The California vintner heads to the Willamette Valley.
By Steve Heimoff
Tony Soter, a California vintner who never received a formal winemaking degree but rose to the top of his profession, has left NapaValley after more than 30 years as one of its most influential winemakers. Soter will work full-time with the WillametteValley winery he co-owns with his wife Michelle: Soter Vineyards.
Beginning in 1975, Soter was consulting winemaker to lauded wineries like Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, Stonegate, SpringMountain, Chappellet, Sequoia Grove, Robert Pepi, Spottswoode, Niebaum-Coppola, Viader, Dalla Valle, Shafer and Araujo.
In 1980, Soter bottled his own first wine, a Pinot Noir, under the Etude brand, in Carneros. He sold Etude to Beringer Blass in 2001, but remained as winemaker, overseeing development of its estate vineyard. He will continue in a consulting capacity at Etude, whose day-to-day operations will be overseen by winemaker and director of operations, Jon Priest.
In the mid-1990s Soter and his Oregon-born wife started up a new, personal brand, Soter Vineyards, in the WillametteValley. With the move to Oregon, Soter plans to further develop his Mineral Springs vineyard, which produces Pinot Noir for the Soter brand.
Soter is philosophical about leaving Napa after so long. "It's not like I will be in Siberia. Portland and the wine community here in Oregon are terrific. And I will be visiting Napa monthly to service my consulting role at Etude." In addition, he plans to issue a proprietary Napa red, starting with the 2006 vintage, under the Soter label. "It will be made in a unique way by cofermenting several 'Heirloom' Cabernet clones, and blending with Cabernet Franc and Malbec."