ELKTON — What began as a favor for a family friend turned into a labor of love for Terry Brandborg, who runs Brandborg Winery in Elkton with his wife, Sue.
Terry Brandborg, 62, became interested in winemaking after an uncle’s friend in Concord, Calif., asked him if he wanted to help with wine production in 1975. He soon started making wine himself.
“The whole experience was very charming. I was smitten from the beginning,” he said.
During the following year, Brandborg researched sources for grapes, such as the Napa Valley, the Sierra foothills and Mendocino County. He moved to Marin County and started helping a friend who grew grapes in Mendocino County on the weekends.
“I ended up thinking it was more fun than my day job,” said Brandborg, who was a longshoreman.
Brandborg started a small label as a “garage winery” in 1986 while living in San Francisco and produced 300 cases of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir in the first year. He outgrew the garage in four years and rented warehouse space in Richmond, Calif., to expand his business.
He had visited the Northwest previously when he saw friends who had moved to Sutherlin in the mid-1980s, but had never seriously considered moving to the area.
Terry and Sue met at a trade and consumer wine tasting on Memorial Day weekend in 1998 and immediately bonded over their love of the drink.
Soon after marrying, they began looking for property for a winery on the West Coast. They focused primarily on California but also toured Oregon and became interested in Elkton after learning that pinot noir had been grown there since 1972.
“Two weeks after our first visit to Elkton, we were back. And that same day, I said, ‘Honey, this is it.’ It was a decision based on my gut feeling and on what the soil looked like,” he said.
The two moved north in January 2002 and made their home in Elkton. Brandborg said he enjoys the continued challenged of winemaking.
“I never feel that I’ll have it down or know it. There’s always new things to know about it,” he said.
Their vineyard spreads over five acres, and they, along with their business partners, hope to expand it to 50 acres eventually. Approximately 95 percent of the wine they make is from grapes they buy from the northern part of the Umpqua Valley.
Their Fleur de Lis Pinot Noir was mentioned in Sunset magazine in 2007 for being one of the most startling white wines on the West Coast. Their 2010 pinot gris was awarded a 2012 Oyster Award. The Oyster award judged 101 wines and chose the 10 that are best paired with oysters.
“It was pretty prestigious, and we’ve gotten a lot of feedback for it,” Sue Brandborg said.
Their wine is available in 24 markets around the country and also exported to Japan and Puerto Rico. The Brandborgs spend much of their time on the road promoting the brand. The winery specializes in pinot noir, Riesling and Gewürztraminer.
“Being able to be in every aspect of winemaking, the administrative, the bottling, the selling is what makes it work for me. It’s challenging, and nothing ever gets old,” she said.
The couple enjoy entertaining at the winery and host many concerts and events there, Terry Brandborg said.
“I don’t foresee myself retiring, I’m having too much fun doing what I’m doing,” he said.
• You can reach reporter Betsy Swanback at 541-957-4208 or email at email@example.com.