Business Spotlight: Zimri Cellars Continues to Offer Personal Contactless Wine Deliveries in Oregon
Jay grew up in Sonoma County and received his degree in Enology from Fresno State University. In the first part of his career, he spent time working at wineries in both Sonoma and Napa Valley. He then decided to make a move to the Willamette Valley in 2000 to join the Oregon Pinot Noir renaissance and soon after started his own label.
About Zimri Cellars
Jay is an old school winemaker. He’s involved in every aspect of the winemaking process, from sourcing local fruit to production and sales. His intention is to keep it small and personable therefore he only makes around 400 cases of fine wine per year.
His customers include restaurants, liquor stores, events, and festival organizations as well as direct sales. He really enjoys making a personal connection with each of his visits. So when you order wine from Jay, he and Lisa will be the ones who personally deliver it to you.
Zimri Cellars’ wines are balanced and approachable. Each bottle expresses the region from where the fruit was sourced. Not only are they high quality but affordable as well. How is he able to sell his wine for such a great price, you ask? Zimri Cellars does not have the overhead of a vineyard, sales team, or other employees, therefore keeping costs at a minimum.
Let's Ask Jason Some Questions
We're from the business world, so we were curious about how things are done in Jay's winemaking world.
Emily: Walk me through a day in the life of the owner of Zimri Cellars. What are your daily tasks?
Jay: As the owner of a small business, no day is exactly the same. One day you may find me working in the cellar tending to the wine and the next day I could be out and about making new connections with potential customers. There are generally three busy times a year for a winemaker: The first is the growing season where I visit the vineyards to monitor the growth of the grapes. The second and most important is harvest time, where you only get one shot at making it right. The third, and hardest part of the business is selling the wine. The upside to sales is that we often find ourselves enjoying engaging conversation with customers, and often great food as well with the many owners and staff of the restaurants we service.
Emily: You told us about the three busy times of the year for a wine maker. Once you get to the actual winemaking process, what happens then?
Jay: There are 5 steps to winemaking
- Harvest: Our fruit is sourced from a number of small local growers. These relationships with our growers are important, and communication throughout the growing season is critical to growing the best fruit possible - from flowering to testing final sugars. That’s why I visit the vineyards during the growing season and again at harvest time. Once picking is complete the grapes are delivered to the winery for processing.
- Crushing and Pressing: The fruit is gently processed as it is moved through the different phases in the winery. First comes the sorting and removal of stems, followed by a press, where the juice is extracted. The juice then receives yeast and is inoculated, undergoing a carefully monitored fermentation.
- Fermentation: With our white wines we ferment slow and cold to retain flavors and esters. As for red wine, we like to control the warmth of the fermentation in order to get nice flavor and color extraction.
- Aging: All of our red wines age for a minimum of 18 months in French Oak barrels. The percentage of new oak varies from wine to wine depending on what is desired as an outcome. Our white wines typically don’t age for long. Most see just stainless steel barrels unless it is our Chardonnay which is fermented and aged in Oak.
- Fining and bottling: We tend not to fine or filter our red wines. The 18 months of aging will usually clarify our red wine nicely. Our white wines do however go through a fining process where the wine is clarified for the consumer before bottling.
Emily: All that work happens then a year and a half before you actually sell any of the wine you are producing, right? So how has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your business so far?
Jay: Well as we all know, quite a bit has changed due to the pandemic. Most of our sales are to local restaurants. With the shift and the way restaurants and wine bars are now operating our sales have dropped considerably. However, we continue to make contactless home deliveries to our friends and followers.
Because Lisa and I are the ones delivering the wine, we can assure that the orders will be carefully packed following all CDC COVID-19 safety guidelines and deliver your order to your door. This keeps both our family and yours safe and healthy.
Because of the pandemic, we, unfortunately, haven’t been able to attend the many great festivals and local events in the area, which we enjoy so much. We hope that as things begin to reopen we will once again be there to serve wine and enjoy the connections.
Despite all of the things that have changed during these tough times, the one thing that remains the same is our dedication to providing wine lovers with the best wine possible.
Emily: Do you have a favorite wine or one you’re particularly proud of?
Jay: Our 2013 Pinot Noir is pretty special. We only produced 111 cases. We aged this wine in a combination of new and used French oak barrels for 22 months. The berry aromas and oak seasoning, combined with soft tannins and red berry flavors all come together to create a graceful wine.