Supply & Demand

As recently as the mid-1990s, the Willamette Valley was without a true winery supply shop. The simplest of cellar needs could be found at the hardware store or supermarket but the meat and potatoes of an entire industry — the yeast, the tanks, the fittings — were ordered from out-of-state outfits or those residing abroad.

By 1996, Oregon wine was settling into its second wave. Domain Drouhin Oregon had established its lauded French roots high in the Dundee Hills and prominent labels like Domaine Serene and Archery Summit were getting the hang of estate Pinot Noir. Willamette Valley wine was a growing niche trade but the masses were still unfamiliar.

“At that time, vendors didn’t want anything to do with Oregon,” says Terry Sherwood. He was working inventory at Davison Auto Parts in McMinnville then. After a casual chat with winemaker Michael Stevenson (working then at Panther Creek Cellars), the two came to a simple conclusion: Wouldn’t it be nice to have these kinds of things here?

“I brought him a stack of parts magazines and said circle what you need,” says Sherwood. Unbeknownst to him, it was the preface to a line of work Sherwood would find himself fastened to for the next two decades and beyond. “I had no idea the industry would explode like it did,” he reflects.

Gradually, the auto shop started stocking supplies of interest to the growing winemaking community. Locals showed up for valves and clamps in addition to headlight bulbs and motor oil. Soon, the winery supply division broke off and took over its own adjacent building. By 2014, Sherwood was a long trusted source for scores of vintners and took advantage of an ever larger building in nearby Newberg.

Sherwood founded Crush2Cellar in 2015, taking over a former wood flooring space right near the junction of Highway 99W and Highway 240. The central location, combined with Sherwood’s reputation, set him up with what he estimates to be around 300-400 Oregon winery clients, and counting.

ETS, the St. Helena-based wine analysis lab that occupied a cramped satellite lab at Davison, followed Sherwood to the new location. Here, Sherwood could accommodate the ever-growing need for supplies and the lab techs could take on more and more samples, delivering important results to the winemaking community, allowing them to keep the ever-important chemistry of their wines in order.

Unsurprisingly, this time of the year is Sherwood’s busiest. “The wine industry is a 90-day ordeal,” he says, while juggling a side conversation with a guy delivering dry ice. “I do whatever I can to take care of the wine industry and they take care of me.”

That means twelve-hour days for at least the next month. Adding his signature personal touch, Sherwood makes deliveries to and from his commute to the shop. When he’s not hunting down aisles for malolactic bugs, lees stirrers or beakers, he’s on the phone, ordering Laffort yeast products from France or bigger equipment from Italy. “It’s kind of a game that takes time to get right,” he says of the ordering. “You have to keep in mind that a lot of this stuff has a shelf life.”

And, much like a winemaker plays the dual roles of craftsmen and salesperson, Sherwood has to sell the stuff he brings in. Finding that perfect number is an art form he’s mastered since his first big introduction to wine in 1996. Sitting on several-dozen-too-many one-ton fermenters that go for $575 a pop is not good for business. Hence, Sherwood prepares early on, paving the way for a smooth harvest as early as May of that year.

Hands down, Sherwood is primarily selling fermentation products during the current harvest stretch. Yeast strains, enzymes and other nutritional goods are in high demand as loads of freshly-picked fruit begin to convert their sugars into alcohol. It’s an exciting, sometimes stressful period Sherwood can’t imagine missing.

“Harvest goes snap-snap-snap,” Sherwood says. “There’s no time to think, you just have to react. If you have to think, you miss a sale.”

by Mark A. Stock | markastock.com
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon who spent a healthy stretch in the Dundee Hills making, selling and drinking wine. He’s written for Willamette Week, Oregon Wine Press, Travel Oregon, Sip Northwest, SevenFifty and more. Fly-fishing, Icelandic soccer and The Simpsons are among his favorite distractions.