Podcast Episode #61 – From Vines to Vision: Kate Ayres’ Winemaking Odyssey at Penner-Ash

Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars

Join us in this captivating episode of the Weinnotes podcast as we delve into the world of Kate Ayres, the dynamic winemaker at Penner-Ash Wine Cellars in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. In this deeply personal and insightful interview, Kate shares her journey across diverse wine regions, including vintages in California and abroad.

Kate reminisces about her first harvest at Bethel Heights, where she worked alongside industry veterans. This experience solidified her passion for the craft, blending scientific rigor with the artistic nuances of winemaking. Her stories reflect the joy of getting her hands dirty.

Key Moments in my interview with Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash

One of the highlights of the interview is Kate’s discussion about her transition to Penner-Ash. She fondly recalls the nervous excitement of her job interview, where even her mother played an unwitting part, waiting in the car. Kate’s journey at Penner-Ash is marked by her stepping into Lynn Penner-Ash’s shoes, a transition she describes with a mix of pride and humility. This transition wasn’t just about taking over the reins; it was about respecting legacy while infusing her own creative vision into the wines.

Kate delves into the challenges and triumphs of starting the Chardonnay program at Penner-Ash. Initially hesitant, she embraced the project, experimenting with different vineyard sites and techniques, evolving the program to express her vision for the wines. The narrative of crafting Chardonnay becomes a metaphor for Kate’s approach to winemaking: thoughtful, innovative, and always evolving.

Throughout the interview, Kate’s deep connection to the Oregon wine community shines through. She talks about the support and camaraderie within the industry, especially during challenging vintages. Her anecdotes about the community rallying together to share resources and knowledge underscore the collaborative spirit that defines Oregon’s wine scene.

As we journey through Kate’s world, we also touch upon lighter moments, like her choice of music during harvest and her favorite indulgent foods prepared by her husband. These glimpses into her personal life add a relatable and human touch to the portrait of a dedicated winemaker.

Tune in to this episode to experience the world of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars through Kate Ayres’ eyes. It’s a story of dedication, creativity, and the pursuit of excellence in winemaking. From her early inspirations to her current role in shaping the future of Oregon’s wine industry, Kate’s journey is as rich and multifaceted as the wines she crafts.

Be sure to also checkout other winemaker interviews!

Transcription of interview with Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash in Oregon’s Wine Country

[00:00:00] A.J. Weizettel: Cheers to another episode of the Wine Notes podcast. I’m your guide, AJ Winesuttle, on this journey of stories showcasing the people behind the wonderful world of wine, where we dive into conversations ranging from terroir, viticulture, to favorite music, superpowers and more. Please enjoy this episode of the Wine Notes podcast.

Thank you so much for taking the time to be on the podcast today. I really appreciate it. Thanks for having me. Yeah. Uh, I remember earlier this year when I interviewed your husband Hans, you know, it was also raining that day, but holy cow, uh, the road to get up here in, if it keeps raining like 

[00:00:35] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: this. Yeah.

Yeah. We’re not getting out this afternoon. 

[00:00:40] A.J. Weizettel: Well, you know, this may not be a bad spot to get stuck at. 

[00:00:42] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: There are worse places. 

[00:00:44] A.J. Weizettel: Yes. Um, to start off, shall I pour us a little bit of a blind wine? Sure. Okay. Um, I know I already told you this, but you know, uh, feel free to, you know, talk about whatever you want to about it.

Uh, if you just want to say it’s yummy or gross or it smells wonderful, you know, it’s totally up to you. Um, and then at the end I will reveal what it is and hopefully I did pretty good creating some sort of connection. 

[00:01:10] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: All right, here we go. All right. It’s got some really nice floral aromas and just like a little layer of like a 

[00:01:20] A.J. Weizettel: nuttiness in there.

Yeah. I, um, so I poured this, I don’t know, a couple hours ago and you know, I, it’s difficult for me to, to taste a wine at 7am in the morning. So I, uh, breakfast of champions, breakfast of champions, right? It doesn’t, 15 year old daughter. So I’m like, uh, no, I’m not going to do that.

[00:01:58] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: I could be wrong, but it seems like there’s just this like really nice layer of like some very delicate oak in there. Um, it’s providing a lot of sweetness and weight, but, uh, not hindering the fruit profile. 

[00:02:09] A.J. Weizettel: Okay. Yeah. Very cool. Uh, last month we got to catch up, you know, very, very briefly at, at Salud. Yes.

Um. Um. Um, it’s nice to actually like get out and do more events and everything, you know, considering the last couple of years we haven’t been able to, yeah, 

[00:02:25] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: yeah, it was a very wild summer and fall here now that we’re finally back at it. I can, I 

[00:02:31] A.J. Weizettel: can only imagine you were at the Charleston food and wine earlier this year as well, right?

[00:02:36] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: It was, yeah. It was my first time ever. It was such an incredible event and the people there are magnificent and um, massive lovers of Oregon Pinot Noir. So, it’s, It’s, it, it ceases to amaze me when we go out on the road, how many people come up and have these stories of Penrash and Lynn and Ron Penrash and visiting the winery and our wines throughout the years.

