The Story of Janie Brooks Heuck
Six years ago, Janie Brooks Heuck’s knowledge about wine varietals was minimal: some were red and some were white. It was her creative big brother, Jimi, who was the expert on vinification.
Janie, always the sensible sibling when the two were growing up in Southwest Portland, planned a lucrative career as a CPA. In her eyes, Jimi’s passionate involvement in the soil-to-sip process of making Oregon wine was mere dilettantism.
But when Jimi died suddenly in September of 2004 from an aortic aneurism at age 38, Janie soon discovered what an important figure her brother had become in the pantheon of Oregon winemakers.
From Dream to Reality
Growing up, Janie studied accounting while Jimi lived a bohemian life, traveling through France to learn all he could about life and wine. He was drawn back to McMinnville, where he’d attended college, to apply his bubbling knowledge to his beloved Oregon wine country. He roamed the hillside vineyards with his little boy, Pascal, dreaming out loud of someday building Brooks Winery.
Jimi’s organic, biodynamic grapes, grown on leased vineyards, were top grade. And his wines, made at friends’ wineries, were gaining national acclaim. So upon his sudden death, his friends didn’t want his valuable work to go down the drain.
A Collective Legacy
The day he passed, the grapes were just days away from harvest and 14 of his winemaker friends volunteered to bring in the harvest and make the wine. They knew Jimi’s meticulous process well enough to replicate his wines—but there was just one catch. “We want you to run the winery,” they told Janie.
Managing a winery did not figure into Janie’s ordered plan for her life. But her thoughts went straight to eight-year-old Pascal, who often stated he would grow up to be a winemaker just like his dad. Janie knew it was up to her to keep the winery going and one day pass it on to Pascal.
“He’s the last Brooks, but it’s my name too,” says Janie. “It is our family legacy.”
Pascal is now the teenage owner of Brooks Winery, with its own facilities and tasting room near Amity. Until Pascal takes over, a longtime friend of his dad’s oversees the wine production while Janie manages the winery.
And it seems Janie has a knack for the vintner’s life after all. The winery’s reputation was boosted last fall when a Brooks wine—a 2006 Ara Riesling— was served at President Obama’s first state dinner.