If you had asked Susan Sokol Blosser 30 years ago what she expected to be doing at the turn of the century, she wouldn't have answered "I'm going to be president of one of Oregon's leading wineries."

But that's exactly where she is today. As president of Sokol Blosser Winery in rural Yamhill County, she found her calling, not in teaching high school, but in building a business and guiding its growth.

Sokol Blosser's company-- one of Oregon's first wineries--produces more than 30,000 cases of award-winning wine per year. It isn't a passion for the product that drives her, though: "I love wine, but I'm not a wine geek," she explains. For Sokol Blosser and her husband, Bill Blosser, co-founder of the business, it was the act of creating the vineyard that provided the reward and challenge, rather than an obsession with either grapes or wine.

The initial decision to start a vineyard was Bill's, she concedes: "I thought he was nuts." This was during the heyday of the hippie commune movement, and Susan and Bill were no different from millions of their contemporaries who pursued a back-to-the-land dream. "What you had were two liberal arts graduates straddling both ethics--hippie and capitalist," Sokol Blosser says. "We knew we wanted to do something related to farming. But we also knew that we had to make a living. And that if we were going to live off the land, it was going to have to be through a business. Growing grapes seemed to make a lot of sense in that context."

A native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Sokol Blosser earned a B.A. in history at Stanford before graduating from Reed with an MAT in 1967. She taught high school in the Portland area for a year, then moved to the South to work as manuscript curator at the University of North Carolina until 1970. She and her husband moved back to Oregon that year with an intention to settle permanently. Within a period of two weeks, the young couple bought 18 acres in Yamhill County and had their first child. "It was a pretty intense period," Sokol Blosser observes wryly.

Unlike some of the period's other endeavors, the Sokol Blosser vineyard was launched with both vision and practicality. "We spent a lot of time asking questions, doing research, looking at different angles. There wasn't much of an Oregon wine industry in those days, and a lot of what we learned was by experiment. There was no blueprint that could tell you things like 'what do grapes need to grow in this climate.' We pretty much had to figure things out from scratch."

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