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February 11, 2014
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Douglas County winemaker’s emergency touchdown on I-5 inspires wine’s name

TENMILE — A winemaker who landed his sputtering airplane on Interstate 5 in July credits the experience for inspiring his latest creation.

Second-generation winemaker Marc Girardet of Girardet Vineyards said Monday that Touchdown Red pays tribute to a miraculous landing.

“After sitting around shell shocked for a day, I thought, ‘Let’s approach this from a fun and frivolous angle,’” he said. “My thought was we wanted to come out with a label that everyone can relate to in some way.”

Girardet, 38, was flying his Cessna Cardinal RG airplane when it lost power, forcing him to make an emergency landing shortly before 2 p.m. July 24 on I-5 near Milepost 131 north of Roseburg.

Girardet, who was flying a passenger, Doug Denham of Aloha, to the Portland area for a physical therapy appointment, took off from the Roseburg Regional Airport and was about 15 to 20 miles north of Roseburg when the engine started losing power. The plane was at 3,500 feet and climbing when the trouble began, he said.

Girardet said he turned the airplane around to head back to Roseburg but realized the plane wasn’t going to make it to the airport and decided to make an emergency landing.

He landed safely with the help of Denham, who looked below for a clearing in southbound traffic. The plane narrowly missed power lines as it came in for a landing, the men told The News-Review in an interview at the scene.

The engine stopped entirely as soon as the plane set down. It coasted onto the median and out of traffic lanes, Girardet said.

“I was more scared the day after it happened. ... I didn’t have time to be scared. I just focused on following the steps,” Girardet said. “The whole emergency only lasted four minutes. There was no time to think much. It was instinct and training.

“If it hadn’t been for I-5, it could have been a lot rougher of a landing,” he said. “I still think there was a miraculous element to that.”

Girardet said that he went home that night, sipped wine and thought about ideas for a new release.

He planned to bottle a new wine the next day, but rescheduled it. “I was in no shape to do it,” he said.

A couple of days later, he set aside a portion of that wine to commemorate his emergency landing. He said he thought the red wine would be a good candidate for a special release.

Touchdown Red is a blend of eight grapes: Landot noir, Chancellor, zinfandel, tempranillo, syrah, Marechal Foch, pinot noir and Gamay noir.

Girardet said the wine is light- to medium-bodied and has cherry and raspberry flavors with a slightly spicy finish. It is a modified blend that his father, Philippe Girardet, created in 1983.

He said it took about two months to settle on the name Touchdown Red. The winery selected it from names submitted by customers on the winery’s Facebook page.

The winery then hired Oakland artist Gerty Dean to design the wine label.

Girardet said he wanted something whimsical and that had a cartoon element to lessen the seriousness of the situation.

Dean, 33, said she first drew a caricature of Girardet and Denham flying in the plane with their heads hanging out the window.

“It was too corny and focused on their faces too much,” Dean said. “I wanted the plane to be more accentuated and wanted it to feel more Pacific Northwest, with vibrant blues and greens.”

Dean went back to the drawing board and focused more on the red plane. It took her about a month to finish the second draft, she said.

She used colored pencils to layer and blend colors and give the label a painted look, she said.

“It kind of resonated with both of us. We wanted it to pop on the shelf and really look like Oregon and really celebrate Marc’s amazing landing,” Dean said.

Girardet said he is still putting labels on some of the bottles.

“It’s common to fill the bottles initially, then add the labels so the wine has time to bottle age and mature,” he said.

The winery made 4,800 bottles for this first batch, at $15 each.

“I initially thought I would make one batch, but based on the response, I’m open to making it every year. It could become a part of my portfolio,” he said.

Girardet will release his wine Saturday with a tasting from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the winery, 895 Reston Road, near Tenmile.

He said he hopes to distribute the wine statewide in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, Girardet said he has a donation jar in the tasting room to put toward building his plane’s engine.

“It’s a joke, but not really,” Girardet said, chuckling.

A dollar of the proceeds from Touchdown Red will go toward the plane, which mechanics are still repairing.

An investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration found that the plane lost power because one of its intake valves broke, though the cause is still unknown, Girardet said.

Girardet said he’s been back in the air once since the emergency landing.

“I felt confident. I’m glad I didn’t have jitters,” he said. “I’m excited to get my plane fixed and back in the air. I’m not going to let it hold me down.”

• Reporter Jessica Prokop can be reached at 541-957-4209 and jprokop@nrtoday.com.

After sitting around shell shocked for a day, I thought, ‘Let’s approach this from a fun and frivolous angle.’

Marc Girardet, on the I-5 plane landing that inspired Touchdown Red


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The News-Review Updated Feb 11, 2014 12:46PM Published Feb 13, 2014 09:07AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.