Gold Medal at SF Chronicle Annual Wine Competition, Top 5 in Class

Redside Ranch Vineyard Manager Kerry Damon always believed award-winning wines could be made from grapes grown in Central Oregon. Now, he has validation, thanks to his partnership with Elixir Winemaker, Christopher Kirk Ermisch. Their Redside Ranch 2019 Marquette won a gold medal at the 21st annual San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. The wine received the highest points for a Marquette in the United States, competing against well-established and award-winning wineries and vineyards.

The award-winning Marquette was handcrafted by Ermisch at Elixir Wine Group in Bend from Redside Ranch’s first harvest in 2019.

“This is the first time Redside Ranch in Terrebonne has entered a wine competition. To receive this recognition from our first harvest is a tribute to the partnership between the vineyard managers and the winemaker,” Damon said. “The San Francisco Chronicle competition is one of the largest and most important for American wines in the world. This recognition will help establish Central Oregon as the next place to grow grapes and make wine. We are a close community of winery and vineyard owners here, so this win benefits us all.”

“This gold medal is a tribute to the pioneering spirit and the work being done by many people to establish Central Oregon as a winegrowing region,” Ermisch said, “Kerry has been a tireless advocate of growing cold hardy, French/American hybrids grapes, particularly Marquette in Deschutes County. Their Marquette was a pleasure to make, it was hand-picked and tasted delicious right off the vine.”

Both gentlemen said Marquette is a natural fit to the climate and terrain of Central Oregon. “Marquette loves the soils of decaying lava that are so prevalent here, and it seems to really like growing in Oregon much like Pinot Noir does,” Damon said.

Describing Redside Ranch Vineyard as a “passion project,” Ranch Manager Ryder Redfield related that the ranch is owned by his cousin, Kris Kibak.

“When Kris purchased the ranch, there was already a small vineyard,” Redfield shared. “When we first worked with Kerry to expand the vineyard we decided to make wine to give to family and friends.”

With the expansion of the vineyard, they are predicting 12 tons of grapes to make around 9,400 bottles in the next few years.

The gold medal has all three men asking the question, “What’s next for Redside Ranch and Elixir Wine?”

“This competition showed us how our Marquette stacks up against established wineries making Marquette wines for many years,” Damon said. “The gold medal brings awareness to the years of lessons we have learned about cultivating grapes and making wine in Central Oregon. I believe success is at hand for the vineyards and wineries here.”


About Kerry Damon

Kerry Damon is a professional viticulturist and vineyard manager who was the chief vineyard manager at Zebra Cellars and other vineyards in Walla Walla for many years. He returned to Central Oregon to pursue his dream of pioneering the Marquette grape. He serves as consultant to many young vineyards in Central Oregon, but his focus is developing Redside Ranch, which is serving as a research vineyard to collect data on soil, weather and vine physiology.


About Christopher Ermisch

Christopher Ermisch is a national wine importer and winemaker with more than 26 years of experience in the industry. He is the owner of the national import company, Elixir Wine Group and Ermisch Cellars winery in Bend, Oregon. Ermisch also founded and owns Bodega Calle winery in Mendoza, Argentina and is the producer/director of the documentary, Boom Varietal that debuted at Bend Film in 2011. Before these ventures, he had management experiences with major wine estates in the corporate world.