Westmoreland man produces prizewinning wines

by: Rita A. Leonard, Glen Brunger, Westmoreland vintner, produces prizewinning wines.

It turns out, you really don't have to live in Yamhill County or somewhere else down the Willamette Valley to make prize-winning wines.

You can live in Westmoreland.

Vintner Glen Brunger, whose home indeed is in Westmoreland, is becoming widely-known for his fine wines. He owns a small winery in Silverton called 'Vitis Ridge Wines', which has already produced six prize-winning varieties. On August 11th, Vitis Ridge Wines was featured at a wine-tasting event held at QFC Market on S.E. Milwaukie Avenue, which now stocks his wines.

Brunger's neighbors, who have championed his home-based winemaking efforts since he began experimenting in 1988, are pleased that he's finally gone public with his wares. Recognition keeps coming: At the end of August, he won four more medals at the Oregon State Fair, including gold in the pinot noir category.

'I've always been interested in wines, and I used to visit the wineries west of Portland in the early 1980's,' says Brunger. 'In 1988 I bought some grapes from a vineyard, and made five gallons of pinot noir and ten gallons of Reisling in my garage. I continued to experiment, and my neighbors really liked the samples I gave them. In 2003 I got together with some friends, one of whom sold grapes to the industry, and we set up the winery in Silverton.'

Vitis Ridge Wines has now grown to produce eight different varieties, including pinot noir, pinot gris, Reisling, early Muscat, Syrah, Malbec, Marechal Foch, and Cabernet Sauvignon. 'Last year, we produced 1,500 cases,' says Brunger.

Winemaking is a second job for Brunger, who also works fulltime as a Manager for Fred Meyer. 'The winery is open to the public on the second weekend of every month,' he says. 'Our busy season is the four to six weeks from late September till early November, when grapes are harvested. It gets pretty crazy sometimes, but it's a lot of fun, and the time goes by fast.'

Ed Benett, a neighbor who has praised Brunger's wines for years, described Vitis Ridge Winery's success at the 2006 Spring Beer and Wine Fest held at the Oregon Convention Center: Brunger's wines won six of 21 medals, including a gold for best Cabernet Sauvignon, and five silver medals.

'According to the competition's supervisor, Dan Paynter of the Pacific Northwest Wine Club,' says Benett, 'The judges were surprised [to learn the wines] came from a tiny winery in Silverton that was less than two years old. In the event's twelve-year history, no winery has so dominated the competition, let alone a winery so new and unknown.'

Brunger is pleased with the local success of his wines, although he no longer produces one of his prizewinners--a dessert wine called 'D'vin' (divine). 'We purchase our grapes in Yakima,' he notes. 'It's a five-hour drive, followed by three hours needed to process the grapes with a grape crusher. It makes for a long day.'

The excitement of a productive hobby makes the experience worthwhile, however. 'In about a year, we should actually see a little profit,' he says. 'Memorial Day is the opening weekend for wine season, and Thanksgiving is the informal ending. We celebrate with an open house featuring music, artwork, tours, and of course wine-tasting.'

The festivities and camaraderie associated with winemaking culminate in a fine appreciation of harvest bounty. Glen Brunger of Westmoreland is pleased to be a productive part of the celebration.