The winemaking team at King Estate is just that – a team. Each member brings their own skills, personality and passions to the table to make the wines produced by King Estate. Over the course of our 30th anniversary year we will introduce you to members of our staff including the four winemakers of King Estate, starting off with Assistant Winemaker Andrew Belzer.
After working a couple of summers on the bottling line and in the cellar, Andrew joined King Estate full time upon graduation from Fresno State University in 2014, first as a Cellar Hand, then Enologist, and as Assistant Winemaker since 2017. One thing that has kept him here for the past seven years is the opportunity to be part of a talented team he calls egoless. “It’s rare not to agree,” Andrew notes. “Disagreements are usually over little things.”
Another appealing part of the job is that King Estate is large enough to experiment with different grapes and blends. “I don’t think any winery in Oregon works with as many varietals as we do,” he says, giving a nod to the estate’s outstanding vineyard partners who provide us with fruit.
While known for his organizational skills and calm demeanor – especially during harvest chaos – Andrew’s greatest strength is probably his well-developed palate (see related blog on “Developing Your Palate” for more). It comes as no surprise, therefore, that blending is his favorite part of the job. “It’s really nerve wracking to get it right,” he confesses.
As with grape-growing itself, winemaking is a seasonal endeavor of tasting, grading the lots and making blending decisions. The process is ongoing, following a predictable rhythm driven by varietal: Rosé in November/December, Pinot Gris in January/February, Pinot Noir in April/May, and the big reds from the inland growing regions of eastern Oregon and Washington over the summer. Fall is consumed with harvest. When not tasting and blending, Andrew is responsible for purchasing equipment, materials and supplies and scheduling the monthly topping off of barrels.
Outside of work, Andrew tends his own 12-acre farm in Elmira called Galano Way Vineyard. With vines purchased from King Estate, he grows one-and-a-half acres of mostly Pinot Noir plus a few vines of Pinot Gris with the fruit intended primarily for sparkling wine. Coupled with his day job, that keeps him plenty busy.
Andrew’s go-to wine is a Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah with the 2017 King Estate Quintessence Cabernet Sauvignon his current favorite. And even with all the varietals the winemakers get to work with there is still one he has yet to make: “I really want to get my hands on some Zinfandel,” he says. Keep your eyes peeled for that King Estate Zin; if and when it appears, raise a glass to the winemaker behind it.