Jessica Altieri with Cellar 503 Founder Carrie Wynkoop
Carrie Wynkoop Loves Oregon Wine
Wine Conversations with Jessica Altieri – Podcast #25
Carrie Wynkoop loves Oregon wine and she came up with the idea of discovering and sharing great Oregon wine. She kept wondering, “How come there’s not a single wine club that will just send me great stuff from all over Oregon?” Say hello to Cellar 503! Cellar 503 is a wine club featuring unique, high quality, affordable wines that represent the full range of great Oregon wine. If you love Oregon wine and you’re ready to explore, this is the club for you. Enjoy the conversation and get your Oregon wine glass ready to be filled!
Jessica Altieri: Welcome to Wine Conversations. I’m your host Jessica Altieri, CEO and certified sommelier of the Wine Channel TV Network. This is podcast number 25 on Tuesday, July 10th, 2018. A glass of wine is just a conversation waiting to happen, as I always say, and today’s conversation is with Carrie Wynkoop, the owner of Cellar 503, a wine club featuring unique high quality affordable wines that represent the full range of great Oregon wine. Welcome to wine conversations Carrie and thank you for joining
Carrie Wynkoop: Thanks so much for having me.
Jessica Altieri: So I hear that you’re traveling a lot. Where are you now
Carrie Wynkoop: Well, I am at my home base in Portland, Oregon right now, but I do spend a lot of my time traveling all over Oregon. We have 18 different American viticulture areas AVA’s and I regularly travel to meet winemakers in all corners of the state.
Jessica Altieri: That’s fantastic. So I want to talk about everything you have going on currently, but I want to share with everyone really how you got to this point. So let’s start from the beginning, which I’m sure people are curious about. Where were you raised and what did you really want to be when you went to college
Carrie Wynkoop: I was raised in Olympia, Washington, which is just about two hours north of Portland and I came to Portland for college and I knew that I minute I stepped on the campus at Lewis and Clark College here in Portland that I was never going to leave. Portland has always been really my home and my heart here and I wanted to study, uh, I studied international affairs. I thought I would work in nonprofits, something in the international community. I never in a million years thought that I would be running a wine club.
Jessica Altieri: Funny how things happen where your parents into wine at all
Carrie Wynkoop: No, actually that’s even funnier. There was never whine around my house growing up. I actually got a job at cost plus world market while I was still in college and was working in the wine department selling wine. I’m not sure I was even 21 yet
Jessica Altieri: Yes,
Carrie Wynkoop: Sort of just fell in love with the whole concept, but never really thought that I would actually work in the wine industry. I just had a lot of fun exploring different kinds of wines.
Jessica Altieri: That’s fantastic. So tell me about getting into the wine industry.
Carrie Wynkoop: Yeah. So I went off and worked in nonprofits. My husband and I run another business and had been doing that for many years and I had a friend who said to me, you know, you go wine tasting all the time, and I said, is that good or is that bad. And she laughed and she said, well, there’s a great wine, a school here in Portland called the wine and spirit archive and you should go take some classes to see if it’s something that you want to more about. And she was absolutely right that this school is amazing. The instructor was fabulous and I really just fell in love with it and I started taking my WSET certification courses just really for fun to do something on my own. And about halfway through my first class I thought, no, this is it. This is really what I want to do with the rest of my life. But I didn’t really know exactly how to be in the world of wine. I had a young son and we had another business, so I wasn’t going to do the restaurant thing. I knew that I didn’t know enough to make wine. I didn’t really want to be a farmer. Sales didn’t really interest me, and so it took awhile for me to kind of come up with what I was looking for, which is how we ended up creating Cellar 503 .
Jessica Altieri: Okay. So talk to me about that. How did that opportunity present itself Carrie Wynkoop: Yeah, so we were literally sitting on a beach on vacation
Carrie Wynkoop: Af ter a couple glasses of wine and I said to my husband, you know what I want, I want someone to send me to my doorstep w i nes from small producers all over the state. We love to go wine tasting and we do it every chance we get, but it’s harder and harder to find the small folks unless you really put the time and energy into doing that research. I was like, why doesn’t somebody have a service out there where they do all the research and they just send the wine to my house so we can have it at home And he turned to me and he said, well there you go. There’s your idea that’s the way that you can be in the wind industry. And I said, you’re crazy. We do not need another business in our life. And about six or eight months later, Cellar 503 was born. It really came from something that I was personally looking for.
Jessica Altieri: And so talk to me about the name. Where does that come from?
Carrie Wynkoop: 503 is the area code for Oregon . So Cellar 503 refers to wine and 503 refers to the whole state.
Jessica Altieri: So you mentioned your website and that’s I’m curious about is that you work with little known wineries. So talk to me about the wineries you work with and how you find them and go about that process.