Um, it was great. It was really fun to be out. It 

[00:03:02] A.J. Weizettel: is great. That is one event that is definitely on my bucket list that I want to get to. Well, we’re going back this 

[00:03:07] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: year. Oh, that would be fun. Come 

[00:03:09] A.J. Weizettel: join us. All right. I will try. I’m trying. I’m like already trying to figure out my, uh, My schedule for 2024, I mean, 2023 to me went by in a blur and here I am.

I’m already scheduling out 2024 stuff and I’m like, Oh my gosh, I love that things go by quickly, but like, I like to take a breath 

[00:03:30] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: sometimes too. Yeah, it was, well, it was like we had three years of, uh, a lot of slowness and then, man, we just got walloped, kicked off in 2023. Yes, 

[00:03:40] A.J. Weizettel: that, that we did, that we did.

Um. Going back, your first harvest in Oregon was with Bethel Heights, you were with Alex Bagotti or Bagotti, Jamie Guzman, Pat Dudley, Don Kollwitz, Louise Martinez, Marilyn, along with Ben Mimi and Ted 

[00:04:00] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: Castile. Yeah. That’s digging back to a lot of names. Yeah. 

[00:04:05] A.J. Weizettel: Uh, I’m sure there’s so many memories, but like, is there like one or two memories that like vividly speak out to you?

[00:04:13] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: You know, just being back in the state of Oregon, it was, I was born and raised up here and then to finally come back and work at Vintage after I had done some, um, Vintages in California and abroad. And I, I, I inherently had a love of aromatic whites and pinot noir, um, but just working with Ben and the Castile family and everybody there really drove home.

How much I like getting my hands dirty and in things and all of the various small fermenters and the care and the detail and Ben’s clear love of wine and winemaking but also like looking at it in a very scientific matter as well as the like art form That was what I fell in love with with this entire business in total So to be there and be part of that just it like reinvigorated everything I love about this business and made me want to come back home to Oregon.

So, so badly. 

[00:05:11] A.J. Weizettel: I can imagine. And if I’m remembering correctly, I think you told Ted, Hey, I want to come back up here into Oregon wine. Oh yeah. And if you have any openings, let me know. Um, uh, and you ended up getting a call from him saying, Hey, I don’t have anything available, but I heard that there’s another opening 

[00:05:28] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: that you might want to.

Not with Ted. I mean, I, yeah, I definitely let the Castile family know in general that I would love to come back, but I stayed in contact with Ben, um, and was very open about the fact of anything opened up that was worth me coming home to let me know. And I did, I got the call from Ben that said, It’s not public knowledge, but Lynn Penarash was looking for an assistant and I said, all right.

[00:05:55] A.J. Weizettel: Yeah, I would say all right as well. I 

[00:05:58] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: mean, holy cow. Yeah, I mean, funnily enough, I had interviewed with Penarash in 2010 for a Harvest position as well. And, uh, I got to Ben first, and I’m happy that I did, but how funny in the long run that then I found my home here at 

[00:06:13] A.J. Weizettel: Pinarash. Yeah. No, that’s absolutely amazing.

Uh, and what I found interesting about your very first interview here at Pinarash. Oh, you know, was, was your mom drove you up here and she’s like, I’m just going to stay out here in the car and I’m going to read my book. Do you remember what book that was? She was reading? 

[00:06:34] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: No, no. I had flown up for a wedding and so it just made sense for my mom to drive me out for the interview because we were in Portland, I have no idea what she read.

[00:06:45] A.J. Weizettel: I’m sure you were nervous as 

[00:06:46] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: all get out. Everybody was nervous. I was so nervous. And, um, I don’t know how much of the story you’ve heard, but you know, we went through the interview with Lin and Ron, it was wonderful, and then they invited me to lunch, at which point I was like, Oh, how am I gonna tell my mom, like, I’m gonna go to lunch with these folks, can you wait longer?

And I, I was honest with Lin and Ron, I said, yeah, that’s fantastic, I just need to let my mom know she’s in the car, and of course they, they invited her to lunch, cause they’re, um, wonderfully nice people. And it was, it was, it was a great lunch, but I was so nervous, and my mom clearly was so nervous, and afterwards she got in the car, and I was like, let’s go get some bubbles across the street in Argyle, um, I need to just decompress a little bit.

And I came back into the car and she was just bawling. And she was like, I, I ruined the whole thing for you. Of course, obviously she didn’t. 

[00:07:42] A.J. Weizettel: Right. She didn’t. So when, when you actually did get the job and you told your mom. I mean, did she was like, Oh, thank goodness. I didn’t mess things up for you. Yeah, that’s 

[00:07:53] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: funny.

I don’t, um, I don’t, I don’t remember that conversation. I, you know, I think everybody was so elated that I was coming back home to Oregon, the much bigger conversation that I remember is texting Hans and being like, are you, are we ready to do this? Cause he didn’t have a job up here. And we were leaving two very secure jobs in Napa Valley, and he was ready to make the move into winemakers.

So I was asking a big ask of saying, like, can we uproot and move to Oregon? Right. Uh, but it was game on, and he was ready to do it. And fortunately, Andrew Rich just happened to also need an assistant winemaker, and it all fell into place. Um. And so it’s been, yeah, it’s been amazing, but I don’t, I don’t remember my mom’s 

[00:08:42] A.J. Weizettel: reaction.

