Jim Prosser

Sustainable Vintner

Oregon winemaker Jim Prosser says his delectable 2002 vintage possesses "an ageable combination of power and grace." The same can be said of the 41-year-old recreational mountaineer–cum–professional vintner, whose 1999 debut pinot noir turned international critics into salivating sissies. Prosser's J.K. Carriere label continues to wow oenophiles at restaurants from NYC's Oceana to Aspen's Ajax Tavern, with pinots ranging from $18 to $65 that, Prosser says, are "more about seduction and less about 'haul you back to the cave by the hair.'" He and his crew of 16 produce the wine in a converted hazelnut barn in the Willamette Valley, using centuries-old techniques and locally grown, pesticide-free grapes. "Great wines are made at the margins," says the Peace Corps alum (he served as a small-business consultant in Lithuania from 1993 to 1995), who compares winemaking's risks and rewards to those of climbing a peak or catching a trout. When he's not off skiing Mount Bachelor or fishing the Deschutes, Prosser relishes the long hours caught up in the vines or on the crush deck. But things get less rosé when the bees come out to bite. Deathly allergic, he's twice ended up in a near-coma working in the vineyards. "It reminds me I've made a conscious choice to do what I do," declares Prosser. "Know thine enemy, I say." Fittingly, his label pays tribute to his nemesis: A big wasp underlies the vintage.

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