Iruai Winery (“ear-oo-eye") was started in 2013 by Chad and Michelle Westbrook Hinds in Berkeley, CA as an itinerant natural wine project before laying down roots in the mythical Shasta-Cascade mountains of Siskiyou County. Unlike anywhere else in California, the landscape of Western Siskiyou County resembles a cross between Switzerland and Montana, cut with a rain shadow from Mount Shasta that divides it starkly between high mountain prairie and dense alpine forests. Farming a combination of leased and owned vineyards on either side of the Oregon/California border, Chad and Michelle have turned Iruai into both an exploration and celebration of esoteric varieties that flourish in the Alps of Europe and are now taking root among the stunning vistas of the southern Cascade Range.
In an effort to best capture this remarkable sense of place, they make wine without employing any additives or removing any character. Their goals are twofold: in the vineyard, to let the vines thrive like they would in the wild; and in the cellar, to shepherd each ferment through its own natural development and evolution. They also apply a stripped-down method of permaculture adopted from the 20th century Japanese farming guru Masanobu Fukuoka, known as natural farming: no tilling, no fertilizers, no pesticides, no weeding. It’s an approach which requires a kind of meditation on the vineyard and surrounding landscape — from soil to cover crops to forests —to see it all as a single uninterrupted ecosystem.
The resulting wines are at once forward-looking and traditional: innovative, yet based on millenia of traditional agricultural practices, this is wine for drinking and thinking.
To honor the beautiful place that Chad and Michelle feel lucky enough to call home, they donate 1% of their profits to the Shasta Indian Nation.