That’s okay. And it just, you know, uh, getting to know more about Hans, you know, since he took over at Dusky Goose, he is such an amazing man and he has such a big heart. I mean, he’s all right. I mean, the only thing bad about him is he has way too many cookbooks, from what I hear. 

[00:09:03] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s a problem.

But hey, he does all the cooking, 

[00:09:08] A.J. Weizettel: so I can’t complain. Yeah, no, I can only imagine. 

[00:09:11] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: Um. No, it’s um, his, it’s like, it’s a lot of fun for us that he took over Dusky Goose, because we can collaborate on things. So much. I mean, Lynn has been very generous to the two of us and given the history of both brands, we spend a lot of time tasting together.

Um, you know, those are vineyards that I have a history of working with too, so it works for us. It does. 

[00:09:34] A.J. Weizettel: You know, when I was doing all the research earlier this year, I was like, Oh my gosh, this is amazing. It’s just a great story. And I loved it so much. It is. Oh. You know, taking over for Lynn, right? She’s been quoted, you know, to me, I take this as she’s very proud of you as being a winemaker.

Uh, I’m very comfortable. She understands what our original dream and goal and style was. I think she’ll continue to honor that, but I’m also real realistic that shows that she’s going to put her own little tweak on it. We all want to do that. Oh, those are big shoes to fill. Yeah. Um, Um, I just, how does that feel?

Like, is it, there’s gotta be some proudness in there. There’s gotta be some nervousness. There’s gotta be just a jumble of emotions. 

[00:10:29] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: I’m sure. There’s certainly all of that. Um, you know, when I first came up and took over the job. It was like enormous, right? It was just, I came up in May, entering our blending season, which our blending season is just full on.

Once we start tasting every barrel in the cellar and working on our blends, we just don’t stop up until harvest. And it’s a very intensive process. So just wrapping my head around that was like one thing, and then we just, I just dove into Harvest and we’re, we’ve got 20 plus vineyards to sample and I’m trying to remember all these blocks and all these vineyards and we’re just ripping around the valley and I just, my mind is exploding.

I’ve tried so hard to keep up with Lynn, but what she did was she like threw me in the deep end, but was always there to like hold my hand. And then we had, I took over as winemaker in 2018, but she was always still part of the project. So she very, like, delicately, slowly stepped away and let me grow on my own and I think that it worked really well for both of us because it gave me the confidence to say, I’ve got this, like, I know what Lynn’s vision is and Ron’s vision is, I know what we are making as wines, but like, also we started Chardonnay and we worked with new vineyards.

That are mine. Like, I started those single vineyard programs. And then she was also able to slowly step away and say, like, I’m now okay exiting this. Like, I have gifted my child over and I can go enjoy retirement. And I’ve talked to several people that are starting to make their adjustments happen, too.

The way that we did it was just so, so special. Um, but yeah, like, I would be lying if I didn’t say every day, I didn’t think like, Oof, I hope I put like the best possible wine into a bottle. And that Lynn opens this later and is like, Oh, I made the right choice. But also she just implanted like an enormous amount of, um, confidence.

Well, yeah. And me to take 

[00:12:38] A.J. Weizettel: over the project. So, yeah. And, and after your blending trials, when you first came up, cause you wanted to give like a, uh, a month notice to your previous employer, uh, you’re after your blending tire trials, then, you know, y’all just drove around the Valley to all the different vineyards 

[00:12:53] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: and so much time in a car together, traveling vineyards 

[00:12:56] A.J. Weizettel: and you know, the, the bond between the two of you just grew and grew during 

[00:13:00] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: that time.

Yeah, it’s like, you know, I think a lot of, Lynn is a very powerful voice. She’s like a very powerful woman. And sometimes, uh, you know, sometimes people are like, she’s kind of scary. But it just was not that way, you know? Like, we, we became a bonded unit of a friendship. Yeah, she was totally my boss, like, for all intents and purposes.

But like, that’s a friendship that then blossomed over, you know, five plus years. That 

[00:13:31] A.J. Weizettel: is absolutely, absolutely great. Uh, going back in time a little bit, you’re doing harvest in Australia. And you celebrated your 21st birthday during harvest in Australia. 

[00:13:47] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: Not in Australia. Oh, I’m sorry. I celebrated my 21st birthday at Cakebread Cellars in Napa Valley.

Oh my gosh. My very first vintage. I got my, I got my facts wrong. With Hans. Way back then. Yeah, my very, very, very, I started when I was 20 years old. In the middle of harvest I turned 21. Wow. 

[00:14:08] A.J. Weizettel: Yeah. That’s, that is a 21st birthday you’ll never forget. 

[00:14:13] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. It was arguably one of the last birthdays I fully celebrated, because ever since then, it’s just been Harvest.

[00:14:24] A.J. Weizettel: That’s so 

[00:14:25] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: hard. So hard. Uh, you know what, I get to celebrate with like a new group of people every year, so there’s something special 

[00:14:30] A.J. Weizettel: about that. There is something special. On that 21st birthday, I mean, what What do you remember that you did to celebrate? 

