Carrying the Legacy of Jimi Brooks
by Peter J Troilo
I had no knowledge of Brooks Winery until this week when I met with their winemaker Chris Williams.
The more I read about its founder, the late Jimi Brooks, the more I become inspired and wish we would have crossed paths at some point in our lives.
In 1998, Jimi Brooks (a Portland native) founded Brooks Winery with the vision of crafting wines with great depth, flavor and balance by farming with great care for the land and vines. His focus was on biodynamic and organic farming. He started just after graduating from college by traveling to France and landing with Deschamps in Beaujolais. It was there he learned about the great importance of care in the vineyard and built the necessary callouses of experience. There are certainly more romantic places to learn the craft. But for those with a certain passion and zest for life, farming isn't about romance. I can't think of a more appropriate place for Brooks to have gotten his start.
In 1996, Brooks moved back to Oregon and began working as Assistant Winemaker for WillaKenzie Estate. While at WillaKenzie, he started his own label "Brooks Winery" in 1998. He was then recruited by Maysara as Winemaker and Vineyard Manager. His winemaking philosophy was rather simple: farming and balance. In 2002, he began using only organically grown grapes for the Brooks wines. All the right critics were taking notice of the changes.
In September of 2004, as the winery prepped to take a large leap forward and harvest a tremendous amount of contracted fruit, Brooks suffered a sudden heart attack and passed away at the young age of 38. The Willamette Valley winemaking community came together donating their time and resources to harvest for Brooks Winery and keep Brook's vision going. It's a shining example of how things are done in Willamette Valley and how some legacy are never meant to disappear. Today, the Brooks' legacy is carried on by Jimi's ultimate passion, his son Pascal, who owns the estate. The estate is directed by his sister Janie Brooks Heuck and the very talented Chris Williams was hired as the winemaker in 2006.
This are the first of the Brooks Winery wines I've tasted. I'm anxious to have them in the store and share with our clients. I suspect we'll start to see them arrive next week (May 7th, 2014). Chris is crafting a series of awesome white wines including riesling and gewurztraminer. I'll report on those wine in a future post. If you have a moment to check out the Brooks Winery website, I suggest learning more about their story. I've copied a link below. The more you learn about this winery, the more you'll want to try the wines. And once you try the wines, I promise you'll be back for more.
Excellent introduction to Chris’s textbook Willamette Valley style with dark fruit, tea leaf, cola and underlying mushroom tones. Silky but with just the right cut to give the wine freshness.
2012 Brooks Winery Willamette Valley Pinot Noir - $29 the bottle (10% case discount)
Instant smile. Instant gratification. Gorgeous color extraction. Bright aromatics of bing cherry, cola, dried flowers a touch of sweet clove and earth. Silky smooth texture that’s supported by fine grained tannins subtly transferring this wine to a seamless finish. Not sure I’ve found a better wine from Oregon for under $30.
2010 Brooks Winery “Rastaban” Eola-Amity Hills Oregon - $60 the bottle (10% case discount)
I haven’t the words for this wine so I’m going to leave to Josh Raynolds of the International Wine Cellar, “Bright ruby-red. A heady, complex bouquet displays scents of fresh red berries, Asian spices, musky underbrush and cola. Sappy, penetrating and focused, offering sweet black raspberry and cherry-cola flavors that pick up a smoky nuance with air. Closes sweet and very long, with a vibrant spiciness that lingers on. 93 points”
Let’s Get Snooty: There’s a story behind the name “Runaway red” that you can tell to your guests. In the middle of night during Jimi Brook’s first harvest, a barrel slipped off the rack, rolled down a hill and with a heartbreaking splash landed in the creek below. The barrel was finally tracked down and found, surprisingly, intact between the shoulders of the creek. The family declared it a “Brook’s miracle” and, honoring Jimi’s memory called their introductory red, “Runaway Red”. The bottling is about deep laughter, good friends and pleasant surprises.