Ray and Family
Ray Walsh and son Desmond, are artists of a different caliber. Their house is set in a quiet, hip Eugene neighborhood — a humble and comforting home, not what one would expect from winemakers whose local reputation among wine circles is talked about with nothing less than the highest respect.
But a career in an industry overflowing with snobs with big names plastered over millions of bottles filled with little more than aged ego and fermented grapes was not the future Ray Walsh had assumed for himself. Wine wasn’t on his mind as a young man trudging through the wet vineyards surrounding his home in Auckland, New Zealand, blasting black powder at crop-stealing birds, sending them scattering and squawking into foggy morning skies.
Ray was more interested in the sounds of crashing surf than that of popping corks.
He would have never expected having his nose hovering over a swirling stem, describing the ever-shifting scents of plum, blackberry, cranberry, and floral notes of his own 2005 Capitello Pinot Noir.
Growing up in the adult-playground of New Zealand, Walsh found fun in life, photography and in nature; he wouldn’t have had time for summer wine seasons — Vineyards were simply places to pick up and expend ammunition.
Ray realized early the need for adventure, hitching his way across Europe. Ray found himself in a new country, but in wine country, a familiar scene. Ray stumbled upon his forte among the jovial locals celebrating the wine harvest in a small German village along the tranquil bends of the Moselle River.
With the promise of a full day’s work, Ray was welcomed with a place to sleep, food to eat and plenty of wine to drink. After a night of indulgence, food and cheer, a day repaying the friendly hosts was imminent. The pain in his head from a night filled with drink was dulled when he found himself drawn into the musty smells of turned earth and ripe riesling. The breeze, the high cliffs, the gentle sounds of the slowly flowing Mosell was the perfect canvas for a fresh artist to find his mind and h is hands wrapped and entwined in the vines of a new medium — the vineyard.
Truth be told, Ray, for all intents and purposes was probably just another illegal alien living the life of a migrant-worker who couldn’t speak the language well enough to keep up with conversation. But he was able to work — and hard work he did. His work quickly turned into a passion and from passion into the obsession of a striving artist testing his new craft.
Ray continued his study of enology back home in New Zealand. And before long, Ray was creating wine for Villa Maria then Cooper’s Creek, honing his artistic talents into a marketable commodity among two of the country’s leading producers.
In 1993, Ray was quickly recruited as Cellar Master by King Estate, one of Oregon’s largest producers, at the start of their operation. With all the new technology, techniques and toys at his disposal, Ray was right where he needed to be to become a master of his craft.
Then, in 1999, Ray was named Winemaker for King Estate! His career went straight up. But while successful professionally, his son Desmond wasn’t getting as much Dad-time as Ray wanted. Ray found a rare opportunity to combine his loves into an ensemble of good vibes and great wine.
Since 2003, Ray and Desmond are partners in the latest family adventure, Capitello Wines. Between French emersion classes for Desmond and summers in New Zealand surfing, bungee-jumping, sky and scuba diving, they have found time to create some of the best Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Dolcino in the state of Oregon. They have crafted a family legacy already two generations strong with a reputation for improvisational skill, call, honesty and integrity.