[00:14:38] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: Well, uh, yeah, well, we, uh, partied. So I was at Cake Run, and we had, I don’t know, there was probably over ten interns there.

And we had different nationalities. There was a house on the property there, so we all had a fun dinner and partied too much. And then, um, are you familiar with, uh, St. Helena at all? Uh, not a whole bunch, no. This place called Anna’s Cantina there that’s on the main strip of St. Helena and it’s kind of like the only bar you can go to in the evening so we all went there.

At which point I remember leaving the bar and that was about the end of the evening. Oh my goodness. And then I got back up and went to work the next morning. Oh, you know. Those days don’t happen anymore. 

[00:15:23] A.J. Weizettel: They don’t happen, you know, and I think that’s probably a good thing. Yeah, you 

[00:15:28] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: know, it’s a very good thing.

It was a lot of fun. It was like, I mean, yeah, it’s the 21st birthday in Napa with a bunch of really good wine, like Yeah, there are worse places to be. 

[00:15:38] A.J. Weizettel: I can only imagine, uh, this past summer, um, you were there with Okta had like their little event out at their farm. You were pouring and Hans was there as well.

Um, And we kind of, you know, touched upon, you know, cookbooks a little bit at that topic and a little bit, or at that event and a little bit earlier today. At what point, I mean, obviously you’ve known Hans for quite a while. I’m sure he’s accumulated quite a few cookbooks. How many is too many? 

[00:16:11] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: Oh, God. We, uh, well, they overflow to all avenues of our household.

Uh, you know, he’s gotta have like 70 plus cookbooks. Oh, wow. Which are cool, but, um. Like how often are you opening up the French Laundry cookbook and cooking from that because like where are we getting those ingredients from? 

[00:16:38] A.J. Weizettel: To get 

[00:16:38] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: inspiration. Yeah, but and that’s true. That’s totally what he does. He’s like he he will just he’ll literally read a cookbook and Start cooking from it for a brief amount of time, but then it inspires Right dishes that we have there.

Yeah, and I like I am zero energy to cook now that we have children. So it’s difficult. I’m like, more than happy that he’s feeding all of us very delicious food. That’s, that is 

[00:17:04] A.J. Weizettel: amazing. . I don’t know how he finds the time, but, uh, yeah. Right. 

[00:17:07] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: Yeah. Me neither. 

[00:17:08] A.J. Weizettel: Oh, yeah. I, I like simple foods, but, you know, sometimes it is nice to find a good recipe and like, oh, look at this.

Yeah. Uh, I’m going to spend an hour to, uh, you know, get a, a, an onion. Just perfect. Yeah. You know, get it all sauteed up. And then I’m going to put it on a grilled cheese. And that is something lately. Like my daughter’s like, can we have that again, please? And it’s like, okay. I mean, it’s easy, but Holy cow. An hour does I’ll tell you.

Uh, yeah. Oof. Yeah. Um, you briefly mentioned earlier about, uh, you know, starting the chardonnay program, and I’ve heard, you know, in the Valley, you know, Lynn is not a fan of Chardonnay. Yeah. And it took a lot to convince her to do, you know, chardonnay program at Dusky Goose. Mm-Hmm. , uh, what was that like starting the chardonnay program?

You know, with, with 

[00:18:06] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: Lynn it was actually kind of fun. You know, at first both of us kind of balked at it. Uh. Not because like I have a dislike of Chardonnay. It’s just, we make some really fun whites here and we’re so focused on peanut and we had Syrah, it was like adding another layer to what we’re already doing.

Um, but like it was, it was fun. You know, the Jackson family really wanted us to do it. They wanted us to think about it. And so together we were like, okay, we’ll do it. But like on our own terms, um, which meant that we needed to be sourcing. Similarly to how we do for the Willamette Valley Pinot program, but the Chardonnay is so much smaller, so we have multiple, you know, at this point we’re working with three or four different vineyard sites.

And as the program grows, we’ll continue to expand that. Um, and then, like, went around and visited and talked to people that we respect. So I spent a lot of time with Ben over the years. Chasing through barrels with him and his oak program and what he’s doing with his chardonnay. I have very vague recollections of doing the chardonnay when I was there.

Uh, and obviously that was 13 years ago, so things have changed. Um, so that was, it was fun. It was like, let’s take this very, very tiny program. We’ll kind of play around with things. We’ll see what works or what doesn’t work. And then I have since evolved that, and it’s expanded, and I’ve brought in new Coopers, and we started, um, with pungents this year, and I brought in a porcelain egg this year, so that would be fun.

So, you know, Lynn and I kind of had a vision together, and then I have since kind of tried to carve out, like, more what I want our Chardonnay program to be. Right. Um, and because it’s in its infancy, like, Sure, I probably made a few pick errors along the way and picked things a little riper than I really intended to.

So kind of navigating that as we go, you know, you only get three picks a year and you hope that they’re right. 

[00:20:13] A.J. Weizettel: Exactly. You just never know. 

[00:20:14] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: Yeah. And it depends. You know, I had worked with the Dusky Goose Chardonnay and that vineyard just behaved so different than these younger vineyards that I was working with, um, for our program and stuff.

