Rollin Soles is stepping aside as general manager and winemaker at Oregon’s Argyle winery to devote more time to Roco, the winery he started 10 years ago with his wife, Corby Stonebraker-Soles. Nate Klostermann, Soles' assistant for the past seven years, will take over as winemaker on March 1.
Soles, 57, will stay on as a consultant to Argyle, owned by Distinguished Vineyards & Wine Partners (formerly Lion Nathan USA). He will continue to be “the guy who signs off on the blends,” as he put it, and coordinate viticulture with vineyard manager Alan Holstein.
Known for his quick wit and handlebar mustache, the Texas-born Soles cofounded Argyle in 1987 with Australian icon Brian Croser. They had worked together at Croser’s Petaluma Vineyards in Australia. Champagne Bollinger owner Christian Bizot and importer Robert Chadderdon were involved behind the scenes in the early years.
At first, Argyle's team intended to make only sparkling wines, but in 1992 the winery produced its first still wines. Now about half of its 60,000-case production is still, mostly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, plus smaller quantities of other varietals. In 2001 Argyle was absorbed by Lion Nathan when the Australia-New Zealand brewer acquired Petaluma's wineries.
Argyle is the only winery to have reached the Wine Spectator Top 100 for white, red and sparkling wines. Its Extended Tirage Brut has been the top-scoring U.S. sparkling wine for six years running, and earned spots on the Top 100 in four of those years. Its Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Nuthouse 2003 and its Chardonnay Willamette Valley 2002 were most recently in the Top 100 in 2006 and 2005, respectively.
Roco crushed its first vintage in 2003 and grew to 4,000 cases in 2012. The winery on Red Hills Road outside Dundee uses grapes purchased from leading Willamette Valley vineyards. Its flagship Private Stash Pinot Noir comes from the 7-acre vineyard on the Soles’ home property in Chehalem Mountains.
“Corby and I have had the farm since 1987,” Soles said. “We didn’t get around to planting it until 2001, even though we knew it was going to be a great spot.” Soles considers the delay a godsend. Viticulture advanced rapidly in Oregon, with new clones and better growing methods that he and Corby applied to their new vineyard. “Roco is now 10 years old and can stand on its own two legs. It’s what I’ve been working toward, and Corby is a natural at representing the wine in the marketplace.” She also designed the winery’s tasting room, which opened late last year adjacent to the winery.
Soles has confidence in Klostermann, 31. “He has a great palate. He’s calm under fire,” Soles said. “He’s going to be really good.” Prior to joining Argyle, Klostermann held positions at several wineries including Falconer Vineyards, Petaluma and Knappstein Winery. And, at least for a couple of years, he will have a mustachioed Texan looking over his shoulder.