“15 Questions with…” is an ongoing series of interviews with some of the most interesting people in our industry.
Kevin Wiles came to Raptor Ridge in the summer of 2008, when he joined our winemaking team and worked his way up from harvest hand to cellar master to assistant winemaker. Kevin’s meticulous attention to detail and tireless passion for hard work have proven the perfect balance for the winemaking team. Kevin has also earned the respect of Raptor Ridge’s southeast distribution partners by hitting the road when he’s not in the cellar and coaching their sales teams as a proud ambassador of the Raptor Ridge brand. In what remains of Kevin’s spare time, he enjoys golfing, cooking, exploring Oregon, and rooting for his alma mater in football: West Virginia University!
1)The hardest thing about winemaking is…
All of the outside influences and actions that aren’t perceived as “winemaking,” but literally drive winemaking decisions. For example, space and logistics during harvest, being able to get a picking crew scheduled the day you’re trying to execute a pick. Having enough staff and time in a day to process all the fruit when it comes in. Making sure your bottling suppliers are on time with the production of your glass, closures, and labels and able to deliver on time. Being able to predict and schedule bottling dates 6-8 months in advance and holding to it as everyone else in the valley is trying to bottle at the same time.
2) How did you first get into the industry?
I was introduced to a very small French and Italian importer in South Carolina over 15 years ago. This coincided with me working in a wine-driven restaurant, and I jumped in feet first.
3) What’s the most rewarding thing about your career?
Taking grapes from the vineyard and getting them in the bottle. It’s amazing to get to take a “snapshot” of a specific vintage and be able to watch it progress in the bottle for years after.
4) Who are the people in your industry that your most admire?
I’ve got to say, first and foremost, Scott & Annie (Raptor Ridge Winery owners), they have given me a great opportunity to grow with Raptor Ridge. Winemakers…… Steve Doerner (Cristom) Ben Casteel (Bethel Heights) Marcus Goodfellow (Matello, Goodfellow) Dai Crisp (Lumos) Brian Marcy, Clare Carver (Big Table Farm)
5) What’s your favorite childhood memory?
I grew up in a great neighborhood where we had about 10 families on our street with kids all around the same age. Playing sports with the seasons, running around the neighborhood without a care in the world. I miss that innocence.
6) What are your favorite books or movies?
I’m a sucker for epic dramas, Braveheart, Last of the Mohicans, The Shawshank Redemption, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
7) What your most listened to Spotify/Pandora/Sirius station?
Spotify plays continuous when I’m at the winery…Ben Howard, Boy & Bear, James Morrison, Kings of Leon, Mumford & Son, Amasa Hines, Leon Bridges, Van Morrison
8) If you weren’t making wine, what career would you have?
I have no idea, I feel like I started this journey a while back, can’t really imagine doing anything else.
9) What advice would you give to people who wanted to get into the industry?
Work a harvest, then decide if it’s what you really want. I don’t think any class or book can quite prepare you for it. I think a lot of people have this romantic vision of what winemaking is and don’t realize the amount of cleaning, scrubbing, washing, sanitizing and rewashing, and well . . . you get my point.
10) What’s your dream vacation?
Bora Bora, Maldives, Bali – not in any particular order
11) What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?
At the moment, it’s splitting firewood, something about a chainsaw, ax and being outdoors.
Charleston, West By God Virginia
13) If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one drink (not your own brand), what would it be?
14) What person has been most influential in building your career?
I can’t say there has been just one. I’ve had three mentors in critical times of my career that have all been greatly appreciated. I’m sure without any one of them I wouldn’t be where I am now.
15) Where do you see yourself and your brand in 5 years?
Hopefully right where I am at. We have some exciting releases over the next few years at Raptor Ridge, some new varietals, bottlings etc. I’m looking forward to seeing how they are received and continuing to get out in the marketplace and getting to meet new and old friends I’ve made over the years.
Join us on Friday, March 24 from 4-6pm for a tasting featuring many of Kevin’s wines. He’ll be pouring several Pinot Noirs along with some great white wines, and, of course, some rosé!