Perched atop a knoll surrounded by vines, their flagship vineyard is situated in the gateway of the Van Duzer Corridor, a deep gap in the Oregon Coastal Range that draws brisk air from the Pacific Ocean into the Willamette Valley. The flagship estate’s 83.7 planted acres are in the direct path of marine winds, and benefit from the cooling gusts that moderate the temperatures over the vineyard, guaranteeing a long, beneficial growing season year after year. Proprietors Carl and Marilynn Thoma were among the first to choose the foothills at the mouth of the Van Duzer Corridor for their estate and have been pioneers in the formation of the Van Duzer Corridor AVA.
We spoke with Brandon Allen, their Direct to Consumer Manager who brings fresh insight on Van Duzer Vineyards and the place of the new Van Duzer Corridor AVA in the broader wine landscape.
Brandon Allen – Direct to Consumer Manager
Independence Hotel (IH): What is your position at Van Duzer Vineyards? What does that position entail, and what about it brings you the most joy?
Brandon Allen (BA): My name is Brandon Allen, and my title is Direct to Consumer Manager (DTC Manager). My role entails overseeing DTC operations, as well as all sales and marketing efforts for the brand. In addition, one thing I love about my job (and working at a smaller winery) is that everyone helps across departments. Just the other day I found myself hand-labeling bottles of wine.
IH: Can you tell us a little bit about your experience in Napa?
BA: Over the past six years I have actually spent time in Napa and Monterey California. Both are highly active tourist destinations with stellar wines coming from them. While in Napa my focus was on national/international brand marketing and compliance. My time on the Central Coast was focused on DTC marketing and operations, as well as advocacy work for the region.
IH: What would you say are the biggest differences between the two regions, and what would you say the two regions have the most in common?
BA: Even through Napa is an iconic wine region, there are actually quite a few similarities (beyond the fact we both make great wine). The most obvious to me is the passion for wine and desire to share this labor of love with as many people as possible. I also love the comradery between wineries! With regards to differences, I have to say it is more about the ambiance. Napa (and Monterey) have stunning properties, but the tasting rooms of the Willamette Valley have some of the greatest views and vistas I have ever seen!
IH: What is your favorite thing about working in the wine industry?
BA: My favorite thing about working in the industry is how different each day can be. No two days are ever alike.
IH: What have you learned from working in both Oregon and California?
BA: The biggest lesson I have learned from working is that great wine is made in the vineyard!
IH: What surprises you the most about wine/the wine industry?
BA: What always surprises me is how much a difference location makes on wine. Luckily Oregon is in a stellar spot for producing (in my opinion) the worlds best Pinot Noir!
IH: Where do you see the future of Van Duzer going?
BA: Van Duzer has been working on transitioning over the last year and we are realizing those benefits everyday. As we continue on this path I have no doubt you are going to see some of the best wines in Oregon coming from our vineyards. Couple great wine with new and memorable experiences we are starting to roll out will make Van Duzer a top contender in the region.
IH: What are some of the upcoming changes or additions you’re planning to enact at Van Duzer? And how do you think this will help, evolve, or change the winery?
BA: We are stoked for the future of Van Duzer! Recently we just added a new seating area on the lawn we are referring to as “The Grove.” We are also expanding seating options, working to add lawn games, more live music, and a culinary program in the future! In addition we are looking at ways we can better showcase the entire estate in elevated experiences
Great wine starts in the Vineyard, and the Vineyards at Van Duzer are shaped by the unique conditions of the Van Duzer Corridor AVA
Nothing like tasting wine at the vineyard the grapes were grown, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Van Duzer’s flagship vineyard for the full experience
IH: Do you have a favorite wine quote, movie, or fact?
BA: “Age and glasses of wine should never be counted.” Or “Don’t be a loser, drink Van Duzer!”
IH: If you were to describe Monterey wine with one song, and Van Duzer wine with one song, what would they be?
BA: Theme to Big Little Lies (Monterey); Never gonna give you up – Rick Astley (Van Duzer)
IH: What role does philanthropy play at Van Duzer Vineyards?
BA: On top of being very active in our community, our owners Carl and Marilynn Thoma have The Thoma Foundation, focusing on the visual arts.
IH: If you were to describe Napa Valley wine in 3 words, and Van Duzer wine in 3 words, what would they be?
BA:Napa- iconic, historic, delicious wines; Van Duzer – Unique, stunning, even better wines!
That Van Duzer wind! Come experience it first hand!
IH: If you could name a bottle of wine, what kind of wine would it be and what would you want to name it?
BA: A nice sparkling and it would be called Domaine Allen
IH: What is your favorite way to drink wine?
BA: With good company, preferably around a fire pit.
IH: What is your fondest, or strangest, wine memory?
BA: Hands down the day I fell in love with wine. During a gap year in college I had been backpacking Europe for about 3 months and was sitting at a hostel in downtown Paris with new travel friends. Typically we had been exploring beer of the region, but some of the locals encouraged us to try a beautiful Bordeaux. Between the feeling of being truly immersed in Paris while sipping on this wine, I became a believer that day.
The charming grounds at Van Duzer’s Vineyard!
A rainbow spreads across the sky over Van Duzer Vineyard
IH: With all of your experience in the industry, what piece of advice do you have for those who are new to the wine world?
BA: Wine doesn’t have to be intimidating. I’ve met countless people who are afraid to explore because they don’t think they have the knowledge base to enjoy and converse about the wine. Instead I view wine as an incredibly subjective, personal experience that could boil down to whether you like or dislike the wine.
IH: What inspires you?
BA: I love whenever I get to see the “aha moment” for someone tasting wine. What I mean by that is when I am able to help someone discover something new in the tasting room, whether it’s helping someone opposed to Chardonnay realize they just hadn’t found their type yet, to taking someone into the vineyard for the first time. The moment of excitement is what keeps me coming back day after day.
IH: Is there anything else you’d like to mention that I haven’t asked about?
BA: Just that everyone should make time to come check out this stellar property. It is truly a gem!