At Tesla Trips we like to focus on not just good wine, but how you enjoy wine. We know there are other wine tours out there (we have Google too…). However what really makes us and our friends stand out are the experiences. This isn’t a “as you look to your right you can see…” tour. Tesla Trips is immersive, customizable, and most importantly, fun! As the title of this post suggests, the theme of this interview turned out to really be about experiences. Not to just create something entertaining and memorable, but an atmosphere for learning more about wine as well. One of our favorite wineries that creates rich experiences in the Gorge is Phelps Creek Vineyards. I sat down with Becky Morus from Phelps Creek Vineyards recently.
Chase: Thanks for sitting down with us for this interview, so I’ll start with an easy one: Age old Question… Red or White?
Becky: Ha, I’m biased because we make our own wines, but when I go out my go to is red. In the end, for me, it’s all about food pairings! It’s all about what I’m eating and finding the right wine that brings out the flavors in both.
C: I completely agree, I’m a huge fan of food pairings! Second question, How did you begin in the wine industry?
B: Uh… Well does being born into the industry count? Ha, It’s still unique though, we moved from Georgia out to Hood River in 1990 to start the vineyard. We also checked out Eugene, but when my Mom saw the moss on the trees. She didn’t need to see more. She knew it was going to be way too wet. However, when we came to Hood River, we just fell in love with it immediately. My dad drove up to our property, plus it’s all south facing slopes, which is exactly what you want! From that point on, and at a fairly young age I was surrounded by the wine industry… And I wanted nothing to do with it.
View of Phelps Creek Vineyard from the Tasting Area
C: I was going to say, I know there has always been a family connection, but when did you become passionate about wine?
B: Yes! I never saw my relationship with wine as one that could become a career. Going into high school and college I wanted to pursue acting. I thought working with the winery had been fun, but I was going on to other things now. The winery really didn’t take off until after I had left for college. Before I left for college Phelps Creek didn’t even have a tasting room or distributor. Right out of college, I had developed a theater production in Scotland. It was great, but I was burnt out. I decided I was going to take a year off. I went back to the U.S., and started working at Phelps Creek. In the following months I just fell in love with the wine community, and everything about it! The big turning point was at the Oregon Wine Symposium. One of the groups there was Travel Oregon. They start playing this video, and I just started crying. It was really just an ad. But it spoke to me and exactly why I loved Oregon and the wine community! I started looking around, and realized this is a little ridiculous, haha.
C: Yeah, ha, I’ve seen some good ads, but that sounds like it really spoke to you.
B: If I’m crying off a commercial, ha, I think I’m in the right community. It didn’t even have puppies or anything!
C: Not even Sarah McLachlan playing in the background?
B: Haha, no, ha, but it was emotionally as powerful. Pretty soon after that I took over as General Manager for Phelps Creek. That was something I would never have seen myself doing. Since then I have been a part of everything and it’s been so much fun! It’s also been a huge learning experience! I can tell I’m going to be a part of the wine community for a long time though.
C: What are some of your favorite things about the wine community in the gorge?
B: I love that we are a small town! The current community reminds me a lot of the Willamette valley when it started. There is actually a great OPB documentary about it!
C: Was it as emotional as Travel Oregon’s ad?
B: Ha, not as emotional, heh, but it is very good. What I loved is that it showed how all of the growers came together and it wasn’t competitive at all. I don’t know how it is now, but if we didn’t all work together in the Gorge, no one would come out here. I mean we are this tiny little town an hour from Portland. It is beautiful here, but it would be a lot less compelling for people who come out here for wine. Plus the Gorge is naturally great for winemaking! Seriously, within 40 miles of Hood River every varietal of grape you can imagine is grown out here. Other wine areas are known for only one variety. Hood River is a wetter climate and then a few miles east you have high desert. Perfect for the dryer weather wines. There is something here for everyone! It’s so exciting to taste something different at each of the wineries here.
C: Besides the great wine, what do you recommend to people coming out to Hood River and The Gorge?
B: The food! I love food, and there are some awesome restaurants in town. The tasting rooms here are really ambassadors for a lot of the businesses in town. A lot of different restaurants, and great breweries. The wine is great here, but so is the beer!
C: Agreed, what does Phelps creek do to set itself apart?
