Jay McDonald

Carlton, Oregon, United States

Wine Maker, Wine Tasting Room Owner

EIEIO Wine

I love what I do. I make a product people don’t need, but they want. I meet people who are not only interested in wine, but who are also very interesting. Although making wine has its challenges, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

In 1995, I opened the The Tasting Room in Carlton, Oregon, one of the first wine tasting venues in the Willamette Valley. In 1998, I began my own label , and EIEO & Company was launched. I was the "EIEIO" and the "& Company" were the wineries and vineyards supplying me with wine and fruit. In 2003, EIEO & Company transitioned from a negociant (a wine company that buys grapes or finished wine to produce wine under its own name) to a fully bonded winery.

Today, we are a boutique winery producing between 1,800 and 2,500 cases a year of the finest Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. My staff varies by season but includes an assistant wine maker, retail employees and, fortunately, many volunteers during harvest season.

Everything is a variable in the wine making business because Mother Nature is in charge. You have to figure it out as you go along and be able to adapt to the raw materials Mother Nature supplies. There is no defined process or recipe. Your job is to elevate and steer the grapes from the vineyard, through fermentation, into the barrel and finally into the bottle.

Here’s a bit of what we can cover in our PivotPlanet session(s):
• How to research and plan for the purchase or operation of a vineyard or winery.
• How to project ….or rather live with the fact there is nothing that can be projected accurately in this business.
• How to create a marketing plan, pricing structure and work with and understand regulations in the industry.
• How to build relationships with growers, buyers, distributors and customers.
• How to live with the inability to forecast the bottom line.

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I was already interested in wine making when I was in college. I was the guy who had wine in his dorm fridge, not beer. After college I didn’t pursue my wine making hobby as a career but went into financial services. However, I realized I really wanted to do something else and decided to explore opportunities in the wine industry.

After visiting wine makers in California, New York, Texas and Oregon, I found the wine making community in Oregon to be very welcoming and decided to purchase an historic bank building in Carlton and in 1995 turned it into a tasting room for area wineries.

Over the course of the next few years, I also worked with several wineries in all aspects of the business including, harvest, fermentation, bottling and viticulture. These relationships allowed me to purchase some barrels so I could experiment with varietals as a hobbyist winemaker. I then attained my wine industry business license and began making my own wine, which ultimately led to the creation of EIEIO & Company in 1998 and opening the winery in 2003. Additionally, I plan to plant grape vines on my farm in the next couple of years so I can add “estate vineyard owner” to my list of wine-related careers. From the very start, my commitment has always been to make the best possible wine without compromise.

It is great to have something different to do every day and a desirable work/life balance. However, the whims of nature and the status of the economy have a huge impact on the wine making business. To be successful in this business it is important to have big picture logic with realistic expectations. It takes much longer to get to break even than you think. There truly are no “givens” in this business and lots of varying circumstances.