Your Willamette Valley specialist - and 1st Annual Rookie of the Year!
Brace yourself for lavish, ripe wines from Willamette’s most treasured vineyards – made by the man who makes some of the country’s most expensive Pinot Noir!
With Angels' help, Chris is uncovering the ultra-posh wines from this 100-point region's sub-appellations – including the Eola Hills, Rogue Valley, and Dundee Hills.
He's a quiet, passionate guy that loves putting in 110% to make each vintage better than the last, but don't let the modesty fool you! You fund a world-class talent, and you're giving him the freedom to make Willamette shine.
Chris Baker's story
I grew up in western Pennsylvania, and my family loved to travel. I had an early interest in wine, stemming from my parents and from a few incidences with old vintage wines early on. I went on to college in North Carolina. NC State is a predominately agricultural school, and quickly I got my first taste in fermentation. Some of my good friends were from the mountains and taught me how to make moonshine. Some of them were so rooted in the culture that they were financially supported by their grandfathers who would drive down once a month with a flat of quart jugs coming out of dry counties.
After a while, my passion for travel got the best of me and I started traveling all over North America. Around this same time, grape growing and wine were starting to get noticed in areas like Virginia, Okanogan BC, and Oregon - where I ended up building my career.
When I'm asked why I became a winemaker, the simplest and realistic explanation is I fell into it. I always had a consumer's passion for wine but never knew how to get my foot in the door. My brother and I would discuss planting grapes on our family property and then eventually making wine from that, but I never conceived of the path I would end up on. Had I known of Winejobs.com, "Harvest Internships", or even UC Davis Wine Program, I probably would have ended up in the industry much earlier. That said I likely would not have ended up on the path or exponential trajectory I did.
Now that I am a winemaker I can say, "I became a winemaker because it is the only path that ties all the sciences imaginable together to create a consumable art." From the geology and soil science of the site, plant pathology, vineyard microbiology, and geography/climatology that create the "terroir" to the microbiology of fermentation and the chemistry that tracks and guides the wine through time to create the end product “art piece” that consumers get to enjoy. I must say even this is an abbreviated list when you look at it more in-depth or more existential.
Besides homebrew beer, wine, and moonshine my first vintage was 2006. I started at 12th and Maple Wine Co. It is a custom crush facility located in Dundee OR making wine for other wineries. We also had Blue Pirate and Battle Creek as our own brands. At that time, we had about 30 different clients and 17 active winemakers. I started in the lab and tracked every lot (over 150). Instantly I had a passion and knack for it.
During my first year, I built the lab to a state of the art facility adding HPLC and GC machines and becoming the Oenologist for the facility. In harvest 2007, a friend of mine that manages vineyards had some fruit come available. I called up my brother and we decided to make our first vintage. We made 220 cases of Pinot Gris, and 56 cases of Pinot Noir. Our own brand, Ancient Cellars, was born.
In 2008, Ancient Cellars added Cab Franc and Cab Sauv from southern Oregon. Making our own brand was a huge leap (as anyone knows in the wine industry it is a time commitment.)
It started with the rush of harvest madness and the feeling of accomplishment of getting the grapes processed before the weather turned. Most people would be discouraged by winemaking's long hours, I thrived off of them. Once I got into the industry, my love became the fact that winemaking is all the different sciences coming together along with mother nature and time. We create a consumable art that is a picture of the vintage. I can geek out all day on the science behind winemaking.
Each wine is unique, no matter how hard we try each vintage will be slightly different and we should embrace that rather than fight it. The simple truth is I love it because I get to do what I love as a career and not many people can say that.
I am lucky to work with fruit in the Willamette Valley and its sub-AVAs. Oregon wines can come with their own specific weather challenges, but that helps contribute to some of the most complex and diverse wines.
I am highly involved with my wines from the vineyard site work to winemaking start to finish. It is truly my hands that do almost all the work. This is part of the reason I joined the Angels at nakedwines.com. It's a challenge to stay that involved and find time to do all the selling, marketing, accounting, and taxes/licensing.
Over the past 11 vintages, I have learned a wealth of knowledge from having my own winery. The one thing I have recently accepted though is that I love to do the farming and wine production, but I am just not a salesman. Thanks to Angels, I can focus on what I enjoy. Relieving some of the financial burdens of winemaking is also helping free up time to enjoy personal activities and spend time with my family, especially my son.
Honestly, I am honored out of all the Willamette Valley winemakers that I can be the one that gets represent nakedwines.com. As mentioned it frees me from certain roles of owning a brand that allows me to focus on what I enjoy, the vineyard, winemaking, and time for my personal life. Through the Angel network, I get to make my wine and have it reach much further than I could on my own.
I'm excited to build Angels a portfolio of wines that keep Angels excited about Willamette Valley and its sub-AVAs!
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