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The “budwood” of Willamette Valley Vineyards began long before its founding in 1983 by vintner Jim Bernau. His Dad, a Roseburg attorney, was hired by California winemaker Richard Sommer to secure one of the first winery license in Oregon since Prohibition. Jim’s Dad allowed small tastes of Richard's wine at the dinner table, lighting a path that led Jim from home winemaking to studies at UC Davis and eventually Beaune, France.
Jim's early “winemaking” grew more from mischief when at the age of 10, he liberated his Mom’s frozen Concord grape juice and followed the description of fermentation he found in the family’s set of Encyclopedias!
In 1983, with the encouragement from winemakers making their move from California, Jim cleared an old pioneer plum orchard in the Salem Hills, hidden underneath scotch broom and blackberry vines to plant Pinot Noir. Unable to afford drip irrigation, he watered the vines by hand using 17 lengths of 75’ garden hose to get the grapelings through their first summer.
Willamette Valley Vineyards has collaboratively grown its estate vineyards through partnerships like the merger with Oregon wine pioneer, Bill Fuller of Tualatin Vineyards (established in 1973), the O'Briens for Elton Vineyard (established in 1983) and Loeza Vineyard (planted in 2015). The winery sources all of its barrel-aged Pinot Noir from its estate-grown vineyards and meticulously farms by hand nearly 500 acres in the valley.
Since the winery founding in 1983, stewardship of the land has been a key principle in our winemaking. We practice environmentally sustainable farming and were part of the founding of the Low Input Viticulture and Enology (LIVE) program.
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