Several Willamette Valley wineries celebrate 50 years this fall

Words like legacy and tradition become all the more appropriate when you reach the half-century mark. In the Willamette Valley, several producers are celebrating 50 years in the industry, only adding to the tradition rooted in Oregon’s iconic winegrowing region.

For the record, wine began well before 1971 here. David Lett, aka “Papa Pinot,” is largely credited with starting the industry here, planting commercial grape rows in 1965. Yet, there were area wineries pre-Prohibition and, prior to the arrival of settlers, grapes were grown and harvested by native communities. But many of the big players we associate with the modern Willamette Valley wine movement got their start exactly five decades ago. 

Photo by Andrea Johnson Photography

A handful of wineries are ringing in the occasion with special tastings and more to commemorate the big 5-0. Knudsen Vineyards, the original commercial operation of the Dundee Hills American Viticultural Area (AVA), is among them. Today, the second generation of the family runs the label and it just opened The Outlook, a stunning new hospitality and tasting venue. 

Alison & Alex Sokol Blosser

Nearby, Sokol Blosser Winery and Hyland Estates are toasting to the same milestone. The former, launched by Bill and Susan Sokol Blosser in 1971, pours its beloved work from its woodsy — yet modern — tasting room overlooking estate vines in Dayton. The latter touts the oldest vines in the valley’s McMinnville sub-appellation, planted on a 180-acre site in the foothills of the Coastal Range. Both outfits are popping celebratory  bottles and offering special tastings that honor their shared 100-year history. 

David Adelsheim on the set of the Founder Stories

Adelsheim Vineyard also turns 50 this year — a pioneering label out of the Chehalem Mountains AVA. In addition to special wine releases, the Adelsheim team has created an online series called “Founders’ Stories.” The episodes feature David Adelsheim conversing with 10 of the founding wine figures of the northern Willamette Valley. 

Amity Vineyards celebrates its 50th year as well, at least viticulturally. This northern Willamette Valley vineyard first planted in 1971 and launched its label three years later. 

Only adding to the celebratory nature of things is the ongoing harvest, which began last month in most of the Willamette Valley. At present, the region’s all but 700 labels are wrapping up fermentations of everything from Pinot Noir to Arneis. It’s a fantastic time to take in the winemaking process while also celebrating the historic feats of several of the valley’s top brands.

The Pacific Northwest may not have centuries-old cellars filled with dusty wine bottles, but the region is getting there. The winemakers here are hard at work on creating their own special legacy — one that only grows in range and quality with every generation.