Grape Destinations: a Taste of Oregon’s Vino History
Driving through Dundee, you have to look somewhat carefully to see the history. Many of the oldest structures have been replaced by newer ones. But if you’re observant, you’ll notice a quaint little house just off of route 99. This building, built in 1840, has housed the Post Office, been home to City Hall and was a previous residence for the Imus family. Now, this lovely location contains Argyle Winery’s tasting room.
A Transplanted Winemaker
Argyle’s winemaker, Rollin Soles, has been producing award winning pinot noir, chardonnay and sparkling wine since 1987. Originally from Texas, Soles made his way to Oregon via the University of California at Davis. He brought with him new ideas and techniques that he learned at their viticulture program, as well as from prior experience in Switzerland and Australia.
The challenges of growing grapes in Oregon led Soles to implement changes in his viticulture practices that ignited a Viticultural Revolution. Argyle Winery was the first Oregon winery to replant with Dijon clones, which were better suited for Oregon’s cooler climate. They also began the practice of leaf pulling to maximize the amount of sunlight exposure to the grapes and estimating crop yields to anticipate harvest volume. “It’s just a matter of finding a balance above ground as well as below the ground,” explains Soles. “If you control the viticulture, you control your wine’s consistency.”
The Heart of Oregon Viticulture
“In the Willamette Valley, we have now planted vines that are appropriate for the region,” states soles. “The first wave of winemakers were the pioneers who established the vineyards and we are the second wave who are applying knowledge and perfecting the process.” In his opinion, “It’s harder to grow grapes in Oregon than in Washington year after year.” To this end, Soles has been instrumental in increasing the quality of winemaking and viticulture practices for the Oregon wine industry.
Argyle sources it’s grapes from three different sites, Knudsen Vineyards, Stoller Vineyards and Lone Start Vineyards, all totaling over 500 acres. Beyond producing typical pinot noir, chardonnay and riesling, Argyle is the largest producer of sparkling wine in Oregon. Out of 40,000 cases they produce each year, 15,000 of them are sparkling wine. “The different wines allow us to move with Mother Nature. During cool harvests we produce more sparkling and during warm harvests we make more still wines,” intones Soles.
Dundee: a Vino Community
In addition to taking an active role in advancing Oregon’s winemaking practices, Soles has been a driving force in Dundee’s community-building. He is working on developing a “sustainable community” through his participation in the Dundee Civic Association. Their primary mission is to build a stronger community through reinvestment. Fund raising activities include a farmers market, festivities in the park and annual dances. All proceeds go back to the community in the form of donations to the fire department, elementary school and the community food bank.
Although only in town for a relatively brief time, Argyle has played a part in making history for Oregon’s vineyards and actively sustaining history for the town of Dundee. The things we do today will be the history of tomorrow. History is alive around you when you take a look.