So. It’s, it, it has evolved and it just continues to become more fun for me now that it’s getting bigger and bigger and by bigger I mean it’s like 700 cases. But it means that we can play, there’s more tools to mess around with. I mean that’s kind of the beauty of Chardonnay is that it’s really a winemaker scrape and we can craft it into what we want it to be.


[00:20:49] A.J. Weizettel: I, uh, I’ve heard that a lot. Another term that I’ve heard is, you know, Chardonnay is just a marathon wine, right? You just got to, yeah, that’s, it just keeps going and going, but it’s also, you know, Oregon is really starting to get known for its Chardonnay, which is 

[00:21:08] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: beautiful. Yeah, it really is. I think I had to a degree gotten so burnt out on Chardonnays out of California, but.

It just didn’t, it didn’t like, I didn’t, there wasn’t anything like super enticing about it. I didn’t want to do just the barrel fermented Chardonnay and call it a day. So it, Oregon has so many extra characteristics that are fun and reinvigorated life of Chardonnay for me. And now that there’s this, you know, sure, having concrete eggs is super like.

In right now, but they have been fun and adding porcelain was super fun, right? 

[00:21:46] A.J. Weizettel: That’s when your job becomes just routine and not fun and not challenging. Yeah. It, you know, it shows through it in the end 

[00:21:58] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: result. Yeah, it, it does. So you got to keep things, you know, but I think that’s, uh, it’s, Such a special part about being here is like there’s so many single vineyards and different programs that every harvest is like Okay, we have like a ton to tackle Energy level just rises right and then it’s like it’s a go time.

Let’s make the best wine we can 

[00:22:23] A.J. Weizettel: That is amazing. I and I have to ask Is there any possible sparkling in 

[00:22:29] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: there? Uh, yeah, everybody would love that. Yes! Uh, no. No! 

[00:22:34] A.J. Weizettel: No! 

[00:22:35] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: Well, for like a multitude of reasons, but, um, we do so many SKUs here right now anyway that I would like to do those really, really well and I’m not ready to introduce a new, brand new project.

And our, our blending and bottling rides a very tight timeline into harvest, so to then start picking two weeks earlier, I just don’t know how we would like, I mean, we could do it, but it would be like a lot to do. 

[00:23:04] A.J. Weizettel: It is a lot to manage. It’s a lot of story, just a lot of process. 

[00:23:08] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: Uh, I guess I should never say never.

Never, no. Um, not currently, no. Yeah, 

[00:23:15] A.J. Weizettel: that’s fair. I mean, I totally understand, but you know, I just, I 

[00:23:18] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: have to ask the question. I know, I love drinking it. Yes. I’m just not sure I’m ready to make it. Fair enough. 

[00:23:23] A.J. Weizettel: Oh. Um, so you were on your honeymoon with Hans up in Alaska. Yeah. Haha. Haha. And you ended up having a conversation with the boat tour guy or a guide and you’ll bring in, uh, and this guide ended up bringing all sorts of people to help with 

[00:23:45] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: harvest.

That was like the most amazing time. Yeah, this girl Grace was, um, we were rafting down a river, the Kenai. And just kind of, you know, she’s getting to know everybody on the boat. There’s just us and another family. And she’s like, what do you guys do? I’m like, oh, we’re both winemakers. She goes, really?

Interesting. And yeah, we got to talking about Harvest and, and uh, people coming to help us. And she She kind of was joking, but sort of not, and she was like, I would be interested, and I’m game if you want to come, like, you’re a shoo in, you clearly work outdoors in the cold, in terrible weather, check all the boxes, you’re very physical, um, yeah, we just exchanged information, she came, and from that, I think I had three or four years of some of the most amazing seasonal help I’ve ever had.

Wow. Yeah. And I’ve stayed in contact with all of them. They’re just like the most amazing human beings and the nicest people in the world. Do you get 

[00:24:46] A.J. Weizettel: any random birthday texts from, from that group? 

[00:24:48] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. They’ve all stayed in touch. They’ve like kept, uh, in contact with Hans and I as we’ve had kids and they pop in and say hello from time to time.

A lot of them are still living in Alaska on and off. This girl, Grace is, lives on a boat in Alaska. Um, another one is like. Rowing across the Atlantic right now. I know, they’re just like, yeah, they’re amazing and I’ve totally kept in touch with all of them. 

[00:25:14] A.J. Weizettel: Wow. I can’t even imagine that lifestyle. I mean, it would be, it would be a blast, but holy cow, I would have a hard time not having like a home base.

[00:25:24] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: That’s, you know, that’s how I, I, they were, they were younger when they were coming, right? They were all in their early to mid twenties. And now they’ve almost all of them are in full time positions where they’re like settled down and or married. But, um. Um, yeah, I think about when I used to travel around and live out of a backpack.

It was great up until about the age of 26 when I didn’t want to do that anymore. 

[00:25:49] A.J. Weizettel: That is, that’s fair. That’s fair. Oh, so normally I ask this question with husband and wife sitting side by side, one another. And it’s fun to ask the question, especially in person back and forth, but you’re just here by yourself.

