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Q&A: Carla David, Wild Wines

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Not all wine comes from grapes.

Let that sink in: Wine can be made from flowers and berries—and an outstanding example of that diversity comes from southern Oregon’s own Wild Wines, a decade-plus old established winery near Jacksonville. Dreamt up by Carla David, the winery has grown steadily, picking up loyal patrons along the way. At first, David presented her wines at the Ashland Farmers’ Markets, and soon expanded her production to 600 cases each year—and regular hours at a breath-taking tasting room along Little Applegate Road.

David recognizes that many people associate (non-grape) fruit wines as overly sweet. But her craft has created a distinct, robust and refreshing variety of wines.

The Messengerhad questions—and Carla David gave us answers!

RVM: We need to start with: Your wines don’t come from grapes! They are from local flowers and fruits. Do you find you need to explain to people that wine does not need to come from grapes?

Carla David: I always make sure to give people an introduction to the wines, which includes explaining that they are not made with grapes and that wine can be made from other fruits or materials besides grapes, but a fermentable sugar needs to be added. Many people have no idea that it is possible!

RVM: What are people’s first reactions? 

CD: People are often surprised, happy for something different, appreciative to have an organic, sulfite-free wine. If folks are familiar with the medicinal properties of any of the plants they may get excited for that reason too.

RVM: After 10-plus years, I would imagine you have built a loyal following, especially because your wines are so unique and specific. How much of your business are “regulars” and how much are new customers?

CD: I absolutely have loyal fans, people I see at Farmer’s Market that purchase regularly, as well as tasting room customers that return often. Unfortunately, I have no real way to accurately assess the breakdown of “new” versus “returning” customers.

RVM: Blueberry and blackberry wines are “understandable.” Ginger wine seems to push the envelope. Have there been experiments that haven’t worked?

CD: The only wine that I once made, but no longer make, is Lilac Wine. It was terribly inconsistent for some reason, so I couldn’t count on it to be good, so I stopped trying. Nothing worse than wasting time harvesting and making something only for it to turn out badly for no apparent reason.

RVM: You started more than 10 years ago, by selling your wines at the Ashland farmer markets, and now you have a beautiful tasting room near Jacksonville. Is that a different interaction—between people coming out to see you, and you going to see people at farmer markets?

CD: It’s not all that different. You spend more time with people and have longer conversations at the tasting room. The main difference is that people coming to the tasting room have made a choice to visit, whereas farmer’s market customers may discover me but would not have had any idea that I exist to f they hadn’t been to the market.

RVM: Because you are not making wine from grapes, how do you find you fit in—or not—with other local vineyards? Is it all part of the same business, or are you in your own category?

CD: I am a member of the Applegate Valley Wine Trail, and we don’t see other wineries as competition. We see each other as allies in creating a wine tourism destination. Because I am “different,” I do hear from some people that this is the very reason they come see me. But I also know that fruit wines have a terrible reputation for being sweet, and while mine are actually dry, many people assume they are sweet and don’t even give them a chance. Wild Wines is still very much in the niche category.

 

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