Ray Nuclo was sampling grapes at Ninebark Vineyard in Gaston when we caught up with him in late September to talk about the 2022 vintage. In his 10th vintage with King Estate, Ray spends most of his time in the field, visiting our 50 vineyard partners, from eastern Washington to southern Oregon, that provide two-thirds of the fruit for our wines. The balance comes from our own estate. Vineyard partners are selected as much for the long-term relationship Ray has built with them as for the quality of the site. “Relationship is the key,” Ray says.
All eyes were on Ray when a severe frost hit the vineyard on April 15. While some news reports were predicting crop losses of 50% or more, Ray preached patience. Still, he wasted no time, hitting the road to snap up as much fruit as possible. Ray knew a lot depended on weather conditions in late June during bloom, which affects fruit set. Good fruit set could make up for buds lost in the frost and that’s exactly what happened. With clusters twice their normal size thanks to optimum weather during bloom, yields came in pretty close to target. (Watch for a harvest report coming soon!)
In his spare time, Ray tends his own Tonalita Vineyard in Monmouth. From earning a master’s degree in Plant Pathology from Oregon State University to his first job as a field laborer and tractor driver at a small vineyard in Philomath, Ray has done it all over his 24-year career in wine. Now, as Director of Viticulture, Ray has become an invaluable member of King Estate’s winemaking team. Like Ray says, it’s all about relationships.