Almost 13 years old, Pascal “Paco” Brooks’ favorite color is blue. He is passionate about watching the History Channel, studying social studies at his middle school, and eating cookie dough. And he loves snowboarding, swimming, playing football, going to amusement parks — and, oh yeah, owning a winery.
Possibly the youngest winery owner in the world, Paco loved working with his dad, Jimi Brooks, founder of Brooks Wines, now at 9360 SE Eola Hills Road in Amity. Jimi Brooks passed away unexpectedly in 2004, but not before he passed on his love of the grapes to his son.
“Paco wants to be a winemaker when he grows up,” said Janie Brooks Heuck, Jimi’s sister.
Heuck had no intention of being in the wine industry, but found herself responsible for the business operations of the winery after her brother’s death. Encouraged and embraced by a group of local winemakers, she took a viticulture and enology course at the University of California, Davis. She now runs the vineyard until she can hand over the operations to Paco, who lives in Pennsylvania with his mother and visits during the summer and other times throughout the year. With almost four years at the helm, Heuck continues her commitment to keep Brooks Wines in line with Jimi’s philosophy: to keep the earth alive and the ecosystem intact and to achieve the greatest depth, flavors and balance in a wine — only by blending.
Jimi Brooks’ love for wine began while working for the Deschamps family in the Beaujolais region of France, where he headed after finishing his communications studies at Linfield College. But it was after his return to Oregon, on a hot, still September afternoon at WillaKenzie Estate where he worked under the tutelage of Laurent Montalieu, that cemented his passion.
“The air [was] vibrating with insects, my body drenched in sweat, my hands sticky with grape juice and my throat demanding the cold cleanliness of a beer,” Brooks wrote. “There was my Godfather, friends, a couple of dogs, a basket press, and the Tualatin River Valley in the near distance. There were some bottles of Grand Cru White Burgundies on a nearby table that I persistently returned to, fascinated by the differences in each bottle and the detailed explanations of each producer from a friend. We were making Chardonnay as well.
“This was the first day I ever took part in making wine,” he wrote further. “It was visceral. I, however, never did learn to like the wine we made that day, but fell in love with the experience of that afternoon that changed the direction of my life forever.”
Brooks went on to start his own label, Brooks Wines, using grapes grown organically with biodynamic farming methods that allowed him to restore the reputation of riesling and blending practices.
Today, with winemaker Chris Williams, Heuck produces some 8,000 cases of wines which were crushed at Brooks’ new winery after years of using other facilities.
“For the first time, we will have a space that we can call our own,” said Heuck, who will lease the Eola Hills Vineyard until she can acquire her own.
“Our approach to winemaking is as hands-off as you can get, starting with the best from our vineyard sources, all of which is sustainable, a few of which are farmed biodynamically,” she said. “We produce four pinot noirs, three rieslings – one late harvest – and one white blend.”
As new chapters unveil, Heuck said, “We are steadily guided with the legacies that Jimi left: his strong commitment to organic and biodynamic farming, gentle approach to winemaking, excitement for future harvests, and endlessly promoting how [beautifully] pinot noir and riesling can be grown and produced in Oregon.
“We continue to provide exceptional wines at modest prices in order to remind ourselves that we should enjoy the fruits of our labor with a great glass of wine and some wonderful homegrown food, shared with family and friends every day,” she said.
To learn more about Brooks Wines, visit www.brookswines.com or call Heuck at (503) 435-1278.