This is part of a series introducing you to interesting people in the wine industry. For many, the journey into wine is not only intriguing but often quite an adventure. These talented individuals are what make the wine industry what it is today so follow this series to meet this group of passionate people who have dedicated their lives to wine.
Why Wine? An interview with Rachael Martin of Red Lily Vineyards
Was there a specific wine, moment or place that unlocked your passion?
Rachael Martin: I have always loved wine, the taste, the ceremony of the experience, and the vast differences and nuances found among different varietals. About 25 years ago, I started drinking the bold wines coming from the Ribera del Duero region in Spain. They are largely 100% Tempranillo. They’re highly structured and so tannic in their youth that they can take your head off. I fell in love with those wines. Especially a producer named Numanthia. That is always a wine that I have on my palate memory and a style and quality I strive to achieve in my own winemaking.
What did you study in school and what were you doing before you started in the wine industry?
RM: I went to University of Nevada and received a degree in criminal law. I worked in that industry for several years as an Anti-Counterfeit inspector.
In 2001, I had the unique opportunity to apprentice under a winemaker by the name of Sarah Powell. I remember the first day of work like it was yesterday. I was so excited to absorb every piece of information she gave me and to learn all that I could. I hope to be able to be that person for someone else someday.
It took me many years of apprenticing to feel confident enough to start a winery and commercially make wine to support the business. I also had to take a lot of chemistry classes in order to be completely able to run a winery lab. I hadn’t had chemistry since I was 15 and didn’t particularly love it then, so it was definitely a piece I had to work hard at to achieve.
How has being in the wine industry changed you?
RM: Being in the wine industry, especially as a woman, has made me feel resilient and capable. As a winemaker and grape grower you quickly come to understand that Mother Nature is largely in control and you have to be willing to constantly flex and think outside of the box with whatever the vintage holds. At the end of the day it’s all about farming. And farming is difficult back breaking work that requires an absolute love and passion. It’s the 6 a.m. mornings, muddy boots and sweat rimmed baseball hats that you have to embrace. I’ve found it both difficult and rewarding in ways I could have never imagined to balance motherhood and owning a winery and vineyard. There were days where I struggled to feel that I was doing anything well, being spread thin. And then there are those shining moments where you are working alongside your children who are older and have been raised in agriculture that understand the meaning of pulling together and working hard. As I write this, I spent the morning in the vineyard working with my 17 year old daughter, Lily. It was hot and dirty and the task seemed never ending, but it was a golden moment between us in the quiet moments of the dawn.
What’s your favorite part of being in the wine industry?
RM: I love the variety of the work. I love it when everything goes smoothly and when you have a challenge you figure out and overcome. I feel lucky to work in Southern Oregon. In our area there is so much comradery, sharing of information and materials. It has been an amazing gift to be a part of something with so much forward momentum.
I love making something tangible with my own hands. Following the life cycle of the vines and tending to them throughout the year.
One of the most rewarding aspects is when someone sends you a picture of your wine bottle on their Christmas dinner table. That is what means the most to me, being a part of someone’s celebrations or special life moments.