Origins of Daniel Joseph Cellars


According to the all but inscrutable Wikipedia, it was Pliny the Elder, erudite historian & legendary wit, who coined the term: ‘In Vino, Veritas’.

We can say, after many years and thousands of bottles of grueling & painstaking research, unequivocally, that it is true. In wine, there IS truth.

In wine, there’s truth about the wine itself, from where it came, to how it was grown,  vinified and aged over its years.

In wine, there’s truth about the sense of style, taste and even wisdom of those who would pour it, and, quite often, a hint of what they think of those to whom they serve it.

In wine, there’s truth, ultimately, about the winemakers themselves. Is one to be focused on nurturing the sublimities of each utterly unique vintage, or driven to minimize cost & maximize gross margins? It’s practically impossible to do both, so one must choose.

For us, there’d be no purpose in making anything but the best wine possible.

Not unlike many people of a certain age, our sojourn began with the existential question: What to do when we finally grow up? After a couple of fruitful decades in software sales, we wanted to try something completely different. Being inveterate foodies, hopeless romantics and, quite evidently, a bit naive, we thought to ourselves, hey, why not ’Winemaking’? It’s one of the world’s oldest, most respectable professions, and it certainly seemed like a very intriguing and desirable second career pursuit. And, so it went….

Over the years, we had the good fortune to tour some of the world’s finest winegrowing regions. After visiting and revisiting Oregon’s Rogue Valley, it struck us those old pear orchards nestled among the Cascade, Siskyou and Coastal mountain ranges would also be ideal places to grow super premium grapes and make fantastic wines.

Having decided on a location, only partially because the name ‘Rogue Valley’ appealed to Dan’s lifelong penchant for defiance, we proceeded the way most people imagine one should: Find a nice piece of land, plant a vineyard, build a winery, hire a winemaker, and, finally, produce and sell the wine. This process usually takes 5-7 years before there’s a drop of wine to sell, if you’re lucky.

Early on, a local vineyard consultant suggested that we had things, more or less, completely askew. What we should do, he advised, was first create a brand, then hire a winemaker/consultant, negotiate a grape purchase from a local vineyard, contract for ‘custom crush’ with an existing winery and then, finally, see if we were any good at it/liked it/could sell it.

That way, he added helpfully, when we fail, we’d do so in a much more time & capital efficient manner.

Or, if against the odds (& gods), we should actually succeed, we could always build a winery and plant a vineyard later on.

That wasn’t exactly what we had in mind. But, since we were starting this venture with a Pinot noir to be called ‘Domaine Paradox’, this kind of counter-intuitive advice seemed appropriate, so we went with it.

‘Paradox’, a term loaded beyond the literal interpretation (also meaning defying expectations, beyond belief, or even our favorite, opposed to orthodoxy), also happens to be an idyllic lake in the Adirondack Mountains, and a nudge-nudge-wink-wink to our somewhat ethereal status as a ‘virtual’ domaine & winery.

Our original plan was to make wine at the winery where we had the delicious Fortmiller Pinot noir. However, there was no room at the inn, and the Fortmiller vineyard folks wouldn’t sell any Pinot to some nobodies from Texas. Bummer.

Two doors close. And a window opens.

We’re introduced to Linda Donovan, a winemaking savant who’s moving to a new winery and accepting some custom crush clients. Success! We tell her about the Fortmiller Pinot we’ve  been raving about. Turns out she had a hand in creating it. We tell her the vineyard folks are sold out of it. She makes a call and secures the Pinot–turns out the vineyard folks are good friends of hers. On and on it goes. We want to make a Chateauneuf du Pape type blend of Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre, she has all of the varietals at her sister’s vineyard. And so it goes.

We’re hooked. Coaxing Nature, Science and Artistry to interact in such a was as to produce a living, breathing, ever evolving nectar is proof, as Benjamin Franklin said, ‘that God loves us and wants us to be happy’.

There’s a good reason why so many artisan wineries like ours invoke the word ‘Passion’ in describing why they do what they do; without a real and sincere passion for making ‘character driven’ wines, we’d be drowned out in a sea of banalities produced by the gigantic, multi-national wine conglomerates.

In Vino, Veritas.

In wine, there’s truth.