No. PF - 13

Skin Contact

Riesling (2023)

Skin Contact Riesling (OR) With Demeus (2023)


Demeus (OR)


Amity, OR

750 ML


Tastes like dancing in the desert
while the gods rain down
mandarin juice on your clove and sage dusted half-naked body

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    PF - 13

The finale, for now

Written by Brent Braun

In July of 2023 I got an interesting text from Andy Garrison of Stone Barn Brandyworks, in regards to some stray tanks of skin contact riesling. They were dropped off by a local winemaker, Alex Althuser, who had suffered a pretty bad injury during the middle of the 2022 harvest and spent the rest of harvest in the hospital. The fermentations that he had started prior to the injury were being watched over by colleagues, but naturally they weren’t given the attention that they deserved. By the end of the harvest he had made the decision to scrap the entire vintage and take a hiatus from winemaking altogether. The tanks of wine were brought to Stone Barn with the idea that distilling them into brandy was better than dumping them down the drain. But after tasting through the tanks, Andy thought the wine was incredibly delicious and that maybe he could find a better home for it.

That’s when he texted me

I tasted the wine the next day….and was totally blown away. Considering that the wine was neglected throughout its fermentation, it was stunning. It had a depth and structure that I’d found in almost no Oregon orange wines. I couldn’t believe that something of this quality was about to be distilled!

Demeus Wines

Andy said we had 2 days to decide if we wanted it, otherwise it was heading to the still. But what was this wine and why was it so good? And how did it slip through the cracks to us?

Although US born, Alex Altshuler developed his winemaking roots in New Zealand and Australia. After 6 years of winework throughout the South Pacific, he began to split the year between the hemispheres - half the year in NZ/AU and half the year in Oregon. After a few years of back and forth (and a work visa issue in 2017) Alex decided to stay in Oregon and continue pursuing his winemaking career. He put in time with some bigger houses (Ponzi/Grand Moraine/Cristom) before ending up with Division Wines.

Post Familiar Natural Wine “I wanted to make food focused wine, not just porch pounders.” - Alex Altshuler

“I wanted to make food focused wine, not just porch pounders.”

Alex Altshuler

All the while, in the quiet corners of the cellars he worked in, he was conducting his own experiments. Exposure to extended maceration orange wines from Georgia and Northern Italy created a fervent desire to learn how those wines could be produced in a clean and structured fashion.

After years of dialing in the process of creating minimal intervention skin contact wines, Demeus was launched. It was 2019, and right out of the gate he was producing some of the most ambitious, complex skin contact wines in America. The wines were well received, especially amongst more serious wine lovers, and the business was in the process of expansion when the accident happened in 2022.

While navigating a menagerie of difficult personal situations, he found himself struggling to maintain balance in his work and life. The wine industry often demands long hours and constant exposure to wine, which can make it challenging to separate professional responsibilities from personal time. Alex admits he was going through an incredibly tough period, often overworking himself to the point of burnout. The shared production facility he was operating out of compounded the stress.

Demeus Wines

The combination of factors came to a head in the middle of harvest. After a long night of processing, he was pushing a destemmer when some gravel along his path got caught in the wheels and the whole thing toppled over. A combination of being over zealous in a moment of frustration, and not asking for help with moving a large piece of equipment, led to the top heavy piece of equipment falling towards him -  in a moment of clarity Alex ran underneath the toppling device to escape injury. Although the destemmer missed his upper body and extremities, it clipped him from behind.

Alex called the whole ordeal a wake up call. His recovery period brought with it sobriety of many senses and he realized that he wasn’t making wine the way he wanted at the shared facility. He’d been working in wine for almost 15 years at that point and he needed a break. He had wine that was aging in barrel and tank, but the hassle of bottling it and trying to sell it was too much. He needed to move on. It was easier to send the wine to Stonebarn to get distilled, even though the decision was financially disastrous.

In the end, it was an easy decision for us to take the wine. It was absolutely delicious and it needed to be shared. Alex was thrilled that we wanted it - no artist ever wants to see their creations get destroyed.

Demeus Wines

This wine was 100% riesling and it had macerated on its skins for almost 120 days, which is an insanely long time. For context, most easy drinking, patio season orange wines will macerate on the skins for a mere 14 days! That extra 100 days on skins creates more depth, more structure, more spice, more complexity, more singularity. It’s also very difficult to accomplish without bacterial problems, which is partly why so few in Oregon ever attempt the style. But Alex’s goal had always been to create a more challenging, serious style of orange wine. He wasn't trying to make porch pounders, but instead was trying to make food friendly wines in the style of the famous icons of Italy, Sasha Radikon and Josko Gravner. He got pretty damn close, we think.

Even though the wine was 2 days away from being destroyed, we were glad to help Alex recoup some of the costs of his lost harvest. This wine represents one of the swan song efforts of Alex’s Demeus winery.

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