And why not? Oh. So, just imagine yourself, uh, you get a phone call in the middle of the night. You pick it up, and it’s Hans, and he’s in jail. What crime has 

[00:26:24] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: he committed? Oh, wow. Hans? I 

[00:26:29] A.J. Weizettel: mean, I can’t imagine Hans doing anything bad. I know. 

[00:26:32] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: Yeah, that would be a hard one. He’s in jail, huh? What’s a jailable offense?

Yeah, I 

[00:26:37] A.J. Weizettel: mean, maybe he, you know, was skiing down the wrong slope that he wasn’t supposed to be on and trespassing, or 

[00:26:44] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: I mean, I guess, it’s in the middle of the night, though, huh? 

[00:26:47] A.J. Weizettel: Yeah. I mean, it could have happened, you know, when it does. I 

[00:26:51] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: mean, if it was, like, daytime or something, it could be, yeah, like, mountain bike riding where he was.

Okay. That’s fair. Yeah. Trespassing. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. 

[00:27:01] A.J. Weizettel: He’s not a rule breaker from what 

[00:27:04] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: I can see. Neither one of us are rule breakers. We’re very boring. No. No. Speeding tickets not going to land you at the table. 

[00:27:14] A.J. Weizettel: That is fair. Oh, I believe it was January of 2020. Oh, your son was born. Okay. Okay. And to grow up, I mean, I know that he’s, you know, getting ready to turn four.

And so it was very difficult to predict, but you have obviously husband and wife into wine, you also have a husband that is, or mom and dad are into wine and a dad that is heavy into food as well. What, I mean, do you see at this point where, again, it’s difficult. 

[00:27:52] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: Yeah, I mean, he’s funny. I, like, I worry about every harvest, us scarring the children because we’re gone so much.

And we do make, like, a very big effort to be at home for dinner every single night to put the kids to bed. Right. And to make sure we’re up and, like, with them in the morning. But You know, he will, he’s like, I’m gonna be a winemaker when I grow up. He’s also gonna be a million other things. But, he’s like very aware of what we do.

And like, you know, he walks the vineyards with me early in harvest. And he’s picking the grapes. Um, and his like, Yeah, he’s the standard near four year old where food is like the constant battle. Sometimes they’re a hoover and sometimes they don’t want to touch it. It’s the most disgusting thing they’ve ever had in their life, even though they haven’t tried it.

Of course. Um, but he is, I, I try to be very active in the kitchen, um. with him of like baking and like helping slice so he’s like super into that like we started baby steps it’s like baking cookies or whatever muffins but now he’s got like a peel he peels carrots and does all those things and so I’m trying to actively engage with that you know everything that you read says that’s what engages kids to like Good eating habits in general, but he’s not, um, you know, he’ll declare, he’s like, I like spicy things now that I’m older.

[00:29:19] A.J. Weizettel: Okay. Okay. Do you though? Let’s try some spicy. 

[00:29:25] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: But he’s, yeah, he’s not like, I mean, he doesn’t, He doesn’t really understand, like, cooking and wine, but he knows what mom and dad do. Um, and because mom and dad do it, it seems like a cool thing. Yeah, no, 

[00:29:36] A.J. Weizettel: it’s adorable when they see what mom and dad do and they’re like, I want to do what you do.

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It is amazing. Oh. You know, I do, you know, like iPhone design work and my daughter, you know, early on, it’s, it’s so funny. I got her this iPad app called procreate and you know, it’s, you know, got an apple pencil and she’s able to draw and sketch and it wasn’t, I got it when she was, I don’t know, seven or eight and it wasn’t until she was.

Like 12 or 13 where she was like, Oh, look at this. And now procreate has, uh, another app called, uh, procreate dreams, which is animation. So we’re trying to, you know, get that animation part in there. And then we’re like with my design work for iPhone apps. I’m asking her, well, what do you think of this? And she’s like, ugh, it’s bland.

I’m like, okay, great! That’s a great conversation. What would you do to change it up? Yeah, for sure. I would do this, or I would do this. That’s really cool. It is really cool. And, you know, I appreciate what you’re doing. You know, fostering, getting in the kitchen, and just Who knows how long it’s going to take for that, like, to spark to go poof.

Yeah. But when that spark happens, I got to tell you, it’s gonna be rad. Yeah. Yeah. So amazing. So 

[00:30:58] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: amazing. It’s every, like, step I see. It’s just amazing, right? Children’s development just blows my mind. I, yes, it 

[00:31:07] A.J. Weizettel: is. And, uh, I am incredibly fortunate having a 15 year old daughter that she’s not biting my head off.

Yeah. Yeah. But it’s, it’s Well, 

[00:31:17] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: that speaks to you. 

[00:31:18] A.J. Weizettel: I hope, I hope, um, but yeah, it is, it is amazing. 

[00:31:24] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: Yeah, it really is. 

[00:31:27] A.J. Weizettel: The, the Oregon wine community, absolutely amazing. If you could pick one story, and I know this is difficult, that really stands out to you of how the Oregon wine community kind of reached out, gave you a big old hug and said, you know, yeah, we’ll help you out.


