The team at Memaloose includes the McCormick family and a few dedicated and highly-skilled employees. Brian oversees the vineyards and cellar. Rob is business manager. Our full and part-time staff has grown with us from the beginning in 2003.
Bookish and a bit reclusive, Brian describes his task as “working, with real humility, to deliver wines of originality and fidelity to the growing site.” He draws inspiration primarily from an array of small, “old world” grower-producers, particularly in France’s Alsace, Loire, and Beaujolais regions and across Italy. Having fallen in love with good food and wine as a religion major in college, Brian went on to study winemaking and earned a graduate degree in Horticulture from the University of California at Davis. His early experience included work at Domaine Zind-Humbrecht in Alsace, and three vintages as a viticulturist in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley. With wife Maria and their two children, he farms grapes, cherries, pears and garden produce at Idiot’s Grace, the certified organic farm they’ve owned in Mosier, Oregon, since 2002. You can often find them there, pulling pizzas from their backyard mud oven.
Rob completed a career in the food industry. A marketing strategist, Rob has been challenged with the daunting task of introducing old world style wines, from a new appellation, to the average American wine drinker. The journey of leading America’s wine tastes toward the beauty of European wine-making tradition, has been the highlight of his business life.
Food and the Family
Our lives revolve around the kitchen. Brian is a talented baker and cook, and his wife, Maria, produces fabulous cuisine, almost exclusively from the bounty of their organic farm – usually accompanied by exotic international wines.
Francophile matriarch, Barbara was a professional chef specializing in pastries. Rob completed a career in the food industry that included consulting, after building a strong foundation at family-founded McCormick and Company (the world’s leading spice and seasoning company).
“Memaloose is a story about a place,
a family and the love of fine food.”
Shaped by cataclysmic, ice age floods and relentless winds, the Columbia Gorge Appellation (click to view video) is more than a visual treasure. It is a collection of microclimates with rich volcanic and sedimentary soils, capable of growing a mind-numbing array of grape varieties — producing well-balanced, structured wines, that are blessed with bright acidity.
A Father and Son, supported by other family members, all on a quest to uncover the true potential of this young AVA. We farm our five vineyards and influence every step of the winemaking miracle.
Food and wine are at the center of our family’s life. Because of our backgrounds, we view wine as an integral part of the food experience — we will only produce wines that complement food…lighter alcohol and oak influence, without sweetness or overextraction. This means that our wine are quite different from typical Washington State wines.
The Memaloose Label
The name “Memaloose” represents our terroir. It is the name of a sacred Indian island, that lies in the center (geographically) of our estate vineyards — two on the Oregon shore of the Columbia and three on the Washington side. “Memaloose” wines are made exclusively from Rhone Valley variety grapes. “Idiot’s Grace” is Brian McCormick's label that was developed after “Memaloose” and is now our primary label: it is 90% certified organic. (The name came from the title of an inspiring 1980's rock song and is also the name of Brian and Maria's home farm in Mosier – producing grapes, cherries and pears, among other organic specialties).
These are “food wines”, and as such enjoy a strong following among the sommelier community. One of our distributors describes them as: “wines with the fruit of the “new world” with the freshness of the “old world”.
The “Memaloose” Label
The distinctive Memaloose label draws inspiration from Lewis and Clark’s exploration. The “Corps of Discovery” camped in 1806 on the river bank overlooking Memaloose Island. Permission was granted for us to reproduce the Lewis and Clark journals on our label (including sketches, maps, and copy). The quote on the label is from April 14, 1806, when the group camped below our vineyards, overlooking the island. (Note that the explorers called Memaloose “Sepulcher,” their reference to the sacred burial structures of the Native American island). Our label expresses a bit of the history of our place and inspiration for our journey.
The "Idiot’s Grace" Label
These brightly colored labels feature a local Mosier artist's distinctive ink art. Each label is a different color. “Idiot's Grace” is our primary Label.
History of the Winery
We are a young winery (2006 was our first vintage), and we have much to learn as our vineyards mature and we learn to optimize the many grapes we have planted, given the sites we have chosen. This is a long-term effort of pioneering and discovery. We are determined to produce the best wines that the Columbia Gorge AVA is capable of growing. The AVA was only approved in 2003.
Brian McCormick and family came to the Gorge from Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley in 2001. He had long wanted to plant in the Columbia Gorge — believing that he could best produce his style of wine in this remarkable location. Rob McCormick and his wife Barbara joined them in the Gorge shortly thereafter.
Planting commenced in 2002 on both sides of the River, at “Idiot’s Grace” in Mosier, and in Parker’s Vineyard at Mistral Ranch in Lyle. The remaining three vineyards were planted on a rolling schedule over the next few years, with completion of the original plan in 2009. A new expansion to the Idiot's Grace vineyard started in 2015.
The original winery was a converted barn on the Mistral Ranch in Lyle, WA., which was occupied in 2006. Our second, and major winery, opens in 2017 on Idiot's Grace farm in Mosier, OR., on the South Bank. Case production has grown from 250 in 2006, to over 2000 in 2016. Eventual plans and capacity are for 3500 cases.
Tasting Room Location:
34 State Street (HWY 14),
Lyle, WA 98635
Current Tasting Room Hours:
Thursday through Monday