For the past nine years, Lloyd and Lois Piercy, owners of Sno Road Winery in Echo, have worked hard to create a variety of quality wines that feature grapes grown in their local vineyards.
Their hard work appears to be paying off. They recently brought home two silver medal awards for their 2009 Tempranillo and their 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon wines from the San Francisco International Wine Competition, which featured more than 5,500 wineries from all over the world.
The couple’s secret, Lloyd Piercy said, is the quality of grapes that are grown in the region.
“The biggest part of the process is the grapes,” he said. “Great wine is made in the vineyard. If you do the work in the vineyard, then the wine-making is pretty simple.”
Lloyd Piercy said he and his wife started their wine business in 2004 and have since been growing several varieties of grapes, including cabernet sauvignon, muscat canelli, orange muscat, petit verdot, pinot noir, tempranillo and zinfandel.
He said all of their wines are made from grapes they grow in Echo, something that he wouldn’t have any other way.
“We have worked really hard to produce good, finished wine out of Oregon,” he said.
Piercy said the soil and weather in the area provide perfect conditions for growing wine grapes.
The soil, he said, is made up of a wind-blown volcanic ash with a thin layer of Ritzville top soil. Underneath the soil sits a large base of broken basalt, he said.
“It creates a stark quality and minerality in the wine,” he said.
In addition to its two recent awards, the winery has brought home seven other major awards, including top pick at the Indy Wine Festival in Portland and two previous silver medals at the San Francisco International Wine Competition.
The winery was also featured in Sunset Magazine, and the Piercy’s wine has been served at a variety of celebrity events, including a party for the 2009 release of the movie “Invictus,” featuring Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman.
Lois Piercy said they are very selective about the competitions they enter because they want to make sure their wines are compared with a variety from across the world.
“There is a huge amount of competitions, and some are really expensive to enter,” Lloyd Piercy said. “We try and concentrate on a handful.”
He said it is nice to receive validation from the competitions because it gives them perspective on how their wine compares to others from all over the world.
He said they do, however, have to be careful because there is also a danger for creating wine with the judges’ palates in mind rather than their own passions and what they love.
Despite all of their success, the Piercys said they will continue to remain a small boutique winery in Echo, with their main goal to add to and inspire the cultural value of the small community.
In the past year, the couple has been working to renovate the old Koontz building, at 111 W. Main St. in Echo, where they intend to move their entire winery production.
As of now, Lloyd Piercy said they are creating and barreling their wine at a location in Newberg, Ore., which is more than three hours away.
He said, by next year, they will move their entire operation — from barreling to bottling and storing — to the new facility, which will also hold their tasting room, offices and community events rooms, where residents and travelers may hold parties, private catering events and more.
The new building will feature a “1934 South Carolina-feel,” including antique imported doors, windows, flooring and more to create an authentic feel.
“We want everything to be a visual delight,” Lloyd Piercy said. “We want everything to be real.”
Lloyd Piercy said they will also offer community members and tourists the chance to participate in the wine-making process, as well as take home a bottle of wine.
“We are trying to concentrate on adding diversity to the city as well,” he said.
Lois Piercy said they produced about 1,900 bottles of wine this year, but the number fluctuates from year to year.
The winery boutique also has hundreds of interested community members, tourists and other customers visit throughout the year.
Greg Zito and his wife, Tonia Zito, stopped into the shop Friday to taste some wine on their way to Pendleton for the Oregon State Hog Rally.
Greg Zito said he first saw the winery when stopping for lunch in Echo with a friend in 2012 while participating in Cycle Oregon and has wanted to visit since then.
“I love it here,” Tonia Zito said.
Both tasted the winery’s award winning 2009 Temperanillo during their stop Friday.
“The bouquet is great,” Greg said. “It has some nice legs on it.”
For more information on the winery, 210 W. Main, Echo, call 541-376-0421.