2017 Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year: Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyard

ROSEBURG, Ore. — If Stephen Reustle hadn’t gone out for a jog one day, all of us would have been denied the opportunity to taste some of the best wines ever produced in the Pacific Northwest.

Reustle, owner and winemaker for Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards in Southern Oregon’s Umpqua Valley, was a CPA looking to make a career change. One day, he was checking out a property in Oregon when he decided to go for a jog.

What he saw caused him to call his wife, Gloria, leading to the decision to make their home near Roseburg. Here he would go on to craft some of the finest wines anywhere.

In the past few vintages, it has become increasingly apparent that Reustle is simply making the best wines in the Northwest – and in some cases, the world.

For example:

• His Reserve Syrah won double gold at the American Fine Wine Competition in January. That’s the 53rd time one of his Syrahs has scored gold or better at a major competition.

• He won five double gold medals in January’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. It’s the largest judging of American wines in the world.

• In December, he combined for 10 Platinum and Double Platinum awards from Wine Press Northwest in its annual Best of the Best competition.

• In spring 2016, he won best dessert wine at the Dan Berger International Wine Competition in California.

• He won five gold medals or better at last year’s Savor NW competition in Oregon.

• Most impressively of all, he won Best New World Syrah at the 2015 Six Nations Wine Challenge, beating out stellar Syrahs from California and Australia.

Since launching his winery in 2004, Reustle has steadily proven he can excel with seemingly any variety. He now stands amid an elite group of winemakers who are the best in the country.

For these and many other reasons, Wine Press Northwest is naming Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards its 2017 Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year.

Reustle was born and raised in Philadelphia. After graduating from Rutgers University, he lived an hour’s drive outside of Manhattan, where he spent many years as a certified public accountant and later as owner of a marketing company. When he decided to leave the East Coast rat race, he was far too young to retire, so he and Gloria decided to see what their second act in life would be.

Reustle always loved wine, in particular the Riojas of Spain, an approachable Tempranillo-based red wine.

“That was the only wine I could afford in my 20s,” he said. “I could afford great Tempranillos for $6 or $7.”

Unsure where life would lead them, the couple moved to California, where Reustle studied winemaking and began trying to figure out where he would land.

“My wife gave me permission to start a whole new career,” he said. “I always loved farming, so she agreed to us coming out to California, and we lived there for one year.”

Reustle is a studious guy, and he set out to investigate the best places to plant a vineyard where he could accomplish what he wanted. His search stretched from Temecula in Southern California’s Riverside County all the way to Walla Walla, Wash.

Reustle was committed to cool-climate viticulture and winemaking.

“If you get your site planted properly with the right varieties in the right place, and you do proper hygiene in the winery, then you’ll make very good wine,” he said.

Sounds simple enough.

He nearly purchased 200 acres in the Anderson Valley, a gorgeous wine-producing region in Mendocino County just north of Sonoma County. But his due diligence behooved a visit to Oregon, so he checked out the Umpqua Valley. Then he went for the run that changed his life.

“I was jogging by a stream, and as I was jogging, I saw a mom and a dad playing with their kids and laughing and having a good time,” he said. “As I’m running, I’m saying, ‘This is a really great place to raise a family.’ I went about 100 yards and saw a really old man and a really old woman sitting on a bench looking at the Umpqua River, holding each other’s hands, and I said, ‘This is a really great place to grow old.’ I ran back to the hotel, I called my wife, who was in California, and I said, ‘Honey, I think we gotta do this.’ “

In 2001, they bought 200 acres in the Umpqua Valley and began to plant grapes, much of it on 14 acres of hillsides.

Reustle and his family are devoutly and proudly Christian. At the top of his vineyard is a rock about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. When Reustle began planting his vineyard, he would take his young son, Walter, then 4, with him to the top of the vineyard.

“I used to put him up on the rock and we’d look at this vista and I would say, ‘Walter, Daddy’s going to pray.’ Then I’d say, ‘It’s your turn to pray.’

“One day, I came up to the rock and rather than stop and pray, I turned around to walk back, and he grabbed me by the arm– and he has these big, brown eyes – and he says, ‘Daddy, we didn’t pray at the rock.’ As soon as he said that, I said, ‘Prayer Rock.’ So we named the winery Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyard.”

