Oregon was a perfect fit for a winemaker who wasn't content to visit vineyards via telephone. "It's a lot more marginal than California. You don't get the heat. You can't have the yields" -- the vines simply can't ripen that much fruit. "You have to cut everything back to a single cluster per shoot. If you want to get your grapes right, you have to be in the vineyard all the time; nature demands that sort of attention. You're pulling leaves on the east side to expose your fruit to the early morning sun. You have a very tight vertical trellis to get a greater leaves-to-cluster ratio than you would have in California. That said, it's also a very consistent region. We had a bad vintage in '84, and light vintages in '95 and '97, but it's been very consistent."
And since he was buying all his fruit, he needed vineyard owners who didn't mind that he was "a pain in the ass to deal with. I'm very flexible; I just demand perfection. I try to find like-minded growers, and convince them that this is the way things ought to be done. And of course, as a result, you have to pay more. I found a vineyard owner who was selling to Chateau Sainte Michelle; he was cropping six to seven tons an acre. I convinced him to farm to my specs; now he's at about one and a half tons. But I pay by the acre, and he still gets 25 percent more from me than he would from Ste. Michelle." Of course, he notes, "I also have a wine that sells for $60," so he can afford the extra expense. "If they're like-minded, they'll really step up to make it happen. It's usually the guys who have the ego and want to share in this that are my best friends."