From Inconspicuous to Illustrious

Pioneer grows the industry

Compared to other pioneering Oregon wineries— Hillcrest Vineyard (Richard Sommer), Charles Coury Winery, The Eyrie Vineyards (David Lett), Ponzi Vineyards, Erath Winery, and Adelsheim Vineyard— Knudsen Vineyards has flown under the radar. Yet, by 1972, Cal and Julia Lee Knudsen (with help from Dick Erath) had established the largest planting of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the state (and quite possibly the country).

After living in Portland, but before pursuing grape growing and winemaking in the Willamette Valley, the family moved to Seattle in 1969 for Cal’s corporate job in the forest products industry. Knudsen’s model, however, was quite different from many of those original pioneers, the resourceful entrepreneurs living on their land and developing their vineyards with sweat equity.

“Because of our father’s career as a corporate acquisition specialist at Weyerhaeuser, we lived in the Seattle area; thus our family was not as present in the Valley as the other wine pioneers,” explains Page Knudsen Cowles, Knudsen Vineyards’ second-generation owner and managing partner. Back in 1971, Knudsen’s 200-acre property consisted of dirt, wild blackberries and trees that needed taming to make way for grapevines.

She remembers those days, “Our family was pressed into service to plant the original vineyard. We were living in Seattle, and the whole family— my three brothers, my mother and my father— drove to Dundee to plant the first rows of vines in the red Jory soil of the Dundee Hills.”

Knudsen Cowles recalls… Read the complete story here on Oregon Wine Press.

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