In 2008, Roger Lemstrom was looking for a change. He retired from a 30-year career in government leadership roles for Oregon and Washington state, and ended a long-term marriage. On a whim, he moved to Medford, Ore.. His love of the outdoors led to starting a successful construction business specializing in rock walls, fences and decking.
In 2015, an on-the-job injury and the end of a second marriage had him again asking “What’s next?” One evening, Roger was relaxing on his couch searching for a movie to watch. He stumbled across “Bottle Shock” starring Bill Pullman. The movie changed his life. Roger reminisced, “I didn’t know much about wine at this point in my life, but I loved the plot about a middle-aged divorced guy who gave up his career to become a vineyard owner and winemaker.” He added, “It looked like fun, I was utterly charmed, and I thought ‘I can do this’!”
The next day, Roger enrolled in the Viticulture and Enology program at the Southern Oregon Wine Institute (SOWI).
While at SOWI, he realized he preferred the life of a vigneron. He wanted to be outdoors farming grapes and spend less time in the wine cellar and lab. In 2016, a small online ad for a vineyard led Roger to visit Milton-Freewater, Ore. He purchased the seven-acre vineyard in the up-and-coming Rocks District AVA located on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla Valley. He named his new venture Los Rocosos — Spanish for “The Rocks”.
The Rocks District is renowned as a premiere region for Rhône grapes. Los Rocosos specializes in Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache Blanc and Viognier — all Rhone varietals. Roger sells 90% of his harvest to other Walla Walla Valley wineries including Grosgrain, Castillo de Feliciano and Ducleaux Cellars. Los Rocosos also produces about 350 cases of Rhone-style wines from the estate vineyard.
Roger oversees all aspects of the business, from vine to the whimsical branding and label artwork. He says, “Basically, I’m a farmer. My focus is on the grape production and the desire that my buyers (wineries and consumers) have the best possible fruit that can be produced.”
A visit to Los Rocosos offers more than a standard sit-down tasting. Visitors will get to experience being hosted by Roger himself. He relishes sitting down with visitors and turning them on about his vines, wines and The Rocks. “I am trying to offer people a more in-depth experience beyond what they would normally have at a typical tasting room. They get to have their questions answered by the person who grows the grapes,” Roger said.
One wine not to miss is the Luna Puesta Field Blend. It is made from grapes leftover from the 2019 harvest. Roger decided to crush and co-ferment them all together and forgo the ability to blend the wine after aging. Luna Puesta is mostly Grenache and Syrah. What makes it distinctive is the inclusion of small amounts of Grenache Blanc (not commonly added to red blends) and Viognier. The result is an elegant, balanced, garnet-colored, medium bodied wine.
This spring, Los Rocosos will be adding to the lineup a Tempranillo and Carménère from Walla Walla Valley and a Sauvignon Blanc from the Columbia Valley. They also plan to release an estate Grenache and a new vintage of the estate Mourvèdre. Plus, keep your eyes open for a tasting room opening in downtown Milton-Freewater. It’s likely Los Rocosos won’t be under the radar much longer.