Wine Wednesday: An Interview w/ Winemaker Dai Crisp

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LumosWineCoGrapes top the list of most chemically “sprayed” (with insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and other nasty “cides”) produced in the marketplace today. So it only makes sense that winemakers and consumers are seeking organic alternatives to the conventional style of wines.

DaiI had the pleasure of chatting with Dai Crisp, organic grapegrower, winemaker, and owner of Lumos Wine Company in Oregon over the phone . He was so gracious to answer all 100+ of my questions! A summary of my interview is below. I hope you enjoy reading about him and his wines as much as I enjoyed talking with him.  And if you haven’t yet had a wine from Lumos, please do yourself a favor and fix that right away!!

Dai Crisp got his start in 1986 planting a 10-acre vineyard on his parent’s farm. Now 20 years later Dai is still growing grapes on that plot of land, and also manages Temperance Hill Vineyard which sells grapes to 15 different wineries and all of the grapes are grown organically. Dai’s mission was to never ever use chemicals, specifically herbicides, and to farm without fungicide. He wanted to prove it could be done while still producing a superior product. He has. Every vineyard farmed by Dai Crisp is certified organic.

The grapes grown in Oregon are very expressive of their soil, climate, and surroundings therefore farming as naturally as produces the greatest potential flavors and complexity. The vines respond in a different way and the soil is just better when its natural state isn’t ‘messed with’. All the grapes used in Lumos wines are certified organic and grown using organic-based fertilizers, fungicides and mechanical cultivation rather than herbicides. No fining agents are used in the winemaking process either. This eliminates residue in the final wine and makes Lumos wines essentially vegan.

This was not achieved without some difficulties. Without herbicides, the weeds that grow between the vineyard rows become quite difficult to manage. Dai uses a Braun machine. The row cultivator has a blade that goes into the soil, senses the plant, goes around it and grabs the weeds. Again emphasizing his point that with good tools, you can maintain soil health and recycle the nutrition into the soil.

Healthy Soil = Healthy Vines

But how does it taste?

2012 Lumos Pinot Gris – Rudolfo 

The color of light straw with ripe grapefruit in the aroma. Soft nectarines and peach balance the citrus and tart zestiness of this refreshing summer time favorite. Gold medal winner at the Oregon Wine Awards.


2011 Lumos Pinot Gris – Julia 

A dry, elegant wine that expresses the minerality and terroir of Temperance Hill Vineyard. Fresh aromatics of wildflowers and pear tart. Focuses into a long finish.

2011 Lumos Gewürztraminer – Temperance Hill Vineyard

A beautiful dry ripe Gewürztraminer. Floral and spicy aromatics with clove, melon and rosewater. Nice back palate brightness with exceptional minerality.

2011 Lumos Pinot Noir – Five Blocks

Barreled 15 months in French Oak. A rich and luscious Pinot Noir with dark red fruit, sandalwood, wet earth and spice. Relatively bright acidity and fine tannins make this an excellent food wine.

Is there anything else left for Dai to do? He’d actually love to make a sparkling wine for his winery. He grows grapes that are used by others in Oregon for sparkling wine, but none for himself. Currently the process is just too expensive and time-consuming for him to undertake. Classic Rhone varietals such as Mourvedre, Cinsault, and Syrah would be interesting to watch develop and grow in Oregon and how they’d work if grown organically. Now he could very well buy the fruit and make it into wine, but that isn’t the kind of winemaker Dai wants to be.

As my interview/conversation with Dai Crisp came to a close, I asked him what he would do if he weren’t a winemaker. Interview gold! Dai has an MFA in acting and was actually an actor in his first life! He’s also previously worked as a photojournalist and done some commercial photography. Talk about having a diverse skillset and something to fall back on! Not that he needs it though. Lumos Wine Company is making amazing strides with organic wine with only more to come in the future.

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