Starting the vineyard

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When it gets to a certain point, you know one day when the phone rings it will be to tell you. But just because you expect it, doesn’t make it any easier when the call arrives. We got that call yesterday: Leroy had passed away.

Leroy Rasmussen, 82 years old. The first person who ever really believed in our endeavor with a clear conscience. A man whose entire life had been in the vineyard, until his health took him from it. Leroy Rasmussen, whose own Red Hill Douglas County AVA riesling cuttings are the reason for our Leroy’s Finest wine. Leroy Rasmussen, our straight-shooting, salt-of-the-earth cowboy vineyard consultant is no more.

Some time ago we had lost track of Leroy–his health deteriorating so that he was moved very quickly from the area, back to more his home place of Nebraska. After some e-sleuthing, I did locate him and we corresponded with his wife last holiday season. I had high hopes that Leroy might recover, but he did not.

Until I can get more of my thoughts in line, where my emotions are not getting the best of me as I write, I’ll leave you with this story of Leroy, one I wrote last year.


Leroy Rasmussen, The Grande Dalles Cowboy Vineyard Manager


 We often think Leroy’s life is the stuff made for Hollywood: upon his return from the Korean War, a young man from the dusty ranges of Nebraska sets out on his own, taking his family to California. The initial plan falls through, and he gets into the grape business. It’s the 1950s. And in his lifetime, he not only teaches a young Marvin Shanken—pre-Wine Spectator—the word malolactic fermentation, he plants 1000s of acres in Sonoma, and then, years later, establishes a single-vineyard AVA—Red Hill, Douglas County—in Oregon. Leroy was a true salt-of-the-earth man, and out-of-the-box thinker. And he was our “cowboy” vineyard consultant.

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Why We Make Wine


It’s a story that has been 20+ years in the making, maybe even longer. I mean, after all, Scott is the son of farmer of a farmer, and now here he is, a farmer himself, with a son.

If you’re interested in the whole story, it’s right here.



A list of 10 things a person should have at their disposal when venturing out into the Wilds of Wine.

One of the great things about where we live in the Pacific Northwest is all the hiking that surrounds us. The Cascade Mountains are essentially at our doorstep, Mt. Hood the closest to us in Portland, as well as the vineyard (30 miles or so, as the crow flies), Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams near by to the north, and then all the peaks in central Oregon: Mt. Jefferson, Three Sisters, Broken Top…. Not to mention all the opportunities in the Columbia Gorge – Dog Mountain, Table Mountain, Ruckle Ridge, Mt. Defiance, to name a few. Before the vineyard and wine, when times seemed much simpler, and we had the time and car and energy to head out into nature, I was a rather avid hiker, even enrolling in and completing the Mazama’s Basic Climbing Education Program (BCEP) in Scott’s and my salad dating days. The Mazamas are the second oldest climbing group in the West, founded on the pinnacle of Mt. Hood in 1894, and their BCEP a primer for physical conditioning and basic climbing—rock and snow/ice—techniques to get you to the top of some peaks—along with a seasoned Mazama climb leader, of course—at the end of the course.

One of the key things that gets hammered into you in the Mazamas Basic Climbing Education Program is what’s called the 10 Essentials. They are what every climber should carry with them, no matter what the duration of your hike, day or overnight, car-camping or wilderness rambling, to help you in a pinch, and keep you prepared for outdoor’s unexpected twists and turns. They are:

  1. Map of where you are hiking
  2. Compass (I carried one, but still really don’t know how to use one, no fault of the Mazamas, I would even skip lukio in Finland whenever we had our Orienteering gym class. I don’t know why I have such an aversion to the compass. Odd.)
  3. Whistle
  4. Waterproof matches and a fire-starter
  5. Knife
  6. Extra food/water
  7. Extra clothing
  8. Sun protection (extra glasses, lip and skin balm/cream, and hat)
  9. Flashlight with working and extra batteries
  10. First-aid kit

Based on this, I’ve assembled my own list of 10 Essentials that everyone should have at their disposal when starting a vineyard, for going whole hog into the wine business, for even, like in hiking, as much as you think you know where you’re going, there are a ton of unknown variables that can cause you to alter course, or terminate the mission altogether. Here they are, in no real order:

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1000 ships? I doubt it. Although at times I do feel this wine thing has NOT been of my own accord…[cue nervous laughter].

Let’s see, however, what this face of mine DOES launch. It’s something I quietly started a couple of weeks ago, but what the hell. There’s no better time than the present to send ‘er out to sea.


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