While Jerry’s wine journey officially began in 2001, looking back, he can see that his entire life had been preparing him for it.
Born in an agricultural community in Ohio, Jerry spent his summers on hay wagons and in pigpens. He later went on to study Physiology at Ohio University where he completed his bachelor’s degree and attended graduate school. He took a position as an anatomy instructor at the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine, yet it wasn’t long before Jerry realized that he and academia were a square peg and a round hole.
Wanting work that was less cerebral, more creative and required him to “make” something. He eventually moved to New Orleans with the intention of learning a trade such as iron or stonework. Instead, he was seduced by the lure of the kitchen and set out on a culinary career.
It was in Tucson, Arizona while working with Chef Alan Zeman at Fuego Restaurant that Jerry developed an interest in wine as he worked with the Sommelier’s to construct menus for winemaker dinners. When he arrived in Portland, Oregon, wine was no longer something that happened in faraway places. He increasingly found himself touring wine country, walking vineyards and meeting winemakers. Then came the moment that sent him on his path.
On May 7th of 2001, Jerry met the legendary David Lett, “Papa Pinot” of the Eyrie Vineyard. In Lett, he met a man of little compromise and realized there might be a place in the world for him in winemaking.
Jerry was hired on at Erath Vineyards for the 2001 vintage. During a late night in the cellar, wet and freezing cold he realized that his entire life, agriculture, science and food were leading him to that moment. What followed was an intensive, self-directed, winemaking education. In the Willamette Valley, he spent time at many cellars, among them Panther Creek Cellars and Chehalem Wines. The journey led him to, twice, work in New Zealand. In 2003 Jerry traveled to the Marlborough region to work at Highfield Estate with Al Soper. He returned in 2004, this time to Martinborough Vineyard where he worked with Claire Mulholland. That fall he completed the year’s second harvest at Panther Creek where he “finished on a Friday and headed to Germany on Sunday,” concluding his third harvest for the year with famed Selbach-Oster in the Mosel Valley.
Soon after returning, in the spring of 2005, he was given the opportunity to take over winemaking and vineyard management duties at Patton Valley Vineyard. In his five years there, he honed his skills, and his reputation grew. That reputation caught the eye of Van Duzer Vineyard’s owner Carl Thoma who had recommitted to taking Van Duzer to the next level. Jerry made sweeping changes in Van Duzer’s winemaking, farming and culture.
In spring of 2013, Jerry was lured away, yet again, by another great opportunity. The legendary Champagne Louis Roederer had recently launched a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay project in California’s Anderson Valley. Jerry was tapped to head their exciting, new project, Domaine Anderson.
Learning that like the vine, winemakers have climates and soils they are best suited to, Jerry and his family returned home to the Willamette Valley and launched PROJECT M and élevage consulting.
Jerry happily calls McMinnville, Oregon, home with his wife and business partner Meg Murray, daughter Matilda and a son on the way.