Tuesday, November 9, 2010

This Thanksgiving Make it an Historic Wine Tour

The change in weather has interrupted our wishes for beer and turned our thoughts to bold, hearty red wines.

Over at Look What's Happening, Rebekah recently wrote about a recent trip of discovery. You should do the same! Most wineries are open for Wine Country Thanksgiving, and the Eola Hills are, like Rebekah says, just out your back door in west Salem. (Here's a crazy detailed topo map, 8mb big.) There are also new clusters of wineries and vineyards out south and east of Salem.

Before the local wineries, though, for a beer-drinker perhaps the most interesting winery is Hop Kiln in the Sonoma Valley.

They've repurposed an early 20th century hop dryer!

More of the vines are planted on valley floor in Sonoma and Napa, and it is interesting to note the apparent overlap of vines and hops. Here we grow vines on the hillsides and hops on the bottom lands, so there is little overlap.

The story of the hops dryer is endearing.
Hops had become a major crop in the area, and in 1905 rancher/farmer [Sol, who had purchased the ranch in 1880] Walters decided to build a hops dryer to serve local farmers. The structure was to be functional, using barn-style architecture and pre-20th century technology. Construction was a race against time with many neighbors betting that it would not be finished for the ‘05 hops harvest. Big Red [The legendary queen of these parts, red-headed Bernadette Randall] cheered on the crew of 25 men working under stonemason Angelo “Skinny” Sodini. With massive redwood timbers from her family’s mill and stone from nearby Felta Creek, the construction team hurried to complete our majestic, 3-story Hop Kiln in 35 days.
At least one other Sonoma winery uses a hops kiln as a tasting room. (Photos: Hop Kiln)

Does anyone know of any existing hops dryers that have been similarly repurposed in the Willamette Valley? The Oregon Historic Sites Database didn't turn up anything - one in Aurora still appears to be on a working farm, and the only other one that looked interesting, from 1890, seems to have been moved or demolished.

In any event, here's some local wineries and wine-related enterprises with cool old stuff. There are almost certainly others - if we've missed an interesting one, do drop a comment!

One historic home at a winery is the Italianate-Four Square at Pudding River Wine Cellars. They are on Sunnyside Road, just past Pratum. Interestingly, the history of the home is not at all part of their brand. Missed opportunity, perhaps?

Out at Ankeny Vineyard, perched on a hillside overlooking Ankeny Bottom, is the Cox Cemetery. Thomas Cox had Salem's first store in 1847. It is a uniquely beautiful pioneer cemetery. Karen at Taphophilic Musings visits at least once a season. Gogouci has a great photo of Cox's headstone at the Salem Daily Photo Diary. And here's a flickr photoset of nearly all the headstones.

Witness Tree's heritage oak is around 250 years old and served as a marker for the original surveys done in the 1850s.

A little farther afield, Argyle has done a good job with their history. Their Spirithouse reserve Pinot Noir honors their Victorian tasting room and its ghost.
Lena Elsie Imus died in 1908 in the building now serving as the tasting room for Argyle Winery at 691 Highway 99W in Dundee. The old house, turned commercial dwelling, was the home of Dundee City Hall from the late 70's until 1989.
The legend of Imus' ghost started with two former city employees: Molly Davis, then the city recorder, and Chris Culver, former city clerk. The two women started to notice strange occurrences in the building.

Ken Wright purchased the early 1920s Carlton train depot and uses it as his tasting room for both Ken Wright Cellars and Tyrus Evan labels. The train was part of the Red Electric passenger rail system between Eugene and Portland.

Practically across the street in Carlton, Scott Paul Wines uses two historic buildings and says of them:
Our winery is housed in a repurposed granary, the former Madsen Grain Company, built in 1900, while our brick tasting room was originally a creamery, built in 1915.

McMenamins of course can offer the Hotel Oregon, Grand Lodge, and Edgefield.

After the heritage tree, the Joel Palmer House in Dayton is the most venerable of them all. Palmer built it in the 1850s. He was a pioneer, climbed Mt. Hood, was Superintendent of Indian Affairs, and later Speaker of the Oregon House. And now the house is a restaurant, with a special focus on wild mushrooms and Oregon wine.

And finally, winemakers are nearly unanimous: the most important ingredient in good wine is good beer! After working the fields, working in the winery, or tasting wines, nothing is better than a frosty beer.

So as you go wine tasting, take some extra time to visit a little bit of the history, too. And then, have a beer!


  1. Here's a couple we should have remembered!

    In McMinnville Panther Creek is in the city's former power plant! "Built in 1923, this enormous brick building housed three massive diesel electric generators and provided power to the city for decades."

    And out near the Dalles, there's some late 19th century old-vine Zinfandel, planted by an Italian stone mason.

  2. If you love wines and are looking to take a break from the hectic urban life, then it is time that you spend a little quality time being good to yourself.
    Wine Country Napa Valley