Reprinted from Wine Business Monthly
2010 Joe’s Secco, Oregon
As a kid, Joe Dobbes used to hang out in the kitchen while his mother and grandmother cooked. “I was always into analyzing flavors and aromas. The family joke was that some day I was going to get my nose cut off from putting it in so many things,” he recalled. “Winemaking is kind of a sixth sense for me. I felt I innately understood a lot of things that were not taught to me.”
Along that line, Dobbes said he has always followed his instincts. “I don’t over-think things. If my gut says it’s correct, it’s correct,” he said. When he left his job as head winemaker for Willamette Valley Vineyards in 2002, he used $50,000 of his own money and focused on what he knew best—production. The company launched in 2003 with Wine by Joe and 20 custom winemaking clients. Dobbes reports that today his company is the third largest wine producer in Oregon. He owns a 214-acre vineyard and buys grapes from approximately 30 other vineyards, and 24 employees make it all happen in a 52,000-square-foot winery in Dundee, Oregon. “The business is basically a four-legged stool: our own business, retail, vineyard and bulk custom winemaking and proprietary labels,” Dobbes explained.
Wine by Joe is one of three brands in the Joe Dobbes’ portfolio and one of the first high-quality screw top ventures in Oregon. Marketed as “Serious Wines without Attitude,” the lineup includes Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Rosé and Joe’s Secco—all priced for under $20. The winery will bottle approximately 32,000 cases from the 2011 vintage under Wine by Joe.
The WBM team went for Joe’s Secco with its Prosecco-style bubbles. We liked the play on words in the name and the fun packaging; the color of the wine, seen easily through a clear bottle, and the crown cap caught our eye. The flavor was fresh and vibrant, and there was lots of fizz in this Italian-style sparkler. It’s enjoyable, original and it retails for $16.
Dobbes said the economy has actually contributed to Wine by Joe’s success in that his company was among the first to offer value-priced Oregon wines. “People love the quality and the value. We launched Wine by Joe in 2004 primarily in Oregon. The Joe’s Secco was offered exclusively in 2011 to Whole Foods in Oregon and Washington and to limited on-premise accounts in Oregon and Washington; and in 2012, we are going to offer it nationally. It’s been a good success.
“I’ve knocked down barriers in price, quality, image and packaging. Wine by Joe is fun—and believe me, it over-delivers on value. I think that’s part of the reason for its success,” Dobbes said.
Dobbes mentioned that ever since he traveled to Germany after college and apprenticed at Wiengut Erbhof Tesch, where they made Gewürztraminer ice wines, he’s had “kind of a sweet tooth.” As winemaker for Silvan Ridge, he developed a semi-sparkling Muscat under the winery’s Hinman label. Joe’s Secco is a blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir Blanc and Muscat and is less than 0.30 percent residual sugar—essentially dry to the taste.
In addition to Wine by Joe, the Joe Dobbes’ portfolio includes: Dobbes Family Estate, a 6,000-case luxury high-end brand focused on single vineyard and stylistic blended Pinot Noirs, and Jovino Oregon Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, a restaurant-focused brand. In 2010, Dobbes produced Oregon’s first commercial Grenache Blanc, which replaced the discontinued Pinot Gris under the Dobbes Family Estate label and will be the solely-focused white winefor national distribution
In 2012, Dobbes said business plans include growing and marketing his own labels much more strongly by focusing on expanding national distribution in new markets and expansion to others outside the U.S., including Japan, Hong Kong, Sweden, U.K. and China, while continuing with custom and bulk wine sales.