Philip “Jay” Wilderotter never thought he would grow up to be a Winemaker. Now he is the creative force behind Wilderotter Vineyard and has been a veteran in the wine industry for the past 26 years producing sought after grapes and award-winning wines in the Sierra Foothills of Plymouth, California. Jay would be the first to share he developed a passion for wine after getting his hands dirty. But he initially started down a much different path.
Born in Ocean Township, New Jersey, Wilderotter graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy as a Pilot and flew KC-135 aircraft refueling tankers in Desert Storm. After fulfilling his military commitment, his wife Maggie encouraged him to find a new and much safer “hobby” that would keep him on the ground and closer to home.
Soon after, the Wilderotter’s visited Shenandoah Valley, fell in love with the area, and purchased 40 lush acres in Plymouth with the intent that Jay would become a grape grower. He took courses in viticulture and enology at University of California, Davis to acquire the skills that would enable him to produce high quality wine grapes. Jay planted Zinfandel, Syrah, Barbera, and Viognier grapes as his first offering.
Wilderotter successfully grew and sold premium grapes to other wineries for 6 years. He built a reputation for great grape growing and several winemakers who purchased his grapes encouraged Jay to also make wine. He agreed and started slowly, working with several winemakers in the region who he admired and respected. His first “vintage” was 3 barrels each of Zinfandel and Syrah from his 2001 harvest. By the Summer of 2003, his first vintage was in the bottle for sale. But how was he going to sell it with no tasting room, no distributors, and no wine brokers? Wilderotter turned to friends and family to test his winemaking skills and quickly sold out. With the next harvest in 2002, he produced 750 cases of Estate Zinfandel, Estate Syrah, Estate Viognier, and Roussanne and again quickly sold out. It was satisfying to see folks enjoying Wilderotter Vineyard wines and the sales trend reinforced that Jay found his calling in growing great grapes and making superior wines.
Wilderotter was also influenced by his travels thru the Rhone and Tuscany wine regions which helped shape his wine style of balance, complexity, and elegance. His unwavering commitment to quality, farming techniques, and attention to detail give Wilderotter Vineyard wines their unique identity.
Over the years, the business expanded to become Wilderotter Vineyard and Winery with 80 acres in Plymouth producing 21 varietals and 5,000 cases of wine per year, as well as 30 gallons of high-grade finishing olive oil from Manzanilla, Leccino, and Frantoio fruit. Jay opened a beautiful Tuscan Tasting Room in 2004 to sell his wines to the public and has a thriving Wine Club customer base, as well as limited distribution at high-end retail and restaurants. As part of his continuous quest to develop greater recognition for the Shenandoah Valley wine region, the Wilderotter’s are constructing a luxury all-suite lodging and event property appropriately named the “Grand Reserve Inn” that is set to open in January, 2017.
Jay and his wife Maggie have two sons who grew up in the business and continue to be actively involved in Wilderotter Vineyard. Jay’s dream is to build a legacy that he can pass on to this next generation who will carry on the lifestyle tradition of sharing great wines with current and new friends of Wilderotter wines. Jay and his family end each day enjoying a glass or two as well!
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