USA - Brooks Winery
Amity (Oregon), January 4, 2021
Spotlight on Janie Brooks Heuck
" Janie's positive approach to life is 'a wine glass half full'! "

We are proud to feature Janie Brooks Heuck, Brooks Winery Managing Director and a Professionnel du Vin member of the Bailliage of Monterey. Pascal Brooks and Janie, his aunt, are carrying on the legacy of Jimi Brooks, Pascal’s father and Janie’s brother. The winery is ready for Pascal to inherit if he chooses.

Janie herself has cultivated deep roots in the wine industry and is the driving force behind Brooks Winery’s steady growth from producing 3,000 cases of wine in 2005 to 20,000 cases in 2019 while holding steadfast to her brother Jimi’s ideals and philosophy. She is the President of the Board of Directors of the International Riesling Foundation; Chair of the Board of Wine America; and on the media committee for the International Pinot Noir Celebration.

The mark of an exceptional company is not only handling accolades but also adversity. Approaching both the same way takes courage of convictions. 2020 of course threw adversity at everyone.

First, COVID-19: Brooks adapted with a curbside pickup service for food and wine. Their On-line Wine Club continued being a stable revenue source through spring and summer.

Second, wildfires: what the virus couldn’t do, Mother Nature did. A rare weather event, last taking place in 1933, fuelled new wildfires and blew smoke from existing ones burning to the east. A stubborn curtain of smoke hung over the vines. Because smoke lingered for days, the risks were too high that the grapes had suffered lasting damage even if initial tastings indicated otherwise. The decision was clear to cancel the 2020 vintage of their winery’s famous Riesling and Pinot Noir varieties.

Janie’s priority was caring for her employees and 28 growers by launching a Growers Relief Fund to honour as much of her existing contracts as possible. Many growers were unaware of the impending disaster from the smoke. [Ed. see the separate article already published on “smoke taint”]

In February 2020, before COVID-19 or the smoke, Brooks launched a new website with a foundation in eCommerce so they were able to mitigate both disasters through a strong virtual presence. Additionally, “Beyond Brooks”, a weekly on-line newsletter connects personally with their customers. It provides monthly virtual events partnering with a company producing a companion product.

Given the challenges, it is just as well that Janie’s approach to life is “a wine glass half full”!

Based on a detailed article by Judith Stanford Miller, a Bailliage of USA “Cuvée” contributor