Carrie Wynkoop: So we only have two requirements for our winery partners in the club. One is that they’re based in Oregon and two is that they make less than 10,000 cases a year. Most of our folks make substantially less than that sort of the average is about 2,000 to 5,000 cases. And we featured wineries that make only 100 cases . So there closing in on 800 wineries in Oregon, which is crazy. And I have worked with almost 200 wineries so far in the four years in Cellar 503’s existence. And it’s, yeah, it’s so much fun. I get to meet all of these amazing people and hear their stories and taste through all sorts of different wines, sorts of different varietals. And really it’s a combination of wineries approaching me because they’ve heard about me from other, um, maybe some of their club members or online or other winemakers.
Carrie Wynkoop: A nd then I do a substantial amount of research myself. I love to ask winemakers who I should go talk to, who they think in their area are doing really cool things. A nd so, and I go to a lot of festivals. I got to go to a lot of trade shows where I can taste a lot of wine and a short amount of time and really get to explore a lot of different kinds of, of wineries. And then I’d go back and I meet with every winemaker. I visit every winery, so that I really get a sense of who they are and what they’re trying to accomplish with their wines.
Jessica Altieri: That’s phenomenal. I mean that seems like a lot of work. So I mean, what’s the goal number of wineries that you would love to be working with?
Carrie Wynkoop: Oh, I’d love to work with every winery in the state who makes less than 10,000. I picked two different reds in two different whites from four different wineries every month. And I certainly have my favorites here and there that we repeat occasionally, but I try not to repeat because I want people to really understand that there is a huge number of wineries in this state that are not just located in the Willamette valley, but really all over the state. And then they’re making amazing wine. Not just pinot noir , but lots of other kinds of varietals and really help my members to explore the breadth and the depth of Oregon wines
Jessica Altieri: So talk to me about membership. I mean there’s so many wine clubs around the world. What makes your wine club really unique and why should someone join and how does it all work?
Carrie Wynkoop: Sure. So my wine club is unique for a couple of reasons. One, there’s really nobody out there who’s doing an Oregon specific wine club. So if you are interested in exploring wine in Oregon, you’ve probably heard how incredible the wines are really coming up in quality over the past decade. You want to try lots of different kinds of wine from Oregon we’re really the premier wine club in that sort of category. But we’re also a wine club that’s super fun and approachable and affordable. So we have a set price every month. There’s never going to be any kind of surprise. O ur members can sign up for monthly or quarterly options. They can choose two bottles or four bottles and they can choose from red only white only or a mix. So you really get to create your own kind of wine club that works for you and I choose all of the wines every month and they come along with detailed stories about the winemakers and tasting notes as well. And so the opportunity for people to not just get the same old wine that you would get every day at the grocery store, but really to try out different things from high quality producers that you would have a hard time finding. We were actually visiting the winery.
Jessica Altieri: That’s phenomenal. And who’s on your team? Is this just you doing everything right now or how big is your team right now?
Carrie Wynkoop: Yeah, this is just me. Oh, I have a fabulous, fabulous husband who’s my editor. Jessica Altieri: (laughter)
Carrie Wynkoop: I write all the initial copy and then he comes through and cleans it up and spices it up and it’s just me.
Jessica Altieri: That’s phenomenal. And so talk to me about that. I mean going from idea to actually having a full functioning business, how long did that take from when you were sitting on the beach and where you’re at today. I mean that is not an easy process for any entrepreneurs that are listening right now.
Carrie Wynkoop: No, its not and its even more complicated with two businesses in one family, although I do recognize that we had a lot more knowledge going into this because we had another business and a lot more help from friends and family, which was really awesome. But we had that idea on the beach in about February and then our first sort of friends and family shipment to test out the concept was in December. So it was eight or nine months worth of research and refining the concept and coming up with the options. B ut we basically have stuck with the same exact model for the entire time that we’ve been in existence about four years now. So it seems to be resonating.
Jessica Altieri: That’s phenomenal. And where do you get your inspiration from? Do you have any personal heroes?
Carrie Wynkoop: I take r Real inspiration from my parents who worked in the education and the health care industry their whole lives and really instilled in me a sense of giving back to the community no matter what kind of business that you were in, if it was in a nonprofit or if it was a for profit. They really strongly encouraged me to give back both in terms of money and in terms of time to organizations that I felt passionate about. A and so I’ve always had that bent and it’s really come full circle for me when I started Cellar 503 to now be able to have a product that I could donate to nonprofits that I feel passionate about and to help out organization that really impact the wine industry. S o for example, I’m really involved with the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Foundation, which provides culturally specific health care for migrant workers. So the people who are actually picking the grapes that make the amazing wine to be able to give back to the folks who provide healthcare to those migrant workers is really awesome. So my parents definitely helped influence the way that I view my business and the way I’m able to give back to my community.
Jessica Altieri: That’s phenomenal. I love that. And you just seem so upbeat. I’ve never met you in person, but what gets you out of bed in the morning and keeps you going?
