Rob grew up far away from Oregon’s wine country, having braved the winters of Buffalo, New York. He was initially introduced to wine when he visited his Uncle in England at 17 years old. It was there he tried a 1961 Bollinger Brut, which opened his eyes to the world of wine and initiated his quest to create his own perfect sparkling wine. Says Rob, “Methode champenoise is my first love, and will always be – other than Maria, of course.”
He went on to earn a degree in biochemistry from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, and had a short but eye-opening career in the biochem labs at Baylor University in Texas. Afterward, he enrolled in viticulture and enology courses at U.C. Davis, where he was advised by Dr. Anne Nobel to go straight into the industry to gain experience from others. This led him to begin his winemaking journey on the bottling line at Hans Kornell in Napa, California, then to Southern Oregon’s Valley View Vineyards, and eventually to Staton Hills in Yakima, Washington where he made wine for ten years.
Rob managed to return to Oregon in 1994 when he became the winemaker at Erath Vineyards. It was during this time that he met Maria, and after making wine for other producers for more than twenty years, Rob and his partners founded R. Stuart & Co. Winery in 2001. “I had a clear vision of how I wanted wines to be made. I felt that many wines were synthesized by technique and barrels, and the fruit was not respected. My goal from day one was to showcase the hard work that the vineyard stewards and owners put into making and growing the fruit, and what made them each distinctive.”
A core ethos of R. Stuart & Co. is the collaboration among the team. Rob knew from the start that he wanted to run a company where it was not managed by dictation, but rather by input from all team members in a true collaborative sense. “Show me, tell me, involve me” is what Rob instills in his employees – the idea is that everyone has a say in what happens, and consequently everyone feels responsible and proud of the results. “It’s a very different way of operating a business – proving that it can be done that way, and done successfully,” he reflects.
Rob often travels around the country, hosting winemaker dinners and meeting with distributors – not because he needs to be “the face” of R. Stuart, but because he genuinely enjoys tasting with consumers and industry folks, seeing their reactions to his wines. When Rob talks about his favorite parts of the winery, the list is expansive and encompasses every part of the winemaking process. “Each year’s bud break, bloom, and veraison is a beautiful metaphor for life,” he says, “Every spring is renewal, every fall is a finale.”
One might imagine that after spending more than 40 vintages in the industry that the spark to make wine would be lost. It’s quite the contrary for Rob, though. He’s continually excited by wine, and understands that choosing to make wine in the Willamette Valley with the varietals that make it famous, compounded with the climate, makes it ever intriguing. Rob shares, “In all the years I’ve been making wine, there have never been two vintages alike. There’s always a challenge to problem solve, and yes, sometimes we make mistakes, but we also learn every step of the way. Ultimately, that process makes our wines better each and every year.”
A common story in the wine industry is one similar to Rob Stuart’s – being introduced to a wine which imprinted a memory and a desire to create their own wine. However, for Jordan Rosenberry, the spark began in 5th grade science class. “My teacher taught us about fermentation where we mashed up bananas in Ziploc bags, and learned about the microbiology, process, and how it related to industries like wine and beer,” he remembers. He went home with great excitement, sharing with his mom what he had learned. She supported his newfound passion by giving him permission to try fermenting various items at home – beginning a collection of various gallon jugs of experimentation.
Jordan’s family is rooted deeply in Yamhill County. As he moved back to McMinnville from California at the age of 15, he was thrust into the Willamette Valley’s bounty of apples and other fruits. He quickly tapped back into his fermentation knowledge and created various ciders in his family’s basement, eventually progressing into homebrewing.
One fateful day in high school, Jordan saw Joe Stuart (the eldest of the Stuart children) wearing an R. Stuart & Co. Winery hoodie and asked how he could get one of his own. Joe let him know, “if you work harvest, you get the swag.” Shortly thereafter, Jordan sent a resume to Rob with the hope of joining the team. In true fatherly fashion, Rob let him know that he was welcome to be at the winery as much as Jordan wished to be – but he had to keep school as a priority. Jordan agreed and began his first harvest at R. Stuart at 17 years old.
It was there that the seed of winemaking began to be sown. “Rob was extremely inviting and encouraging of my desire to learn this industry. I was won over by the Stuart’s hospitality and how they overlapped their employees’ home and work lives. Being invited to the Stuart’s home regularly for dinners, I knew that was uncommon – even without an extensive work history.” It was Rob’s sense of winemaking, the incredible kindness of the Stuart family, and his interest in how all of these elements could be tied together that convinced Jordan that R. Stuart was the place for him to learn and grow.
