Palisadian Makes Mark in Oregon Wine

Vincent Fritzsche stomping grapes.
Photo courtesy of Vincent Fritzsche

By PATRICK FRANK | Contributing Writer

Of all the ways of getting into the wine business, Palisades-born Vincent Fritzsche chose the most hands-on: He apprenticed in wineries and vineyards, working from the bottom up.

Today he is a recognized boutique producer in one of the world’s most exciting wine regions.

The seventh of seven children, Fritzsche was raised on Ocampo Drive in The Huntington in the 1970s. Following a family tradition, he went to Loyola High School downtown before earning a master’s degree in English literature at Santa Clara University.

Along the way he caught the wine bug. It was probably the aesthetics of wine tasting that pulled him in at first, but after a few years as a consumer, “It just made sense to keep on learning more and more,” he told the Palisadian-Post during a late-January visit to the winery.

While working in publishing at Jossey-Bass in San Francisco, he also worked during harvest and on weekends at several wineries in Sonoma County. A move to Oregon in 2000 proved to be a smart choice, because of that state’s relatively open environment for newcomers.

After he and his wife (a dietician) welcomed two children, Fritzsche branched out from his work teaching at Portland State University and in 2005, he launched the Vincent Wine Co. label, making Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with grapes bought from various Willamette Valley vineyards.

For the next 10 years, he worked in education while making wine on the side, steadily increasing his contacts and his quality—until 2015, when he began devoting full time to the cellar.

His winemaking style features low intervention, a method favored by many of today’s young vintners.

Zenith Vineyard in Oregon
Photo courtesy of Patrick Frank

“Those grapes aren’t sitting there waiting for me to do something to them,” he explained. Thus, he uses no added yeast, letting fermentations proceed at their own rate in small containers.

He does not clarify his wines by fining or filtering. And he uses no new barrels, only used oak, for aging.

“The less I do in the winery,” he said, “the finer texture I get in the finished product.”

Many of the important decisions are made in the vineyard regarding pruning and harvesting, and Fritzsche works closely with his growers to fine-tune each lot.

Fritzsche’s wines are vibrant and focused, bringing brisk texture and clear fruit flavors wrapped in spicy or stony notes. They do well at the table while showing delicate nuances.

His Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is poured by glass at Porta Via in Palisades Village and Esters Wine Shop in Santa Monica. Other Vincent wines are on the retail shelf at Larchmont Wine and Cheese and the Corner Shop in Silverlake.

The Oregon environment suits him: “There’s a sort of home-brew feel to winemaking around here,” he said.

Vincent Fritzsche with his product.
Photo courtesy of Vincent Fritzsche

Most winemakers in the Eola-Amity Hills region where he is located are small producers and share information readily. Fritzsche made 2,000 cases last year, placing him among the state’s smaller producers. Oregon Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are equaling the reputation of other great regions, even Napa Valley.

“We have more than elbowed our way up to that table,” he said.

Yet Fritzsche has not forgotten his Palisadian roots; in fact, he returns every year to visit his mother, who still lives in the family home.

He remembers from childhood the Fourth of July celebrations, which represented “the best of old-school America,” he said. He knew most of the neighbors because he delivered newspapers to them. Today, he is delivering fine wines.