Cincy Chic: Why did you decide to leave a Fortune 500 company to start your own vineyard?
Kelley Styring: My husband, Steve, and I have always had a passion for wine. It’s part of our daily life and part of our social life with friends. When we were thinking about leaving our careers and finding a way to be happy every day, winemaking was a natural choice. Instead of trying to balance work and family, we’ve integrated work life and family life into one and the same thing. It’s a fluid, flexible lifestyle and has family, wine and farming at its center.
Cincy Chic: Why did you go to Oregon to start it?
Styring: Oregon is a unique region of the U.S. where you have absolutely perfect conditions for some of the great, noble grapes, like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – and an authentic family farm life. Unlike Napa, where you have to start with millions in capital to acquire land, plant a vineyard and build a winery, it’s still possible in Oregon to have a family farm and vineyard that you solely own, without investment bankers and partners with deep pockets.
Cincy Chic: How did you choose the cities in which your wine is available?
Styring: Ohio was a natural for us because we lived in Cincinnati for five years, in Hyde Park. Wine was an important part of our social life, visiting wine bars and restaurants with good friends. So, when we started making wines, I approached the very same places I frequented as a Cincy resident. I knew there was a core of customers who would appreciate what we were doing and our ties to the community. At this point, we are making only 500 cases total across all varietals. Most varietals are produced in 150 case lots or less. So, we limit distribution to the winery, a few Oregon accounts, and Ohio, principally Cincinnati.
Cincy Chic: What are your vineyard’s specialties?
Styring: Our passion is premium Pinot Noir. They call it the “heartbreak” grape and it’s so true. It’s hard to grow, hard to harvest and handle in the winery. There are a hundred ways to screw it up. But, when it all comes together and the flavor blooms in your mouth, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. The complexity, depth, soft curvatures, it’s completely exceptional. We’re probably driven to do this because I went to John F. Kennedy middle school. You know, “we don’t do things because they’re easy – we do them because they are hard.” It’s rewarding to succeed when something is difficult to do. We make white wines as well – Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, more as a whimsy which is actually the name of our Riesling, “Whimsy.” We also enjoy dessert wines and make a Pinot Noir Port and Riesling Dessert. But Pinot is really our passion.
Cincy Chic: We understand you’ll be at the upcoming Cincinnati International Wine Festival. Tell us a little about it, where it will be and what people can experience there.
Styring: It’s at the Convention Center March 28th and 29th. I will have a small booth and will pour Styring Vineyards’ “Wit” Reserve Pinot Noir 2004 and White Riesling Dessert 2003. Both wines are fantastic and I always enjoy meeting people interested in wine. The event features several hundred wines, so I advise people to get a program and sit for 10 minutes of planning. Pick a region or type of wine and focus on that. It’s easy to be overwhelmed, so that’s a strategy I advise. If you don’t know what you like, sample a few then narrow down from there. Be ready to pour out wine – you don’t want to drink the entire portion poured or you’ll taste only a few before you reach your limit. And, please have a designated driver. Be safe.
Cincy Chic: What are you excited to see/do/experience at the Wine Festival?
Styring: I am always excited to meet our customers and retailers. It’s such a pleasure to personally meet people who enjoy the product and pour for them. I also love meeting people who don’t know what they like and watch them fall in love with our wines. I can tell by the expression on their faces. It’s a great feeling. Oh, and I have loads of friends who come by and that’s always exciting, lots of hugging, etc.
Cincy Chic: Now that you’re in Oregon, what do you miss most about Cincinnati?
Styring: Our friends. Farm life is idyllic, but it is also a bit isolating. Cincinnati is such a warm and welcoming city. I can count my very best friends on the fingers of one hand, and most of them still live in Cincinnati. Our first child was born in Cincinnati. I have such a special place in my heart for the city. I also love the culinary community. I travel a lot and I have to say that Cincinnati has a stronger base of world class restaurants than you’d expect given its scale. I’d put the restaurant scene in Cincy up against any major metro in the U.S. any day.