Jordan went on to graduate from Oregon State University in 2020 with a degree in Food Science and Technology with an emphasis in Fermentation Sciences. He returned full time to R. Stuart in March of 2021, fulfilling the long held promise to Rob that he would give focus to educational training in addition to hands-on training. Jordan was quickly promoted to Production Winemaker, leading the charge in our cellar.
“To this day, I still believe that the most valuable thing this company has to offer is the hospitality – we are all genuine friends and enjoy spending time with one another. There are high levels of expectations, yet a lot of room for personal growth and respect for our personhood. Being able to come back to R. Stuart with a strong foundational knowledge of how we operate combined with continued opportunities to learn from Rob – someone that our local wine industry really looks up to – is very full circle for me.”
Multi-generational family winemakers and vineyard stewards carry an incredible history and respect for our valley. For Nicholas Gates, the wine industry is the only industry he’s ever known. His father, Paul Gates, established the Gresser Vineyard and Winery, and also served as the winemaker at Laurel Ridge Winery. “When I was a kid, wine didn’t mean anything to me – it’s just what dad did,” remembers Nic. He recalls his father taking him and his brother out to the vineyard and winery, being warned of “forest trolls” that lurked in the treeline just past the vineyard – a clever strategy for his dad to keep the kids in check while he tended to the vines.
In elementary school, Nic installed drip irrigation at the vineyard in exchange for a new snowboard. By the time he was in high school, Nic knew that his path would lead to wine and was taking a more active role in assisting his dad. In 2009, he committed full time to the wine industry and began the year-round tending, including pruning the vineyards all the way to longer days during the harvest season.
Over the years, Nic has dedicated time to a variety of roles in the local industry. Tending to the vineyards has been a dominant role for Nic, as he worked as the vineyard manager for J. Christopher Wines and other vineyard management companies. “I have been able to get a variety of experiences at multiple vineyards and production sites, and I feel lucky to have the flexibility in my life to learn from multiple sites and companies.”
In May of 2021, Nic responded to a Facebook post seeking help for bottling at R. Stuart, and has committed to the team ever since. “I really enjoy how engaged everyone is at R. Stuart.” He notes that, “In so many settings, the cellar and production teams are so separate from other parts of the company. But here, everyone is contributing and educating themselves on the full process. Simply put, the people here are the best.”
Having grown up in the Willamette Valley, Deven has always been immersed in great wine, food, and community – all of which sparked his passion for this industry. His passion for cooking, savoring a meal, and gathering people to celebrate it all has been inspired by what Oregon offers in each season. “While wine started as a fun pastime associated with cooking for friends, I came to realize I wanted to make a career of it,” says Deven.
In 2011, Deven quit his job in commercial real estate to find a winery that would take him in for a harvest season and allow his hands to get dirty. Several friends led him to Rob Stuart, and he was soon thereafter hired for what he believed was going to be only a couple-week harvest internship. However, the 2011 harvest season was cold and arduous, and Deven became a greater part of the team than he had anticipated. This starting role provided him the knowledge and experience to take on roles at several other wineries before Rob and Maria asked him to return full time in 2014. Deven has worked on both the sales and production sides of R. Stuart, giving him a holistic understanding of the company’s operations.
One of Deven’s greatest attributes and joys is that multifaceted skill set. “I get to do a little bit of every part in the winery with an amazing group of people and assist them in bringing our goals into fruition. One day I will be in the office knocking out spreadsheets and budgets, and the next I’m on a forklift in the middle of harvest.” When he evaluates his role at R. Stuart, he understands that he is successful in his role if the entire team is thriving in theirs.
When not at the winery, Deven can be found supporting the University of Oregon Ducks (his alma mater), the Portland Trail Blazers, and a variety of culinary curators. The Morganstern family dog, Beatrice, is the mascot of our winery office and brings great levity to our team on long days.
Even in the presence of Rob’s single vineyard wines, Deven will still gravitate toward Big Fire Pinot Noir. “Traveling the country and talking to people about our winery, Big Fire is normally their introduction to us, and many times to the Willamette Valley. I am more than proud that we can make a wine in such a classic way with a price point that everyone can access,” he reflects. “It’s my hope to share a little of that passion and love with everyone that opens one of our bottles.”
