JACKSONVILLE, Ore. — Having a famous name in the wine industry can be a blessing or a curse. It can open doors or raise unfair comparisons.
When Herb Quady chose to go out on his own, he left California and the shadow of his parents, and he chose to make wines that are completely different. Both strategies have worked well, and Quady, 36, is using his knowledge and winemaking prowess to not only gain success on his own, but also help cast more light on Southern Oregon.
Quady's parents, Andrew and Laurel, launched their eponymous winery in the mid-1970s and focused on dessert wines. Their fortified wine made with Orange Muscat -- Essensia -- is one of the most famous dessert wines in the United States.
"If you grow up in a winery, you're going to absorb the business," the younger Quady said. "It's inevitable."
Though he worked in the family winery growing up, it wasn't until he attended U.C. Santa Cruz that he decided to make wine his vocation. He got a job at Bonny Doon, working for the eclectic Randall Grahm. He decided more education was in order, so he went to Fresno State University to earn a winemaking degree.
After graduation, he went back to Madera and the family business, then returned to Bonny Doon for another vintage as associate winemaker before heading north.
Quady joined Troon Vineyard in Grants Pass in 2004 as winemaker, where he remains today and proudly crafts wines for owner Chris Martin and his family. In 2006, he launched his own brand, which Martin allows him to do at Troon. The name Quady North came naturally.
"Critics and retailers know the Quady name," he said. "It helps get people to take another look at us."
Quady focuses primarily on three grape varieties: Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Viognier, though he does dabble in such Rhone varieties as Grenache, Marsanne and Roussanne. His 2010 Pistoleta, a blend of Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier, earned a remarkable Double Platinum last fall in Wine Press Northwest's year-end best-of-the-best competition.
In any given year, he will make three to five Syrahs, depending on the quality of the vintage. "Flagship" comprises his finest barrels, while "4-2, A" (named by his young daughter Margaux) is his mainstream Syrah.
What he has no plans to make at Quady North are dessert wines.
"Dad does a really good job at that," he said with a chuckle. "Let Dad make the Muscats down in California. I'll spend my life learning how to make really great Syrah and Cabernet Franc."
He does make a fortified Tempranillo, but that's for Troon.
The family connection at the winery doesn't end with Quady's parents, who have helped with financing and advice. His wife of 14 years, Meloney, runs the tasting room and does all the graphic design work -- "Everything that looks cool comes from her," he said. Their two daughters, Margaux and Serafina, also help, and Meloney's mother runs the crew of their vineyard management company.
When they decided to launch the winery, the Quadys purchased a piece of land that had been a motocross track. They bulldozed it and planted Cabernet Franc, Viognier and Syrah and now also get grapes from four other vineyards in the Rogue and Applegate valleys.
Though he isn't from Southern Oregon, he has quickly embraced the attitude and pride of being different than the Pinot Noir-heavy Willamette Valley to the north. He even refers to Quady North as "Wines from the State of Jefferson," referring to a movement in the 1940s in which counties from Southern Oregon and Northern California proposed seceding to form their own state. While the effort failed, the attitude remains.
"Self-reliance, independence, helping out your neighbor, solving problems. Those are the kinds of values we have down here," Quady said. "Although we're starting to become more and more accepted in Oregon, we still have our own pride in this region."