I’m thrilled to report that on May 1st, I’ll be joining stellar Oregon winemaker Ken Wright to make a presentation about the History in the Vineyards project that I’ve been writing for the last year or so.
We’ll be speaking at Linfield College in McMinnville at 7:30 p.m. that night; admission is free. Come on out and hear about some pretty cool history that took place in our area.
Ken is very interested and curious about the backgrounds of the world-class vineyards that he sources to make his premium, single-vineyard Pinot Noir wines. He has longstanding contracts to source grapes from 13 vineyards that are scattered throughout the Willamette Valley in the Dundee Hills, Yamhill-Carlton AVA, Ribbon Ridge, Eola-Amity Hills and further south, in the hills outside of Monmouth and Dallas. He farms many of the vineyards himself, with the help of ace vineyard manager Mark Gould, and the two of them probably know more about viticulture and growing fine wine grapes than anyone in Oregon, if not the world.
But Ken was curious about what took place on the land that are now vineyard properties, and that’s where I came in. He approached me a little over a year ago with a unique and simple idea: Research the lands of his 13 vineyards and report on who lived there before, what they did on the lands, how their lives were conducted. The resulting stories have been running on his blog all year.
I was skeptical at first that I could find anything out, but then the information started to come to me and it was far richer than I imagined it could be. The Canary Hill vineyard, for example, is where the first sheep ever successfully driven across the plains to Oregon landed, by one Joshua “Sheep” Shaw. His daughter in-law, Sarah McNary Shaw, sewed the battle flag that Oregon colonists used to take into battle during the Indian Wars, and one of her ancestors was Charles McNary, who was Wendell Wilkie’s running mate in the 1940 Presidential election.
J.W. Hickman was one of the last remaining Civil War veterans who lived in Yamhill County when he passed away on the land that would become the Savoya Vineyard; he survived over a dozen battles from that bloody war. Not far away, Clarice Pearson was a distant relative of Clara Bow and was the oldest person in Oregon when she passed away in 2009 at the age of 110; in her 90s she could still remember the 1905 Lewis & Clark Exposition that she attended as a little girl in Portland. John F. Abbott started a stagecoach line from Lafayette to Portland, but only stuck around in Oregon long enough to receive a donation land claim for the land that now carries his name on the Abbott Claim vineyard — whose wine by Ken Wright was named best in the world by Wine Spectator in 2014.
We will be telling these stories and many more at Linfield on May 1st.