Born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, Casee came to McMinnville to attend Linfield University. Having been intrigued and inspired by the connections of the human spirit, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and a minor in Anthropology. When planning her post-collegiate career, Casee knew she wanted to remain in the Pacific Northwest. She secured positions at several businesses on Third Street before being hired as a tasting room associate for R. Stuart, mere months before graduating from Linfield. “I knew nothing about wine, but I loved talking to people and was up for the challenge.”
She quickly moved into the roles of Wine Bar and Wine Club Manager in 2014, and onward to the Director of Consumer Sales in 2017. Throughout that time, she has also assisted in 5 harvests with the R. Stuart team. Now, 11 years after her initial hiring, Casee has adopted McMinnville as her home and has become immersed in the local community.
Among her favorite R. Stuart wines are the Menefee Pinot Noir and Autograph Chardonnay. She remembers the R. Stuart summer party at Wilder Lake in 2014 as her fondest memory with the company. “It was a party that was incredibly hard to pull off since we had to truck everything (including a generator) to the site in the midst of a 100° weekend. There was a moment between our guests and staff that we all looked at each other and collectively decided to jump into the property’s lake that I’ll never forget.”
The joy of learning about wine and the surrounding industry is what motivates Casee daily. “My role is ever evolving and growing with the skills I learn, from being entirely customer-facing to having a more hybrid role now. There are endless opportunities to try new ideas and share wine with people we love.”
“It’s incredible to me the number of industries existing in my own backyard that I never knew about when I was younger,” says Susanne. Despite growing up in McMinnville, the hospitality, viticulture and agriculture, and wine industries were not widely shared during her schooling. A voracious reader and enjoyer of editing papers, Susanne went to the University of Oregon and Linfield University to earn her degree in English Literature and secondary education.
Upon completing her schooling at Linfield, Susanne began working at businesses on Third Street in conjunction with substitute teaching. It was during that time that she began working at R. Stuart. In 2013, she was offered a full-time position at McMinnville High School to teach English and she stepped away from the winery. However, the Stuarts weren’t quite ready to let her go. “When I took the teaching job, Rob and Maria wouldn’t let me give my keys back. They told me that I was part of the family, and I’d likely need those keys in the future.”
Being involved in the wine and hospitality industries provided Susanne with a wealth of knowledge to share with students. If a student was interested in viticulture, working in a kitchen, starting a business, or event planning, she knew who to point them to or had dabbled in it herself. Harkening to her own experience, she notes that she never wanted a student to miss their calling simply because they didn’t know it existed.
Over the next 9 years, Susanne had all three of the Stuart children as her students in the ASB Leadership program at McMinnville HS. Even while teaching, she assisted Casee with winery events and would come to the winery after school for punch downs. Maria would continue to invite Susanne to harvest dinners, as the busiest season at school was the same time grapes were coming into the winery. “After a long day at school, I always loved sharing a glass of Big Fire Pinot Gris with Maria in the kitchen before the winery crew got to the house,” she reflects. “I’m really grateful the kids never got sick of me between seeing me all day at school and then having me at their dinner table, too!”
Susanne has stepped away from teaching to assist the R. Stuart & Co. team with marketing and events – two areas she utilized greatly during her time as Activities Director and Leadership advisor at MHS. “When I stepped away, I told my students that if I could model anything for them, it’d be to take a chance on yourself and learn something new. They were wildly supportive of my wanting to expand on what I wanted to be ‘when I grow up’.” Now, it seems safe to say that it was fate that Susanne was told to keep her keys.
A McMinnville native, Malorie’s gratitude for the community and its proximity to the beautiful wines of the Willamette Valley is abundant. “R. Stuart, to this day, is my favorite winery and the only winery that I love every single wine that is made,” she shares. The breadth of individuals that come to the Valley to taste wines also invigorates one of Malorie’s greatest passions: travel. She has completed several international missions which have taken her to seven different countries. Her longest travel was in Germany (a place she returns to often) at an international arts school, at which she was the lead of hospitality – facilitating the experiences of international guest speakers during their stay in Nuremberg.
Malorie has worked on Historic Third Street since 2016. After she met Casee through avenues of the downtown community, Casee reached out and asked if Malorie would be interested in a part-time position with R. Stuart – to which Malorie quickly said yes. Though she had no prior experience in wine, her family’s passion for the product supported her transition to R. Stuart. “My brother first got into the industry about seven years ago . . . Our weekends were filled with trips around the Willamette Valley trying different wineries, which also helped build my interest and understanding of wine.”
