years after planting the vineyard, he had his first tiny harvest of 200 pounds and made several bottles of very, very new wine. And then, 2017.
In 2017, there was a total eclipse of the sun 20 minutes south of the vineyard, and the vines went nuts. That year, we harvested 6,000 pounds of grapes, more than the vines should probably even support. Our 2017 pinot noir is excellent, light and easy-drinking, and a fan favorite. Since then, Ed has learned more about pruning (with guidance by Christina) and in 2018 and 2019, we harvested about 4,500 pounds of grapes to make our 2018 Pinot Noir Reserve, 2018 Chardonnay, and most recently the 2019 Rosé. He continues to obsess about Brix levels, acidity, titrates, gross and fine lees, as he ultimately brings an artisan’s passion to each unique batch of wine.
There is only one problem: we now make thousands of bottles of wine every year, and it’s more than we could ever need. Fortunately, everyone who has tried my dad’s wine loves it, and he’s even earned high marks from the Sommelier Group, who awarded his 2018 Pinot Noir a 91 rating, and from Wine Maker Magazine, in which his Chardonnay came in third place among 91 entries from all over the world. We decided to sell it in limited quantities as Barnello Wine, a play on the famous Italian Brunello wines of Tuscany and the fact that most of our wine-making process takes place in our old red barn. We present it here for you, and hope that you’ll enjoy drinking it as much as we’ve enjoyed making it. From our family to yours, cheers, salud, good health, much laughter and good wine.