[00:31:49] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: like, not specifically to me, uh, per se, but, you know, there’s a lot of things about this community that are amazing and wonderful, um, and I think there’s like, two very clear. So I am part of, um, like a group of female white makers and assistant white makers, and we have an email thread. And it’s. It’s the open platform to ask any question you can possibly ask of this is what I’m experiencing or or other random things like who are you using for X, Y, and Z for packet, et cetera.

It is just this very like free flowing group of women, um, being very supportive of each other and there are like no silly questions, right? Um, so I think that’s really amazing that we’re very supportive of each other. But then alternatively to that, um, as devastating as the 2020 vintage was, um, for everybody, the power of everybody uniting and calling and texting and like, what are you seeing?

How are you dealing with this? Like it was such a tumultuous time. Um, and because of Jackson family’s resources. I had labs constantly running all of my grapes and looking to see what numbers were, and those were, like, that’s not available to the larger community. ETS was completely backlogged. People were sending to Washington, Canada, Colorado.

So, to just field so many phone calls of, like, you have vineyards literally in every one of the sub AVAs, what is it that you’re seeing? And not to, like, call out Problem vineyards or anything, but just to say like, this is my reality and maybe this will give you something to like make decisions with what you guys have to deal with.

There was so much back and forth and it was like, it broke me to not bring in our fruit from all of our growers. It broke Lynn and I. But it was also like very helpful to talk to those growers because like a lot of those are their own producers too, so. Um, in what was a really, really terrible time, it felt like the community helped each other to make some pretty, like, big 

[00:34:07] A.J. Weizettel: decisions.

I can only imagine. I can 

[00:34:09] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: only imagine. So less embracing, but more, you know, I mean, it was just like, it was just, I think about my time in Napa where everything was like a big secret all the time and nobody wanted to talk about any of those big troublesome, I mean, red blotch, nobody wanted to talk about red blotch in their vineyard.

It was a big no no topic. Wow. But you know what makes a lot more sense is to talk about it and like know that we all have a problem. And what can we do to, well, yeah, and 

[00:34:35] A.J. Weizettel: just life in general, right? I don’t know. Um, I’m a big fan of Bernie Brown and to hold onto all that shame is so difficult, you know, so shame as an industry or shame as an individual being able to get out, talk about it, connect with other people.

It’s, it’s an amazing. A human thing 

[00:34:55] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: to do. Yeah, and just, I mean, I don’t know. You know, I, this industry up here is just so wonderful, um, and collaborative, and like, just, like, could you think of any other wine community that can put on something like OPC, and like, actually all like each other? 

[00:35:17] A.J. Weizettel: Not to my knowledge, not to my knowledge, it’s 

[00:35:20] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: just, I don’t know, I love, I love it so much up here.

I love the camaraderie. 

[00:35:25] A.J. Weizettel: I have a, uh, a book on order that I ordered at the beginning of the year that I’m wanting to dive into. It’s probably 1500 pages long, but it’s Napa Valley then and now, Oh wow. And I can’t wait to dive into that because I would love to know. More about that wine community, what it was like and what it is now.

And, um, just there, there’s so much history there as well. And just like, uh, I’m, I’m a big sucker for stories anyway. So anyway, 

[00:35:56] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: I mean, it’s phenomenal. I mean, just even when I started at Cape Red and they would tell us the story about them purchasing that property. I mean, it was crazy. Something absurd, like 2, 000.

I mean, it was if, you know, he was in Oakland with a car repair shop. I mean, just times have changed. Yeah, 

[00:36:14] A.J. Weizettel: it is. It is. And holy cow, if you dive into the Mondavi family story. Oh, yeah. I mean, even that 

[00:36:21] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: is fascinating. All, I mean, just so many of those old originating wineries are just, yeah, we lived on the Spotswood property for a while there.

And that whole story, I mean, yeah. Just, it’s wild. 

[00:36:33] A.J. Weizettel: I, yeah. Exactly. Exactly. Uh, I have some rapid fire questions. Okay. We’ll do the reveal on the wine, wine, and I’ll get you out of here. Okay. All right. Uh, favorite artist to listen to during harvest? 

[00:36:47] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: Ooh, during harvest. Mmm. Uh, I don’t have like a favorite. So if I’m here by myself.

Yes. Um, I listen to the Decemberists quite a bit. Okay. Yeah, that’s my go to when I’m here by myself. Very 

[00:37:02] A.J. Weizettel: nice. Uh, your favorite indulgent food that Hans makes for you? Mmm. 

[00:37:09] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: I just, it’s not like so much indulgent, but like, a really nice food on steak with like a chimichurri sauce on it, or like lamb chops.

Okay. Yeah. 

[00:37:20] A.J. Weizettel: That sounds yummy. Yeah, 

[00:37:23] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: maybe it’s indulgent, but it sounds 

[00:37:25] A.J. Weizettel: pretty good to me. If you could choose a superpower, what would it be? Oh, 

[00:37:31] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: superpower,

like superpower. Like I can control the 

[00:37:38] A.J. Weizettel: weather. That could be, yeah, 

[00:37:40] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: that could be a super, like kind of a sucker for the, the, um, storm, you know, the. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That’d be kind of 

[00:37:49] A.J. Weizettel: cool. That would be very cool. Uh, your harvest notes, are they digital or 

[00:37:54] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: handwritten? Handwritten. Okay. Yeah. I’m still, I, we’ve talked about digitizing, but, um, we have, I have an enormous amount of notebooks.