Carrie Wynkoop: That’s a good question too. You know, I, as I mentioned before, meeting these winemakers, like every winemaker has some crazy story about how they got into this business. You know, very few winemakers actually started out going to college to become a winemaker and do that for their whole life. You know, one of my favorite winemakers, Corey over at Jackalope Wines, we call him the craigslist winemaker because he was a civil engineer and decided he was done with corporate life and he would do any job he found on Craigs list for at least one day. A and he talked himself into being a cellar hand at a winery and didn’t think that that was going to be his passion, but completely fell in love with it and now he is one of the best wine makers here in Portland. So those great stories to be able to talk about and to represent those small folks who don’t really have a voice in the consumer market and to be able to get them out there. That’s what I love.
Jessica Altieri: That’s a great story. And so I have to ask, on the flip side, do you ever feel overwhelmed doing all this. And if so, what do you do Yoga or meditating, what do you do when you feel stressed out?
Carrie Wynkoop: Yeah, I mean, 2 businesses and we have a 10 year old son. There’s definitely a lot going on in this world. You know, I’m definitely a list maker. I have pages and pages of very detailed lists of things that I need to get done to try to keep me on task. B ut I am religious about pilates twice a week every week. I’m also really cognizant of that I start early in the morning, but I end when my son gets off of school so that I can pick him up and spend time with him in the afternoon. And that’s definitely a big help in terms of stress relief.
Jessica Altieri: Wonderful. And I have to ask, what’s the other business that you mentioned that you have in your family?
Carrie Wynkoop: We do Internet marketing and communications, so I really had a lot of help in terms of website and online ads and email communications because of our other business.
Jessica Altieri: That’s fantastic. Okay. So now that we know a little bit more about your life, I have to ask some fun, rapid fire questions. Are you ready ? So what was the wine that really got you into loving wine? Did you ever have one that just made you go, wow.
Carrie Wynkoop: Yeah, I was thinking about that earlier and I really can’t think of one particular wine. It’s more the experience of going wine tasting and being out in the gorgeous Oregon scenery and having that experience of looking over the hills and drinking the wine and thinking there is really nothing better in this world than that.
Jessica Altieri: Well, that’s a great answer. And do you collect anything? If so, what is it? Carrie Wynkoop: I collect black and white photography.
Jessica Altieri: I love that. Talk to me about, I want to know if you’re cooking dinner, what are we eating
Carrie Wynkoop: What are we eating ; I sadly don’t get to cook as much as I would like because I love to cook but when I do it’s almost always with my son because he’s a great cook and so it’s usually whatever he wants. B ut he’s a pretty adventurous eater so it could be anything from a roast chicken too. He loves to make cheesecake from scratch.
Jessica Altieri: Wow. Amazing.
Carrie Wynkoop: Yeah. So whatever he, he’s interested in at the moment. Jessica Altieri: And if you’re not drinking wine, what are you drinking Carrie Wynkoop: Gin; definitely.
Jessica Altieri: And would you rather have a private tour of the White House or Oprah’s house Carrie Wynkoop: Oh, Oprah’s house. Definitely.
Jessica Altieri: So cool. And if your house is on fire, besides family and animals, what do you grab on your way out?
Carrie Wynkoop: I have a journal that my grandmother wrote late in her life that really explained her entire life history and everything that happened to her during her lifetime. And so I would definitely grab that.
Jessica Altieri: Oh, that’s brilliant. And so I want to know what do you have coming up that you want people to really know about and where can they find all the information about everything you have going on.
Carrie Wynkoop: Yeah. I actually have a sneak peek for you of something that we’re getting ready to launch in the next week. We are launching a member benefits card called the “Explore 503 Pack” and it’s a benefits card for all of our members where they will get discounts at all of our winery partners across the state. An and it could be anything from tastings to cheese plates to discounted shipping and all of our members will get this card and it’s a great opportunity for both our members to get benefits but also for our winery partners to get folks to come out and visit them and explore their tasting room. So this is going to be an awesome new benefit for our members
Jessica Altieri: And people can find information about signing up for that r ight on your website as well.
Carrie Wynkoop: Yep. Cellar503.com is where you can sign up for the club and it’ll take you through all the various options and we’ll be having information about our Explore 503 card here in the next week.
Jessica Altieri: Oh, wonderful. And on a closing note, I always ask if you could pick one person to share a glass of wine with whom would it be with and what would you be sipping?
Carrie Wynkoop: I would love to have a glass of wine with Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, who were the folks who originally started the Wall Street Journal wine column. They’re so fascinating to me and their writing style is so lovely and they make wine so approachable and I would love to talk to them and really anything they wanted to drink would be great. I really have a passion for a champagne, so that would be wonderful.
Jessica Altieri: Oh, fantastic. Well thank you so much. You’ve been fabulous today. To recap today’s interview, my guest was the amazing Carrie Wynkoop owner of Cellar 503 a wine club featuring unique high quality affordable wines that represent the full range of great Oregon wine. And make sure to check out the Explore 503 pass that she mentioned today . And, as I always say wine is just a conversation waiting to happen. Thank you for being an amazing guest Carrie and for sharing a wine conversation with me today. Thanks so much for having me. It was great. Wonderful. Talk to you soon. Cheers.