Road Trippin' : The family business
WILLIAMS, Ore. —
“They’ve probably got a week left of that and then they’ll be pressed,” Joe Ginet says as he punches down some Pinot Noir grapes just recently picked off the vine at Plaisance Ranch. It’s an exercise he’s done many times in the past. He says when it comes to winemaking, it’s just in his blood. His grandfather, Joseph Ginet came to America in 1898 from Savoie, France. He worked as a chef on a train before coming to Oregon during the Gold Rush.
“He bought 500 acres outside Jacksonville for $1700,” Ginet laughs at the idea now.
His grandfather grew apricots and plums, dried them and sold them in the winter.
He also made wine.
“In 1905, he went back to France to get his grape starts to start his vineyard and to get his fiancé, but her family wouldn't let her return with him because they didn't really believe he owned 500 acres and they knew they'd never see her again. Even when you go back today, the villagers are talking about how sad she was that she couldn't go with him,” Ginet says.
His grandfather returned without his future bride, but did bring wine cuttings from Savoie. He started his vineyard and, bored with the English-speaking women, he put in an ad for a French-speaking bride in a Quebec newspaper. He got a response and the two were eventually married. They had five children, including Joe’s father. He died when Joe was a junior in high school. College followed and then in 1972, in an effort to discover his roots, he took a trip to Europe.
“I eventually made it to that village where all my family comes from and I heard about it, but nobody had really spoken back and forth until I went there in 72. Of course, I spoke no French and they spoke no English, but at the train station I wrote my name on a piece of paper and put it on the counter and the guy just looked at me and picked up the phone and within minutes a couple cars, boom, here they are,” Ginet remembers.
Back home in the states and newly married to his high school sweetheart, Suzi, Ginet wanted to start a vineyard, but the bank wouldn’t give him a dime. There was plenty of money, however, if he wanted to start a dairy.
“At that time, there were three wineries in Southern Oregon and 60 dairies. Today there are three dairies and 80 wineries,” Ginet says.
They milked cows for about 30 years before Ginet began his true passion and the two started what they call, “repurposing” their dairy into a winery.
“I was the only one that voted no,” Suzi Ginet says remembering the conversation about making the transition.
“I had to get her whole family here for dinner and out vote her to sell the cows,” Joe Ginet laughs at the memory.
Remnants of that old life still remain throughout the winery. Hoof prints can be spotted in several patches of the cement where cases of wine now sit.
In 2004, they sold the dairy cows and started a beef herd on their property. They also started a nursery, planting dozens of different kinds of grapes. In 2006, they became a commercial winery. Joe says he likes making the kind of wine his family in France makes, like the Mondeuse, which he brought over in 2004. It’s the same grape his grandfather brought to the states decades ago.
“For a long time, I was the only one in America that had it, but it's getting out there now,” Ginet says.
When asked, Joe and Suzi will laugh and say they’ve been married for 43 or 44 years. Neither one can remember and aren’t quite certain, but it’s obvious the number isn’t important.
They’re more concerned with making great wine, sharing stories with the people who visit and making sure the past lives on in this corner of their world.
“This is my retirement so I'm just doing things that are fun. I don't have to hit a price point or hit a sales level, I can do whatever I want. So I do.”
To find out about tasting room hours, Plaisance's wines or the organic beef cuts, just visit their website.