I can only imagine. All right. So. I digitize all of the wine related stuff though. So hand, like handwrite notes and digitize everything else. 

[00:38:12] A.J. Weizettel: Going down a small little rabbit hole, all your notebooks, are they, like, soft bound, are they hard bound, is it a moleskin, what? They’re 

[00:38:19] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: soft bound, just those, like, um, five star, whatever, you know.

[00:38:25] A.J. Weizettel: Okay, okay, okay. That you get at the beginning of every school year? 

[00:38:27] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: Uh huh. We all have them, that’s what we all bring to the table for tasting. We all have different colored. That’s 

[00:38:33] A.J. Weizettel: awesome. Are there stickers to go on the cover? 

[00:38:36] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: No stickers to go on the cover. I know, this is something we can think about in the future.

There you go. Decorating. Yes. 

[00:38:43] A.J. Weizettel: Uh, last book you read. It could also, you know, it could be physical, it could be audible, or like, even like a 

[00:38:48] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: podcast. Oh, the last book I read, um, I’m gonna get the title of this wrong, but I wanna say it’s like called Tiny Beautiful Creatures. And I’m pretty sure that’s the wrong title, but it’s um, About this octopus in an aquarium.

Okay. And like how smart octopuses are. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. It was just It was such an awesome remark, remarkably bright creatures. I think that’s what it’s called. They are. They 

[00:39:16] A.J. Weizettel: are. Um, 

[00:39:17] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: and it was amazing. I highly recommend 

[00:39:19] A.J. Weizettel: it. I will definitely check that out. I, I assume that you haven’t introduced your son to like YouTube videos or anything yet, desperately 

[00:39:27] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: try not to.


[00:39:28] A.J. Weizettel: If so, 

[00:39:29] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: just there, I’ll just say that we haven’t, there 

[00:39:32] A.J. Weizettel: is, um, a creator. His name is Mark Rober. He does some amazing. Scientific, educational, fun stuff. Oh, cool. And his latest video was he created an obstacle course for a pet octopus. Whoa. And the, the reason that he did it, he bought the octopus and he found out where the octopus, uh, grew up, you know, from the ocean and whatnot.

And he wanted to make sure that the octopus would survive out into the wild. And so he built this obstacle course and it’s a crazy obstacle course to see this. That’s awesome octopus. To go through this maze to get all the shrimp and so like, whoa, that’s so cool. Uh, to get the actual shrimp, you know, there is a, like a screw on, you know, a big old screw on, on the actual, where the shrimp were and the octopus just twists it off and goes right in and has a, that’s amazing Feast.

[00:40:29] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: This book, I mean, obviously it’s fiction, is like, um, this octopus that’s in his little pen or whatever that has figured out how to get out of it. And, um, there’s a cleaning woman and they like create a bond. And like, she realizes that he gets out every night. They have this whole thing. Anyway, I don’t want to spoil the story, but it’s, it was a really wonderful book.

[00:40:51] A.J. Weizettel: will have to check that out. It’s, you know, and in that video, Mark Rober says how octopuses always get out. 

[00:40:57] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: Yeah, and they’re like memory is like Ruby long. It’s 

[00:41:01] A.J. Weizettel: incredible. It is absolutely incredible. Yeah So there’s a good YouTube thing for your four year old. That’s good to know. Yeah, he does some very fun things awesome Shall I reveal the yeah, okay So again, you know, I tried to create some sort of connection And, uh, you know, 

[00:41:22] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: it is a Chardonnay.

I thought it might be, well, this is wonderful. Good job, Ben. Yes. 

[00:41:29] A.J. Weizettel: You know, so I, you know, something from Bethel Heights, uh, you know, to bring back a little bit of memory. 

[00:41:37] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: That’s wonderful. 

[00:41:40] A.J. Weizettel: You’re welcome. Yeah. Well, thank you for your time today. Thank you. I really appreciate it. Um, do you have any questions or anything for me before we 

[00:41:47] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: go?

Uh, no, no, not often. I’m not off the top of my 

[00:41:51] A.J. Weizettel: head. Alright, that’s fair, that’s fair. Well again, thank you so much. And uh, cheers. Cheers. 

[00:41:58] Kate Ayres of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars: Thank you. Thank you. 

[00:42:02] A.J. Weizettel: Thank you for joining me on this flavorful voyage through the world of wine on The Wine Notes Podcast. I’ve been your host and guide, A. J. Weinzettel, and it’s been an absolute pleasure sharing these captivating stories with you.

But alas, like the last sip of a fine vintage, our time together must end. But don’t fret, my wine loving friend. The cellar doors of The Wine Notes Podcast will always remain open. Waiting for you to return and explore new conversations, stories, and musings from the captivating people behind the magical world of wine.

Before you go, hit that subscribe button on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, and Spotify, and don’t forget to leave a sparkly 5 star review to help spread the word. And to our glasses clink again, remember to savor the light’s moment, and let the Spirit of wine and camaraderie linger on your palate. Cheers! And as always, may your wine glass be full, your heart be light, and your journey be delightful.

Thank you.

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