Briceland >> As Briceland Vineyards, the second oldest winery in Humboldt County, celebrates its 30th anniversary, it has also become the first winery in Humboldt County to have a second generation owner and operator.
“Family winery transitions are pretty common in Europe,” said Andrew Morris, the son of Maggie Carey, who with her lifelong partner Joe Collins established Briceland Vineyards in 1985.
Morris said such transitions are more rare in California and have not occurred in Humboldt County until now.
“I was really fortunate to train directly with someone as talented and skilled as my stepfather Joe Collins,” he said.
Morris and wife Rosie moved back to Humboldt County in 2008 so he could apprentice with Collins and pave the way for the couple to take over Briceland Vineyards when Collins and Carey retired, which occurred in 2012.
Morris said it is widely attributed that Collins began commercial wine cultivation and winemaking in southern Humboldt County. Collins first planted a small vineyard in Briceland in 1977, finding that pinot noir, sauvignon blanc, and chardonnay were well-suited grapes for growing in the region’s climate.
Collins was involved in the planning, establishment, and management of practically all the early vineyards in the area, according to Morris.
“Joe helped plant many of the vineyards on a hand shake deal,” Morris said, and many of the grapes from those vineyards still become Briceland Vineyards wine.
Collins said the wine industry in Humboldt County has changed quite a bit from back in the early days.
“It has totally transformed itself,” Collins said. “People really weren’t wine drinkers back in the day. But now Humboldt County is catching up to what happened to the rest of the wine industry in the 1990s. People are in to it now.”
He said there is more of a market for Humboldt County wine today and more people are drinking wine. Humboldt County really began emerging as a wine destination about the time Morris returned to Humboldt County.
“Andrew is a good winemaker, doing a good job,” Collins said of Morris. “We were really lucky to have someone like Andrew come along and take over.”
Morris calls the Southern Humboldt vineyards that Collins helped get started “the back bone of our wines.”
“Our wines are meant to express the place,” he added, which allows the unique quality of the wine to shine through. “My goal is to bring out the character of the grapes and the flavor of the vineyard.”
Morris also called Collins a champion wine taster.
“You can learn a lot from books and classes, but it is harder to learn what a wine is supposed to taste like. I was fortunate to learn from Joe,” he said.
Collins was complimentary of the Humboldt County wine industry saying, “There are a lot of new wineries today and some good winemakers out there. There is a lot of competition (locally) out there, so you have to make good wines.”
Briceland Vineyards has numerous awards to its name.
“We’ve won hundreds of awards over 30 years,” Morris said.
The Brut Sparkling Wine has been a multiple award winner, and was one of the first produced by the winery by Collins and Carey.
“It won a double-gold Best of State at the California State Fair a few years back,” Morris said. Briceland Vineyards’ pinot noir wines have also won multiple awards.
Morris said Briceland Vineyards has expanded its production over the last 30 years to include wines produced from vineyards outside the Southern Humboldt area, yet still within Humboldt County.
“We now use grapes from the Ishi Pishi vineyard owned by the Pierce family in Orleans,” he said, adding that wine has also won awards.
“We have expanded our offerings, which is consistent with our original plan,” Morris said. “We will continue to use quality fruit grown locally and farmed organically, and work with people we are happy to see.”
He, wife Rosie, and daughter Stella now live in the house he grew up in, where Briceland Vineyards is located and where he runs the hands-on winery.
Collins and Carey retired to nearby Shelter Cove “and we really like it here,” Collins said.
“I enjoyed every minute of it,” he said, “and I had a lot of fun over the years. Making wine and putting on the wine tastings was wonderful. It was a lot of work, but when you really enjoy your work, it doesn’t really seem like work.”
Briceland Vineyards hosts two wine tasting open houses every year, including their recent Thanksgiving weekend event and one Memorial Day weekend. Now is the time to order your favorite wines for the holidays. Briceland Vineyards will ship wine to those on your gift list.
For more information and directions on how to get to Briceland Vineyards, call 923-2429.