Fresh out of school with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, Michael happened upon a harvest job in 2001 at Willakenzie Estate under the instruction of Laurent Montalieu and Thibaud Mandet. “It was then I discovered that wine is this amazing confluence of agriculture, science, art, culture, history, and pleasure. I never looked back.” He spent the following 6 years, producing luminaries Domaine Serene and Belle Pente, learning how to craft expressive wines from the exceptional grapes grown in this valley. Additionally, he received expert technical training at the Northwest Viticulture Center at Chemeketa Eola from the venerable Barney Watson, founder of historic Tyee Wine Cellars.
For the harvest of 2005, he took a break from the Willamette Valley to live and work for Castello di Verduno in the historic Italian wine regions of Barolo and Barbaresco. It was during this time in Italy that Michael vowed to begin his own small wine project, which became his genius loci label, a Latin phrase that translates as “spirit of place.” These wines are always single-vineyard in origin, including from his Poverty Bend Vineyard, where he, his wife Desiree, and son Colin live as the third and fourth generations on their family farm.
In 2007, Michael took his wines and expertise to Dallas, Oregon, where he helped to found Illahe Vineyards and Winery. As their first winemaker, he helped craft four vintages of exceptionally expressive and nuanced pinot noirs from Illahe’s 40-acre estate vineyard, taking their first vintage to the world-renowned International Pinot Noir Celebration.
Today, he carefully and lovingly crafts the Walnut City WineWorks family of wines, including his own Lundeen and Genius Loci labels, and has the great fortune to work with a broad palette of excellent vineyard sites across Oregon. He believes in minimal intervention both in the winery and in the vineyard. His own labels focus on wines that are dry farmed without chemicals, very little fining, and light, if any filtration.