B: We do each step of the process. We grow the grapes, we have the vineyard right there on the property, and we do the actual winemaking. Our three top wines are Le Petit Pinot Noir, Estate Reserve Chardonnay and Cuvee Alexandrine, also a Pinot Noir. Our winemaker is Alexandrine Roy, her own personal label, Domaine Marc Roy is from the city of Gevrey-Chambertin, Burgundy, France. Her wines are known all around the world for their beauty and elegance. She is always a featured wine maker at the International Pinot Noir Celebration. We have people that come into our tasting room that know of her, some have even been to her tasting room in France. She’s a fourth generation winemaker and even went to a winemaking high school in France. She has so much love and intuition when she makes her wine. The restaurants in town love the wines too, because they are great for wine pairing!
C: One of the other things that I’ve noticed that really makes Phelps Creek stand out is the wine tours that you guys have are just phenomenal!
Image from a tour of the Phelps Creek Vineyard
B: It’s wonderful because we get to share our story with people in such an immersive way. This all starts with vines in the field, then the barrel tasting and seeing how it’s made. At the end there is a final tasting and a picnic.
C: The tasting room at the Hood River Golf Course is a lot of fun, but going over to the vineyard really makes an experience out of the whole wine process.
B: Yes, we’ve called them tours in the past, but at Phelps Creek we really think about the experience for our people. The tasting rooms are great, but that’s more of a casual environment compared to a trip to the vineyard.
C: That’s great, now I assume people can find out more about these trips on your site?
B: Yes, we have them on our site. We have different packages available. My favorite is our ‘VIP Wine Country Experience’ that goes through the vineyard, involves barrel tastings. These allow for you to really enjoy and see what the aging process does. All together it’s about two hours long. We will be offering a horseback riding through the Vineyard tasting package as well. We’ll be announcing even more packages soon.
C: Phelps Creek really seems to promote wine not just as a drink, but as a part of a cultural experience?
B: Yes, I’ve had a lot of great memories at wine tastings, but we want to create memories that last a lifetime. We had about 10 people who flew out from Virginia and were on a trip starting From Vancouver B.C. heading down south to Oregon. The reason for this trip was to replenish their personal wine cellars…
C: Sounds like a daunting task…
B: I know, right? Ha, but it was so much fun! They were wine connoisseurs and we brought out some of our most limited bottles. They loved it! I was getting letters from them about how great their experience had been. Some of them sent thank you letters to us multiple times! We felt so honored. We love when we get that opportunity to make that kind of connection with the people that come out on the longer trips so we can really connect with them.
C: How do a lot of people find out about you?
B: The tours have been wildly popular, which originally started with a Groupon. We believe our offerings have been successful because we offer an ‘easy button’ solution for everyone. It doesn’t matter on your knowledge level of wine.
C: What is something that you are most excited about right now and in the future?
B: The wine tours right now, have really been the most exciting. The tours have allowed us to invite more people into our community, its been wonderful! In the future, we’re really looking forward to doing weddings. Tours for the bridal party, tours for the parents, and rehearsal dinners. The following summer we’ll start to do weddings. That’s what I can’t wait for and what I am really excited for in the future!
C: Now with a background in acting I’m sure you are familiar with Inside the actors studio, getting near the end of this interview I have a few questions that are more for people to get to know a bit about you. What is your favorite guilty pleasure song right now?
B: Haha, okay! ‘Beauty and the beast’ by Justin Bieber… Just turn it up and blast it.
C: Yup, that’s pretty good. Now, If you could have one mediocre super power, what would it be? An example, would be being able to beat the traffic.
B: Oh, hmm, that’s a tough one. Beating the traffic is pretty good, not that we have that much in Hood River, ha. Actually never having to change the oil in my car would be awesome! I’m pretty jealous since you don’t have to do that in the Tesla! haha.
C: I’m definitely not going to miss it, ha.
B: I’m sure…
C: Ha, okay, what is the best way to get a hold of you at Phelps Creek?
B: Email is the best! firstname.lastname@example.org. I check it all the time, on my phone doesn’t matter when or where. Plus we are also very active on Facebook.
I just want to say here on the blog that we are very appreciative of Becky to take her time to sit down and talk with us today. After this interview it should be clear that Tesla Trips and Phelps Creeks take experiences very seriously.
These chats will be about a once a week special on our blog. Since this is our first time doing it, I chose more of a transcript style of presenting the conversation. Please leave a comment if you think this is an effective way or would prefer more of a editorial style. Plus being new to interviewing, I’m open to any critiques or things you would like to hear more about in the future. I hope everyone enjoyed this and if there are any questions that I didn’t ask, let us know! Write them in the comments section. Also look for another wine interview post in about a week!