With her interest piqued and knowledge quickly growing, Malorie continued her time at R. Stuart and now serves as our Tasting Room Manager. “What Rob and Maria have built over the last two decades is an absolute triumph,” she declares. “You can taste the passion and intentionality in the wine.” With Maria’s legacy always on her mind, Malorie prides herself greatly on creating a space where all guests feel warm, welcomed, and genuinely taken care of.
Similar to Rob, Rosé d’Or holds a special place in Malorie’s heart as her favorite R. Stuart wine. Her behind the scenes knowledge of the traditional méthode champenoise winemaking style deepens her appreciation. “There are so many beautiful layers and characteristics speaking through this wine. It’s not your average sparkling.” Dom Perignon’s infamous quote rooted in a sip of champagne which reads, “Come quickly, I am tasting the stars,” is the sentiment Malorie shares about Rosé d’Or. “I hope to be tasting the stars until the end of my days here on Earth,” she says.
What do Tupac and the wine industry have in common? The answer is our compliance and office manager, Karen. With over 25 years as what she affectionately calls a “prison mom” (or a mid-level manager at a federal prison), Karen’s background is the antithesis of typical wine industry experiences. Karen grew up in Northern California and worked for several government agencies which fine-tuned her impeccable eye for detail and made it easy for her to transition into the role of compliance for the company. Our favorite joke of Karen’s is that she met her husband in prison (he also worked there!) as well as a few well-known criminals. Give Karen a few minutes of your day and you are guaranteed to hear the best stories, which she loves to share.
When Karen retired from law enforcement at a young age, she needed a part-time job. Her good friend told her about an office assistant opening with friends of hers who owned a winery – the Stuarts. Despite knowing nothing about wine or the industry, she was quickly folded into the company and felt “it was a great fit from day one.” That was thirteen years ago now.
Karen’s role at R. Stuart is integral, as she manages legal and quality standards, health and safety, our company office space, and is the “shipping guru” of the winery. She tracks the weather across the country and follows the routes which wine travels, ensuring that our product gets to your door in the highest quality possible.
The camaraderie and family atmosphere of R. Stuart is what has kept Karen in our midst. Her own daughter, Nora, began helping at R. Stuart events years ago and anxiously awaited the day she’d turn 21 to be able to work at the Wine Bar – which she now does. “It is a pleasure to come in to work and be surrounded by young, energetic folks who love what they do, too.”
With fond memories, Karen remembers the day she and her husband were invited for a vineyard walk at Daffodil Hill Vineyard. “We learned so much about vineyard work and winemaking from Rob on that trip,” she recalls. “I fell in love with that vineyard and the wine. It’s still my favorite Pinot noir to this day.”
After graduating from Yale, Frank joined the Navy and became a fighter pilot, flying the F-8 Crusader off of the USS Shangri-La. During his deployment, he specialized in sampling Champagnes when in port in Cannes, France.
On leaving the Navy after a tour flying low level reconnaissance over North Vietnam, Frank moved to Paris where his intensive review of French wines, especially from Champagne, continued.
His post-war work included being Chief of Staff at the US Environmental Protection Agency, followed by a government sponsored term at Harvard Business School where he studied marketing. After a dozen years of public service, he joined a Chicago venture capital company, and after three years left to start his own VC company, IEG Venture Partners.
Frank’s personal enthusiasm for wine inspired him to take a course at UC Davis in winemaking to better understand the industry. He quickly realized that marketing was an essential but generally unknown attribute of US winemakers. Conversely, it was impossible not to notice that French Champagne makers had, among other venues, focused marketing: full page ads in Vogue with stars like Grace Kelly, spending up to ten times more than US still-wine houses on marketing, and selling a bottle for two to three times what companies got for still-wine from the same sources – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.
After much more research, Frank began to focus on the lovely Pinot noir being grown and made in Oregon. With further research and many interviews, he found the maker at one Oregon “sparkling” house, who said, “I know one guy who is as nuts about making first class Oregon sparkling as you are. You should go see him, Rob Stuart at Erath.”
Frank quickly called and met Rob. They talked for an afternoon, seated on wine barrels, and that was the start, eventually, of R. Stuart and Co. In 1999, they began working on the blend for the base wine, and our first sparkler – Rosé d’Or – was released in 2005. Since then, it has been nothing but la vie en rose.
The adventures continued for Frank as he went on to build and captain a large wooden schooner, and sailed around the world in the Southern Hemisphere, partially to research wines in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina. Every so often Frank flies his single-engine out from Maine to lend a hand with bottling or harvest. You can be sure that he always checks in on the sparkling wines, too.
528 NE 3rd StreetMcMinnville, OR email@example.com
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