Susan Sokol Blosser started her winery in 1971, in the Dundee Hills AVA, Oregon with her husband, Bill, and was one of the few wineries in Willamette Valley at the time. Susan was never in agriculture before starting the winery. It was first her husband’s idea and she thought it would be a great adventure so they went for it! The pair started out with 18 acres on what was previously an Italian prune orchard that was destroyed in the Columbus Day Storm (1962). Now, they have an estimated 120 acres that make up the Sokol Blosser Winery (now run by her children Alison and Alex).
We asked Susan about her role models when starting up. At the time, there were very few vineyards in the area, as most surrounding area was wheat fields. Throughout the years, Porter Lombard, a member of the Oregon State University (OSU) team advising Willamette Valley grape growers and wineries was very helpful. Bernadine Stick, also of OSU, aided in working through Phylloxera in the vineyards.
As Susan was new to the agriculture world, we asked how she has continued learning throughout the years. One of the first things she did was take an accounting class to learn about debits and credits. She was a liberal arts major in college and needed to learn basic accounting for her new winery adventure. They also participated in a cover crop experiment with local organizations and was part of a biodynamic study group to learn biodynamic farming. She worked with consultants to learn and also dug into reading to increase her knowledge.
We asked Susan if there have been any difficulties being a female in agriculture. Two of the biggest struggles to date have been being listened to and taken seriously in this industry. We certainly think she is taken seriously now! Susan’s accomplishments go far beyond her successful winery. She was also involved in founding the International Pinot Noir Celebration, the Oregon Pinot Camp and the Oregon Women in Wine groups. Additionally, she has served on a number of non-profit boards including OMSI, Marylhurst University and the Oregon Environmental Council. Most recently, she founded the Yamhill Enrichment Society (YES), whose mission is to transform the lives of Yamhill County children through literacy and music enrichment. (https://www.yamhillenrichmentsociety.org/)
When Susan is not dedicating her time to work, community development, or volunteering, a few of her favorite activities include gardening, reading, knitting and spending time with her children and grandchildren. She is also a beekeeper for the winery apiary! Mentioned earlier---her growing list of accomplishments, in her “spare” time, Susan has published five books and is working on the next! Where does she find the time?
Finally, we asked Susan to share some insight or advice to other females in the industry or those interested in getting into agriculture. She said that being in agriculture has given her a feeling of finding her place. It’s an industry that gives back and is full of life. Her vineyard is vertically integrated so they grow their own grapes. She is on the growing/farming side—not the wine production side. Managing a vineyard in the 80’s gave her so much purpose, especially learning as she went. She told us a story that kept us smiling—when she first started in the vineyard, they actually purchased geese to put help eat some of the weeds, etc. Little did she know at the time that birds happen to love grapes! Now, it’s all vineyard managers can do to keep birds out of vineyards. She shared an old photo of one of the geese, Papa Goose, on the property. She continued that agriculture and farming is a lifestyle where everyone can find a place and be connected to the land and make a difference. Everything is interconnected with the land, the plants and the inhabitants. Agriculture is a way of connecting!
Thank you, Susan, for being a leader, a legend and for giving back so much of your time and resources to developing the community!