Fair Moon Wine a Birth of a Winery
by Kerry Winslow, grapelive
Jessica Wilmes’ Fair Moon Wine is about to release her new wines, a skin fermented (Pinot) Auxerrois white and what she calls “A half-assed carbonic Tinto Cao red, made from a rare Portuguese varietal that is starting to gain traction in the new world. Fair Moon is an all new ultra small-production micro winery, the looks to hand-craft unique tiny lot stuff with natural-driven winemaking, with, what Wilmes playfully adds, happy palates in mind. She is motivated by her own experiences, which have included years chasing harvest intern jobs, having to live out of her trusty Toyota Tundra truck and long hours for little pay, which has made her grateful for fleeting moments of calm. This has led her to make wines that are fun, quaffable and flavorful, for what she hopes will be enjoyed during everyday adventures or periods of total relaxation with friends and with lots laughter. Jessica’s first vintage, 2020 Sunshine Effect orange wine, (click to see full review) highlights this pleasure seeking passion with skin-contact Pinot Gris, sourced from the cool climate Holmes Gap Vineyard nestled in the Van Duzer Corridor in the Willamette Valley with mainly marine sedimentary soils.
The name for debut effort, Sunshine Effect, originates from, as Wilmes explains, the daily moving of the fermenter outside into the sun to kick off fermentation. Wilmes allowed her cool macerated Pinot Gris to go all with spontaneous yeast fermentation, with absolutely no additives, with short term aging in a single neutral French oak barrel and bottled unfiltered and unfined. This delightful reddish glowing wine, Wilmes says, is a wine that would flirt with you, bring good times and would always wear twirly dresses if it was a human, I can see that! Digging into modern natural wines can be a painful task at times with lots of weirdness out there, something that Wilmes herself admits and while she embraces the funk and doesn’t shy away from it here, she also is not a fan of seriously flawed or is driven by pure dogma over the goal of making a wine of balance. Wilmes’ “Sunshine Effort” bottling, was inspired by some of the world’s most intriguing skin contact white wines, known as orange or Ramato wines like those of Gravner, Radikon, Skerk and Zidarich in northeastern Italy, as well as a few closer to home, like Oregon’s Cameron’s skin contact versions.
Jessica’s journey into wine is best told through her own words, so I have let her tell her story here as I eagerly await here new releases.
Me: Jessica, so I know you as a young winemaker who just got your own label up and running, and I must say, I loved your first release, but before this you had a long and humorous struggle to get here, so how did it all start for you?
Jessica: Ok, I have no idea where to begin with this except to say I that used to drink SH*TTY wine and was perfectly okay with it. Not that there is anything wrong with people drinking what I used to drink and liking it, but wine is like any other learning process and eventually you reach a philosophical point of understanding and there are fireworks, and cheerleaders, and lightbulbs, and “a-ha”s, and this uplifting feeling of “Oh my God I get it!”. It’s like a little wine fairy comes along and hands you your official wings to transcend the daily babble of planet Earth and fly into the whimsical world of wine to fully experience all of its art-meets-science-meets-wonder euphoria.
And believe me, if the World of Wine were a video game filled with challenges of learning wine from tasting, to production, to the artistry and passion that moves the whole darn thing along, I would still be down on a very low level striving to get extra lives, wine coins and a superpalate. I am, in all seriousness, levels away from King Bowser. Wine, like anything else, requires time, energy, interest and a willingness to not give up on it. My personal journey thus far has been nothing shy of a total frustration-satisfaction yoyo. So, let’s start from the beginning and go from there.
Me: Okay, so are from a state that is not known for wine right?
Jessica: (as if a confession says) I WAS BORN IN NEBRASKA AND MY PARENTS DRINK BUSCH LIGHT AND KIRKLAND VODKA. This is in uppercase because I want to accentuate the fact that I did not grow up with wine-drinking parents, nor did I grow up in a wine region or, for the very lucky, in a wine producing family on a freakin’ vineyard. It has taken me a little time to grapple with this fact, mostly due to my own insecurities of where I stand in my wine knowledge and very jealous of those who at times seem to have had an unfair start at life in wine, but of course I have to call out my own BS on this one because we all start every journey somewhere and whatever came before eventually led us to where we are now. And, more importantly, my parents are super amazing and total party animals and if one were to even attempt to party like they do it makes perfect sense not to play quarters with a Burgundy Grand Cru.
Me: In the last few years you’ve worked for some impressive Oregon wineries like Troon in Applegate Valley and for John Grochau, a very serious Pinot producer in the Willamette Valley, and last year you got to see Violin and Vincent up close, that must seem far away from your college days and early experiences with wine?
Jessica: (she sums up her college years as her Franzia years) FRANZIA. Have you had this? It is poison. Please stop drinking it. Or don’t, but know it is not actually wine. I’m pretty sure the label even mentions something along the lines of this being a “wine product”. What the heck does that mean? Wine product? For me, that is enough to stop slapping the bag. However, Franzia was the delight of my freshman year Fridays in the dorms when a few other gals and I declared “Franzia Fridays” and drank whatever available blush bagged wine we could get our hands on before venturing out to house parties that surrounded the university campus. It’s funny now when I look back on it and try to remember caring about how the wine tasted. This is probably where my parents could have influenced me.
If I had known what real, good wine tasted like, I maybe wouldn’t have guzzled down boxed-wine nonsense. But, so it went, Franzia Fridays, Andre-sparkling Saturdays, and Gallo three-dollar-something or another Day throughout the week. Inspired by two summers abroad in Europe, I unrealistically felt I advanced my understanding (oh, because I bought 1 euro boxed wine in Barcelona?) and during my junior year I used my fake ID to buy wine at Walmart so my friends and I could be “classy” and have some red with movie night. Maybe it was better than jungle juice, but really I now know I was drinking wine laden with a potential 70-plus approved ingredients by the FDA, from vines that were sprayed with RoundUp and a finished product that tastes nothing like what the initial grape or land it was grown on would have represented. I guess it tasted more like jungle juice, which is why we liked it.
Now, back to the present, Jessica who is a Gamay freak, likes to drink Cru Beaujolais, especially Anne-Sophie Dubois’ Fluerie and Foillard Morgon, is making natural style wines from unique and rare grapes in the Willamette Valley and hopes to eventually find the right vineyard to source Gamay, so watch this space. It is never easy to start a winery or a label, especially when you don’t come from wealth and made even tougher during a global pandemic so I have incredible respect and admiration for what Jessica has achieved and I am waiting no so patiently for her new bottlings…. You can follow her wines at www.fairmoonwine.com and on Instagram at: @sunshineeffectwine