Early on, Reustle turned to Southern Oregon University climatologist Greg Jones, who now is one of the wine world’s leading climate researchers.

“I had him come out and do a climatology study on my site and show me what the heat units were,” Reustle said. “He got me intrigued by an Australian author, Dr. Gladstone, who wrote a book called Viticulture and the Environment. I just have read through that five times. It’s so rich in giving you information on what to plant on your site.

“It was very important for me to plant the right vines on the right rootstock in the right place on our particular site,” he added. “So we took our time and planted a variety of grape varieties.”

In fact, Reustle used various resources to figure out what to plant on every slope of his estate. The results: beautiful fruit and beautiful wines.

One of Reustle’s most famous wines is Syrah, of which he makes no fewer than three styles.

“I really thought it was going to be all about Pinot Noir because I’m passionate about Pinot Noir,” he said with an easy laugh. “I did some studies on what clones work well in the northern Rhône Valley. I planted four clones of Syrah and what I wasn’t afraid to do was pick early, when the acids are still there and you develop those cracked black pepper components.

“Whereas Australian Syrahs and some California Syrahs tend to be that big, rich, jammy, over-alcoholic Syrah, I wanted more of a French/Rhône style,” Reustle continued. “We’re in a cool climate, and I think with our warm days and cool nights, we can retain that acidity and make wonderful wines. So the cracked black pepper component stayed, and you get the gaminess to it that makes it really nice.”

In his wildest dreams, Reustle never figured to become the American king of Grüner Veltliner, the famous Austrian white wine. But he planted the first Grüner in the United States and now makes four separate bottlings each year – and is considering a sparkling.

That all started on a motorcycle trip through Austria a few years ago. He was at a high-end restaurant and asked the waiter to select a great white and a great red.

“He brought me a Grüner and a Blaüfrankisch (Lemberger),” Reustle said. “I tried the Grüner, and I was blown away. When I got back to the United States, I looked to see who was making Grüner, and it was nobody. So we planted it in 2003.”

Reustle likens Grüner to Riesling in that it lends itself stylistically to being either bone dry, a little off-dry or even sparkling. It’s a flexible grape. So he decided to make four styles. The first is a lean, traditional style he refers to as his “Estate Grüner.” The second is a reserve that has a trace of residual sugar to give it fullness. His third, Smaragd, is made in the style of the highest designation in Austria. His fourth style will be released in 2018 and will be called Dolium. It was made in a concrete tank.

“I can tell you it’s going to knock your socks off,” he said enthusiastically.

A sparkling Grüner? He’s tracked down a version being made in Michigan that he hopes to one day emulate.

Reustle has gotten back around to producing a couple of styles of Pinot Noir – his first love that brought him to Oregon some 15 years ago. He said growing Pinot Noir in the Umpqua Valley is not all that unusual.

“I think it’s a mistake for people to think about the Umpqua Valley as being a warm region,” Reustle said. “It really isn’t. Terry Brandborg is making some great cool-climate Pinot Noirs and Gewürztraminers. The Umpqua Valley is really divided into three areas: You have that hot area where Earl (Jones of Abacela) is. We’re in the mid-part, and Terry (Brandborg) is in the north toward the coast. I think the Umpqua makes wonderful Pinot Noirs. You have to be on the right site.”

Based on all the awards and accolades Reustle has earned since his first vintage more than 15 years ago, it’s safe to say he made the right decision to come to Oregon. And it’s all to our benefit.

2017 Greatest of the Grape – Winners Announced

Press Release: 47th Annual Greatest of the Grape
Subject: Southern Oregon Wine Awards

On Saturday, March 4, 2017 the 47th Annual Greatest of the Grape event was presented by the Umpqua Valley Winegrowers Association at Seven Feathers Casino Resort. This is the oldest celebration and recognition of wine and food pairing the Northwest which began 47 years ago. The gala event is organized by a group of volunteers that are members of the UVWA and those supportive of the local wine industry.

