Luke and Meredith have a singular, laser focus for Statera Cellars: they want to make you love chardonnay. Chardonnay is polarizing. Quality is all over the map. So is complexity. Many refuse to drink anything else. Others would rather do a keg stand. Luke and Meredith are dead sure they can make a chardonnay that blows your mind. We agree.
Statera’s stuff is electric--amazing acidity, balance and freshness. You should try it if you love chardonnay, but you should be sure to try it if you don’t like chardonnay. They do not make boring cul-de-sac butterbombs. These are intelligent, unusual showstoppers of a white wine. Think less suburb cul de sac party and more Brooklyn farm chic hip.
When you’re perusing wine in a bottle shop, you might notice a reference to the “clone” of a grape. This is particularly common with serious wineries, where winemakers carefully trace the exact lineage of their grapes. Clones are made by grafting together and vine onto rootstock. But beyond this technical definition, it’s useful to have some context on their importance. So, we asked Luke to give us a rundown.
“Imagine that chardonnay is the main grape. Chardonnay can be broken up into a bunch of different clones. And it doesn't mean that those clones are not chardonnay and it just means that they're going to specialize in different things. The easiest way to think about this is to remember Star Wars.
Let's say you're on the Death Star and you're a Stormtrooper. There are different kinds of Stormtroopers, but they're all clones of the same guy. But, just because they're clones of the same guy doesn't mean that they're not capable of having specialties. For example, there are janitor storm troopers or tie fighter Stormtroopers and Stormtroopers whose job is to blow up the moon.
Clonal selection is crucial when you’re deciding on the kind of wine you’re going to make. While the Dijon clone for chardonnay is the most prevalent, it doesn't mean that it's the best for making a high acid chardonnay or one that can easily blow up a moon. You need to get the right fruit for the right thing. For the Synergy Chardonnay, I use both Espiguette and Dijon.”
Luke Wylde of Statera Cellars was first introduced to wine at a frat party. One fateful evening, he gazed across the seething festivities and saw two very different parties unfolding. To his right, a group of inspiring future leaders was performing a keg stand, which is a variant of acro-yoga but with chanting.
To his left he saw a small group drinking their beverages slowly enough to taste it. It turned out they were working their way through a bottle of petite sirah. He was immediately enthralled. “It was the first time that I've heard of or tasted the petite sirah grape… I quite liked it, to the point that I went home and researched everything I could about the grape and started finding jobs that would give me access to wine.”
Over the ensuing years, Luke traveled around the world before landing back in Oregon, ready to take on an ambitious wine project. Now, alongside his business partner Meredith Bell, he runs Statera Cellars.
Tell us about how your different experiences in multiple regions and wineries shaped you?
I think that everybody's personality is like a disco ball and if all you're doing is looking at somebody closely, you're just going to just see one facet or reflection of what that person looks like. But if you get a better view of that person, you start to see the myriad of lights and colors that are reflecting off of any one person's personality. As for me, I don’t think it was a single moment that gave me the idea of where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. It was a culmination of events like Sherlock Holmes unpacking a case, clue by clue. And then over time I had a new understanding that really enriched my path before landing upon this.
How did you decide to just do chardonnay?
It was one of those lightbulb moments when I realized how important it was for someone to focus on one thing. I was inspired when I was in Mosel and learned about the people that for hundreds of years devoted their lives, stories, heritage of their families to a single variety like Riesling.
20 years from now how would you define success?
If I got to the point where I’m getting an email randomly saying, “Holy shit, I really love your wine I’d love to chat with you and tell your story to our friends. Sort of like you guys did then I’d be pretty happy” Tell us about how your different experiences in multiple regions and wineries shaped you?