Karl Weichold had a prosperous career in pharmacy sales at his fingertips when a weekend spent working at a winery with a friend caused him to do an about-face. Although he had plans to start a pharmacy sales job that Monday, he recognized he could achieve his ideal profession working with grapes instead.
“Realizing I could blend my love for science and art in the creative sense and my appreciation for nature all into one job,” Weichold says. “I decided making less money didn’t matter. I had to pursue winemaking.”
He began making wine in Texas where he was born and raised. In 2009 he moved to Oregon because he wanted to be closer to the Pinot Noir culture. After settling in the Willamette Valley, Weichold worked a few wine-related jobs. During the time from his volunteer stint until 2009, he developed an even deeper, nuanced passion for wine making, learned more about the science behind better wine processing and a better understanding of grapes. Then he landed as assistant winemaker at Erath Winery in Dundee, Oregon, where he is today.
1) What are the responsibilities of an assistant winemaker?
Along with the winemaker, I make quality judgements on the ripeness of the fruit to inform harvest decisions. I monitor certain aspects of fruit reception, processing and fermentation, and I oversee quality standards of production from grape to bottle. Crafting plans to create blends based on wine quality and style goals is another part of my job description.
2) What has been your most shining development at Erath?
The 2016 Oregon Rosé of Pinot Noir was my first end-to-end project, from vintage to bottling. I got to drill down to what I like about rosés and Pinot Noirs. By combining the two grapes, we were trying to showcase some of their more ethereal flavors. We picked the grapes for the rosé earlier to keep the acid taut and refreshing. That also preserved the more delicate flavors of nectarine, white peach, citrus and some floral notes. To me, this style elegantly expressed the rosé.
3) If you started your own winery, what would you name it?
Since I’ve been with Erath that’s not something I’ve given much thought. I do know that at some point I would like to give homage to one of the most important men in my life, my late grandfather. So, whether it’s for a charitable cause or a wine I’ve yet to create or some other great point of pride, something I will make will be called Myron Benjamin.
4) What can a visitor to Dundee do in addition to the inevitable winery tours?
The area around Newberg and Dundee is experiencing a revival. That includes my wife, Emily’s new project, Barley & Vine Tavern. She recently started this wine bar and taproom [in Newberg] that has become a popular spot for both locals and visitors. For great dining destinations, try Recipe Part Deux, The Painted Lady or Ruddick/Wood [all in Newberg].