Bill and Susan Sokol Blosser pulled their ’68 VW Camper up to an abandoned orchard some 30 miles southwest of Portland with hopes and dreams of starting a winery. They did just that. Sokol Blosser winery was founded in 1971.
We were reading up on what else happened the year Sokol Blosser was founded and discovered a few really cool things like it was the same year the floppy disk and email were invented, “Love Story” was released, Apollo’s 14th Mission and folks like Elon Musk, Mark Wahlberg, Mariah Carey and Ewan MacGregor were born.
We talked with Alex and Alison Sokol Blosser; co-Presidents, Siblings and 2nd generation winegrowers about everything from their childhood memories, their Evolution Wines getting a new label, and this very special 50th birthday of the winery.
What are your favorite memories about growing up at the winery?
I remember one particular summer while I was in high school. We had a gentleman from Domain Jacques Germain winery in France come over to work the harvest; Benoit Germain. He loved doing what he did, and he told me about his family’s winery in France and he taught me how to taste wine. It was funny because he took a shower in cologne and smoked like a chimney, but he loved food and wine. I definitely picked up some of that passion.
I remember taking sips from my parents’ wineglasses at an early age. I was particularly fond of the white varietals with a little sweetness. I could pronounce Muller-Thurgau before I started elementary school. And I learned to count by counting the daily cash box (this was back when people paid in cash much more frequently than now!). I also learned how to face the bills and prepare the bank deposit from a pretty young age. This was great prep for my college job as a bank teller.
Do you have favorite stories your parents shared with you?
My dad buying stuff for the winery and vineyard that did not work. Like a crawler for the vineyard that when it arrived it only would drive in a circle to the right. He and mom were liberal arts majors and becoming farmers was a shock to the system.
So, I’m pretty sure that the story was that our Dad and Grandpa bought a used tractor that was not fully assembled. It came with a box of parts. They worked hard to re-assemble the tractor and were very proud when they finally got it to work. But, it only turned right. They couldn’t figure out how to get it to turn both left and right.
I am so laughing right now. What inspired you to originally launch Evolution Wines?
This was our mom’s idea back in the mid-1990s. She wanted to create a proprietary white blend that was easy to pronounce (Muller-Thurgau was too much of a mouthful), and that paired well with Asian Fusion cuisine.
What inspired you to change the label?
Alison can answer this one. She wanted to change the label. If it was up to me we would still be on the original one.
Evolution has to keep evolving. It was time to evolve to a more modern aesthetic. This includes not just the branding and design but also making a more visible showing of the connection between Evolution and Sokol Blosser. We are proud of the Evolution wines we make, and we didn’t even have our name on the front of all the labels! We want to make sure that everyone knows that Evolution wines come from real people and a real place. And that they’re delicious!
What’s your timeline for getting all the Evolution Wines with the new label?
The 2019 Evolution Lucky No 9 White has already been shipping out and is starting to show up on shelves. The 2019 Evolution Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is starting to ship out this month. The 2020 Evolution Big Time Red hasn’t been bottled yet, so it’ll probably be Fall before that starts to ship. All of our Boxed Wines launched with the new branding in Summer 2020.
Are there more Evolution Wines in the works?
Always! We must Evolve right?
It’s in the name. I am sure you have something you want to say about this Alison?
We actually have a really fun part of the brand that we call “Evolution in Progress.” This gives the winemaking team a lot of flexibility to play with different varietals. The audience for these wines is just winery-direct and our Evolution Subscription members. However, the groundwork is there that if one of these “In Progress” concepts strikes a cord that it could evolve into a nationally-distributed item.
Sokol Blosser has really evolved because of the Evolution Wines. What’s that evolution been like?
We are a two branded winery: our Domaine (Sokol Blosser), and our Negociant (Evolution). Both have different stories, but both are trying to deliver top quality in their respective price points. We know we are only as good as our current vintage, and after 50 years we know we must continue to raise the quality level and remain relevant in the marketplace.
Which brings us to that very special birthday the winery is celebrating this year. What’s been the most exciting thing about the winery over the last fifty years?
The advances in the vineyard over the past 50 years have been excitingly vast. Phylloxera and a complete replanting in the late 1990s/early 2000s, doubling the vines per/acre, new clones, canopy management, and lately: mechanical harvesting. We make wine fairly similarly than we did in the 1970s, but how we farm is vastly different. Exciting stuff!
That we are still here! That we successfully transitioned from the 1st to 2nd generation! That Alex and I are still Co-Presidents, and we haven’t killed each other or burned the place down yet!
The truth comes out. (haha) Given that continues, that you don’t kill each other or burn the place down; what are you guys excited about for the future?
They say that the greatest challenge is to challenge yourself. So, in that vein in our 50th year as winegrowers we say, “Onward to the next 50!” That means we are excited to continue to be leaders in our industry, craft compelling wines at all levels, be a part of the solution to climate change, and remain relevant in the global wine marketplace. That’s what gets me up in the morning!