Ali Spens, with Umpqua Bank, chaired the 2017 Greatest of the Grape this year and is quoted as saying “we had a sellout crowd and everyone was having fun, enjoying the great wine and delicious, creative food pairings to the sounds of the band Timberwolf. The space was fabulously decorated by Andrew Calvert owner of The Perfect Occasion, creating an elegant evening”.
This year we had 21 wineries from the Umpqua Valley present to pour their wine. Six wineries from Southern Oregon also participated in this year’s Greatest of the Grape.

Thank you to the major sponsors of this year’s event: Wm. Henri Development Company, Umpqua Bank, CHI Mercy Health, Duncan & Associates/D A Davidson, and Seven Feathers Casino Resort.

The Wheel of Wine is an opportunity to spin for a special bottle of wine. The wine is donated by participating wineries and all the proceeds collected go to the scholarship fund for students attending the Southern Oregon Wine Institute in Roseburg.

Before a gathering of 800 people, awards were given out in two major categories: the Professional Wine Judges Awards and the People’s Choice Awards.

The Professional Wine Judges spend the day before the event tasting the wines submitted by 27 wineries from the Umpqua Valley and Southern Oregon. This year’s judges were Tamara Belgard, Michele Francisco and Martin Skegg all currently from the Portland metro area. The results are:

Contact:  Jean Kurtz, UVWA staff at (541) 673-5323 or Terry Brandborg 2017 UVWA President at (541) 584-2870.

Professional Judges Awards:

Platinum Medal

Cliff Creek Cellars; 2015 MRC (Marsanne Roussane Viognier)

Gold Medal
Brandborg Winery; 2015 Sauvignon Blanc
Delfino; 2014 Tempranillo
Foris Vineyard; 2014 Pinot Noir
Reustle-Prayer Rock; 2014 Syrah Reserve

Silver Medal
Abacela; 2014 Barrel Select Tannat
Bradley Vineyards; 2015 Riesling
Season Cellars; 2012 Phoenix
Spangler Vineyards; 2013 Cab Franc

Best Food – Professional Judges
Winner; The Parrot House, Roseburg, OR
Runner Up; Tomaselli’s Pastry Mill & Cafe, Elkton, OR

Best Restaurant/Winery Presentation – Decor
Winner; The Parrot House, Roseburg, OR
Runner Up; K-Bar Steakhouse, Canyonville, OR

People’s Choice Awards:

People’s Choice – Best White Wine
Winner; Henry Estate 2016 Müller Thurgau
Runner Up;  Freed Estate Winery 2015 Viognier

People’s Choice  – Best Red Wine
Winner; Abacela 2014 Barrel Select Tannat
Runner Up; Girardet 2015 Estate Grown Baco Noir

People’s Choice – Food & Wine Pairing
Winner; Hillcrest Vineyard 2014 Ribera and K-Bar Steakhouse’s Sous Vide Venison Loin wilted spinach, roasted red peppers, local berry demi-glace
Runner Up; Reustle-Prayer Rock 2014 Syrah Reserve and The Parrot House’s Tartlet of Duck Breast, White Shoyu & dried blueberry

Cooper Ridge Vineyard 2015 Riesling

San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition results

Congratulations to all the Umpqua Valley wineries that won medals at the 2017 SF Chronicle Wine Competition!

