Encounter on ski lift finds Naked Winery a winemaker -- and winemaker a home
Most of us spend our entire lives looking for the perfect combination of work, relationships and community.
Peter Steinfeld, winemaker at Naked Winery, spent a lot of time going back and forth -- between Europe and the United States -- before serendipity introduced him to Dave and Jody Barringer and the Naked Winery team.
Barringer was looking for a winemaker when he and Steinfeld met on a ski lift at Mt. Hood. Steinfeld, who learned wine-making and distilling as a young man drawn by affinity and affection to his German uncle, was looking for a fit. He was coaching skiing at the time, as he had done for the three previous years near his sister's home in Bavaria, but it was more of a placeholder gig. Something else was waiting for him.
Naked Winery. He and Barringer connected. Then Barringer took him home for ... "the meeting" -- with Jody, his wife, business partner and the marketing whiz at Naked.
"Jody and I really got along," Steinfeld recalls of those introductory days two years ago. "As a team, we like each other, we think alike, we respect each other."
After years of trying different things, and bopping all over the planet, Steinfeld says he has found a home. He spent a good chunk of his early years looking. When he left Germany to study international marketing and finance at Stanford University, when he fell into real estate, when he bought the boat and sailed the Caribbean to a time in Puerto Rico, when he rebuilt an Italian villa and rehabilitated its vineyard, he had no idea that it was all leading to a town of 7,000 at the center of a recreational paradise an hour east of Portland, Ore. Luck happens.
These days, as Naked's winemaker, Steinfeld provides the focus and drive to a collaboration with Dave and Jody.
"Jody, Dave and I work on the product side," he says. "David is heavily involved in tasting and how much oaking we do. I make decisions on yeast. Jody and I say, 'This needs to be done.' I come up with the blends, narrow it down, and we have a final meeting with the three of us to decide what we're going to produce."
Steinfeld says one of his biggest challenges these days is boosting volume (thank you, Naked Winery fans)," without the costs getting out of line. The key is to be more efficient." The coolest thing about the wine-making business is that you learn every day.
"One thing he has learned? His own version of Murphy's Law.
"Everything breaks when you're bottling," he says with a smile.
He loves the hands-on approach at Naked Winery.
"At Naked, we're very dynamic," he says. "If we need to fix it, we do it ourselves."
Focus helps. "I look at this as growing this company," he says. "I like to make good wine on a consistent basis. I personally don't care what other people do. It's about what we can do, to keep our style, the keep our Club Naked members happy."
And doing all that, in a business that was heart and soul to his uncle, is the perfect punctuation to this chapter of Steinfeld's life.
"My uncle is so proud of me that I went back into the business," he says. "I feel blessed to live in Hood River," he says.