The best part about the JK Carriere winery in Newberg is their high quality wines. The second best thing about JK Carriere is the people.
Owner and winemaker Jim Prosser, along with his sister and general manager Linda Crabtree, will make you feel like an honored guest when you visit their tasting room and Parrett Mountain winery. This combination of great wines and great people is hard to beat.
JK Carrière is best known for: being, as Prosser put it, “a real goddamn Oregon”.
For Prosser, that means allowing grapes from large, organically grown vineyards to represent Oregon soils without too much interference from him or new oak barrels.
Current “must try” version: 2019 Vespidae Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($48). Vespidae is the Latin name for the wasp family that could kill the highly allergic Prosser the next time it gets stung.
Instead of finding a new line of work, Prosser doubled down on putting a design of his nemesis on his JK Carriere wine labels. However, he keeps an Epi-Pen on him, just in case.
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Innovation: People have been making wine since the Stone Age, so creating something truly innovative is a challenge. “I’m just trying to get in the middle of the job. It’s going from being responsive to having a steady hand, knowing your vineyards and what they’re doing better and better all the time,” Prosser said.
Prosser admits that winemaking forces you to manage what’s directly in front of you. In 2020, the smoke from a forest fire was in front of him, so Prosser made a wine called “Clarion”.
To minimize the risk of smoke contamination, Prosser only used free run juice from the 2020 grapes, then blended in Pinot Noir from the 2018 and 2019 vintages to add some color. Free-run juice is the clearer liquid that grapes release under their own pressure when stacked on top of each other in a press.
The non-vintage, drink-and-chill Clarion was so popular that Prosser felt compelled to add it to his regular lineup. Unfortunately, the “Clarion” 2021 is already sold out. Don’t worry, though, because the 2022 version will be released in May 2023. It’s a perfect summer picnic cover wine, so talk about the right timing.
Story: Prosser’s career would make Walter Mitty envious. He worked for leading multinational corporations, but he also worked for the Peace Corps in Lithuania. Returning to Oregon to learn how to make wine, he took time to climb mountains in Pakistan and Nepal.
After cellaring in New Zealand, Australia and Burgundy, and working for local wineries such as Erath, Chehalem and Brick House, Prosser produced his first JK Carriere wine in 1999. The label is named in honor of JK Prosser and Paul Carriere, Prosser’s grandfathers. .
What we don’t know: Prosser won a state championship in oxyacetylene welding while attending high school in Bend, Oregon.
Key insight: Despite the frost, heat and drought, Carrière said “we’re excited about 2022 because it’s the best fermentations, across the board, we’ve ever had.”
Prosser said he expected his Pinot Noirs to possess high acidity, with alcohol ranging from 11.8% to 12.8% by volume, possibly 13.2%, topping the charts. In other words, get ready for a classic JK Carriere vintage with huge potential.
Biggest success/failure to date: Prosser initially thought he would be a better trader and businessman. “I found out that I’m more introverted than I thought,” Prosser said.
The flip side of this failure, according to Prosser, is that his self-consciousness forced him to focus everything on his craft. “I’m not good enough to sell something that I don’t 100% believe in. So my biggest success is making the type of wine that I’ve always wanted to make.
Prosser is too humble. Anyone who has watched JK Carriere’s series of YouTube videos, such as “Make the Wine First,” will know he is a witty wine advocate.
Last vinyl LP listened to cover to cover: “Spectre” from Blue Oyster Cult.
Favorite “getaway” spot: hiking, camping and fishing in the Metolius River Basin.
Or buy: JK Carriere Wines are conveniently located in Portland at Great Wine Buys, Flor Wines, New Seasons Market and Zupan’s Markets.
For a JK Carriere wine with dinner, try Portland’s Noble Rot. Looking for some holiday madness? Head straight to Le Bernardin/Aldo Sohm Wine Bar in New York.
9am-5pm Monday-Friday, 11am-4pm Saturday-Sunday, 9995 NE Parrett Mountain Road, Newberg, JK Carriere; jkcareer.com or 503-554-0721.
— Michael Alberty writes about wine for The Oregonian/OregonLive. He can be reached at [email protected]. To learn more about its coverage, go to oregonlive.com/wine.