Abacela 2014 Grenache Double Gold
Abacela 2013 Malbec Reserve Silver
Abacela 2015 Albariño Silver
Abacela 2013 Tempranillo Barrel Select Silver
Brandborg Vineyard 2014 Pinot Noir, Hundredth Valley Silver
Brandborg Vineyard 2013 Pinot Noir, Love Puppets Silver
Brandborg Vineyard 2015 Riesling Silver
Brandborg Vineyard 2015 Sauvignon Blanc Silver
Brandborg Vineyard 2013 Pinot Noir, Westbrook Vineyards Bronze
Delfino 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Silver
Delfino 2013 Tempranillo Bronze
Delfino 2012 Zinfandel Bronze
Girardet 2015 Riesling Gold
Girardet 2013 Tempranillo, Bush Vines Gold
Girardet 2014 Chardonnay Silver
Girardet 2014 Sangiovese, Bush Vines Silver
Girardet 2014 Barbera, Bush Vines Bronze
Girardet 2015 Pinot Gris Bronze
Henry Estate 2015 Muller Thurgau Double Gold
Henry Estate 2015 Pinot Gris Silver
Henry Estate 2014 Pinot Noir Silver
Melrose 2015 Sauvignon Blanc Gold
Melrose 2015 Syrah Gold
Melrose 2015 Chardonnay Silver
Melrose 2015 Pinot Noir Silver
Misty Oaks Vineyard 2014 Italian blend Gold
Misty Oaks Vineyard 2015 Baco Noir Silver
Reustle Prayer Rock 2015 Grüner Veltliner Best of Class & Double Gold
Reustle Prayer Rock 2015 Grüner Veltliner, Smaragd Double Gold
Reustle Prayer Rock 2014 Pinot Noir Double Gold
Reustle Prayer Rock 2014 Riesling Double Gold
Reustle Prayer Rock 2014 Syrah Double Gold
Reustle Prayer Rock 2015 Grenache Silver
Reustle Prayer Rock 2015 Malbec Silver
Reustle Prayer Rock 2014 Grüner Veltliner, Reserve Silver
Reustle Prayer Rock 2014 Pinot Noir Silver
Reustle Prayer Rock 2014 Syrah Silver
Reustle Prayer Rock 2015 Tempranillo Silver
Reustle Prayer Rock 2014 Tempranillo, Reserve Silver
Reustle Prayer Rock 2014 Gruner Veltliner Bronze
Season Cellars 2013 Phoenix Gold
Season Cellars 2015 Sauvignon Blanc Silver
Season Cellars 2015 Viognier Bronze
Spangler Vineyards 2015 Viognier Double Gold
Spangler Vineyards 2013 Claret Silver
Spangler Vineyards 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Silver
Spangler Vineyards 2013 Grenache Silver
Spangler Vineyards 2013 Petit Verdot Silver
Spangler Vineyards 2013 Cabernet Franc Bronze

Umpqua Wineries Win Big at Sunset Wine Competition

Here are the results for Umpqua wineries from the Sunset International Wine Competition:


Best of Class & Gold – 2015 Albariño
“This Oregon take on the white wine of Spain’s Rías Baixas region is a home run, with vibrant white peach, pear, and citrus fruit and complex hints of mineral, chamomile, and white pepper.”

Silver – 2013 Fiesta Tempranillo

Bronze – 2015 Muscat

Bronze – 2015 Blanco Dulce


Henry Estate Winery

Bronze – NV Veraison

Bronze – 2014 Pinot Gris

Bronze – 2015 Muller-Thurgau


Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards

Best of Class & Gold – 2014 Smaragd Gruner Veltliner

Silver – 2014 Winemaker’s Reserve Syrah

Bronze – 2014 Masada Bloc Syrah

Abacela Hires New Winegrower


ROSEBURG, OR. – July 18, 2016; Abacela Winery is pleased to announce that Chris Lake, a native of California, will become the manager of Abacela’s Fault Line Vineyards in July of 2016. Chris obtained a Bachelor of Science in Plant Science at Fresno State University in 1993 and has over 20 years experience in the wine industry.

Abacela and its Fault Line Vineyards are celebrating their 21st year in the industry and are best known as pioneers of Tempranillo and Albariño in America. Abacela has also introduced several other site-climate matched grape varieties to the region and in 2013 was recognized as the “Oregon Winery of the Year” by Wine Press Northwest magazine. In 2015 the Oregon Wine Board presented Earl and Hilda with the industry’s “Lifetime Achievement Award.”

Chris will bring to Abacela’s production team valuable experience from California, Arkansas and Oklahoma. He comes to Abacela directly from Umpqua Community College where he headed up the Southern Oregon Wine Institute and directed its educational and administrative matters for the past eight years. Chris voiced, “After serving as a teacher and administrator for these last eight years I look forward to getting back into the field in one of Oregon’s premier estate vineyards and wineries.”

He will join the Abacela wine team, which consists of Earl, the general manager, Andrew Wenzl, head winemaker, and Ryan Dudley, assistant winemaker in the growing and crafting of award winning wines.

Earl added, “We are pleased that Chris is bringing a blend of practical and academic thought to help us develop one of Oregon’s most interesting vineyard properties to its full potential.”