Dick Ponzi founded Ponzi Vineyards in 1970 and has been a key figure in making Willamette Valley pinot noir renowned worldwide. Along the way, he started Oregon’s oldest microbrewery, Bridgeport Brewing Company, in 1984. He turned over much of the day-to-day management of Ponzi Vineyards to his kids 20 years ago, but that doesn’t mean he’s slowing down. Now, he and his wife Nancy are poised to join artisan chocolate “bean to bar” movement. Gear Patrol wanted to know: How does one man establish such a presence and influence on the appetites of foodies?
Founder of Ponzi Vineyards
30 Minutes With: Richard Ponzi
Q.What’s one thing every man should know?
A.Accept women as your equal. I have the pleasure of working with extraordinary women at the winery. Their insight is refreshing and often with very original ideas.
Q.What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
A.Trying to separate business dynamics from family needs.
Q.What are you working on right now?
A.I’m back to engineering the design of processing equipment for the emerging chocolate “bean to bar” movement.
Q.Name one thing you can’t live without.
A.My wife Nancy and all of the family.
Q.Who or what influences you?
A.All of the above!
Q.What are you reading right now?
A.Transatlantic by Colum McCann and Billy Crystal’s memoir, Still Foolin’ ‘Em.
Q.Name one thing no one knows about you.
A.If I told you then everyone would know!
Q.It’s your last drink and meal on earth. What’ll it be?
A.My first dish would be my mother’s wedding soup, a dish we only had on very special occasions. My second dish would be a small serving of potato gnocchi with a light cream sauce. My third dish would be a pasta of rigatoni with a ragu sauce and four small meatballs on the side. (Some people may think that is too much pasta, but I love pasta.) For the final dish I would love to have Nancy’s roasted chicken with roasted potatoes and her delicious gravy. These are all very simple dishes but bring memories of happy times around the dinner table. For beverages, obviously I would start with a young pinot noir and end with a much more developed old Oregon pinot noir.
Q.If you could go back and tell your 16 year old self something, what would you say?
A.Try to understand the sacrifices and care that your parents are making for you — show some gratitude for those efforts.
Q.How do you want to be remembered?
A.A person with strong family ties with concerns for those less fortunate.
Q.Are there similarities between the craft beer and the wine industries?
A.Both require the purity of ingredients. Both reflect the technical and sensory skills of the maker.
Q.What’s unique about Oregon wine in general and pinot noir specifically?
A.Oregon has the proper growing conditions for pinot noir grape: moderate, dry temperatures and cool evenings, dry summers and long daylight hours during the growing season.
Q.Does it take a special ability to fully enjoy wine?
A.The pleasure derived from wines is reflected by the company in which it is served. The skill of tasting is easily learned with the experience of drinking many wines from many regions and producers.
Q.Burgundy or Oregon pinot?
A.Both can be enjoyed and appreciated for their differences and similarities. I’m also excited about wines from the southern end of the state, a warmer region with warmer varietals being planted like Syrah and Cabernet.