Home Archives July 2007 Raising a class of wine in Milton-Freewater

Raising a class of wine in Milton-Freewater

| Print |  Email
Sunday, July 01, 2007


CayuseVineyards1.jpg
s_CayuseVineyards2
Christophe Baron  (top) was attracted to the stony soil that can be found in the Walla Walla Valley near Milton-Freewater. The self-described recovering “pinot freak” grows syrah grapes.

Photo by Tyson Koffer

MILTON-FREEWATER— Forget the frogs. Milton-Freewater may just be the next hot wine destination the rest of the world has never heard of.

Where the Walla Walla Valley spills over the state line into Oregon is some of the best soil for growing wine grapes in a region that is fostering a growing national reputation for its red wines.

Cayuse Vineyards, for example, has been lauded in the national press for making some of the best wine coming out of Washington, irritating the legalists in the wine community who are quick to point out that Cayuse grows its grapes and makes its wine on the Oregon side of the valley.

For 37-year-old Frenchman and Cauyse proprietor Christophe Baron, the state line is imaginary. “It really doesn’t matter to me, though I suppose the people who collect taxes think otherwise,” he says. Baron planted his first vineyard in the valley in 1997 — after he discovered a plot of land with the stony soil he deemed perfect for syrah grapes — but originally had his winemaking operation in Washington. He moved his wine studio to Oregon, a move he says costs him 10% more in taxes, in 2005. “To me what’s most important is to have the facility on the vineyard as it is in France,” Baron says.

Not far from Cayuse’s operation is Zerba Cellars, which got its start in 2000 when Cecil Zerba, a longtime produce farmer and Milton-Freewater native, started planting wine grapes. His original plan was to sell them to other winemakers, but a few years into it Zerba decided to start making his own. “With everything we’ve ever grown our strategy was always get as close to the consumer as possible,” he says.

“My friends think I’m nuts,” Zerba says. But whether his farming buddies want to see it happen or not, he predicts that  the wine business that has turned Walla Walla into a trendy weekend getaway for wine-loving urbanites will also make its mark on Milton-Freewater. “There is not a cannery left in this valley. Sawmills are gone. There’s not a whole lot else happening. The grape deal is really saving this whole valley.”

Norm McKibben, former member of the Oregon Wine Board and owner of Pepper Bridge Winery in Walla Walla, is working to get approval to plant 1,200 more acres of wine grapes in Oregon, a move that would mean the majority of Walla Walla grapes would come from Oregon. McKibben has been watching the wine business grow across the valley and figures it’s only a matter of time before a cluster of wineries turns Milton-Freewater into the next wine town. “They’re looking across the state line at 100 wineries,” he says. “The dam has got to burst at some point.”

— Christina Williams


Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

More Articles

Workplace benefits

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Health care and vacations rule. That’s the consensus from our reader poll on workplace benefits that help retain and recruit employees.


Read more...

Wheel man

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

Les Schwab has put a premium on customer service since 1952, when legendary namesake Les Schwab founded the company with one store in Prineville. (Schwab died in 2007.) But if the corporate principles remain essentially the same, the world around this iconic Oregon business has changed dramatically.


Read more...

The more they change, the more they stay the same

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
100-best-collageBY BRANDON SAWYER

The 100 Best Companies get more creative with perks and more generous with benefits; employees seek empowering relations with management and coworkers.


Read more...

Revolution in print, pixels and passion

News
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
RyanFrankNewsBY MARK BLAINE | OB BLOGGER

The publisher of the Emerald Media Group moves on, leaving a cutting edge media group that depends on business acumen for its survival.


Read more...

The solution to youth unemployment

News
Thursday, February 27, 2014
02.27.14 Thumbnail TeenworkBY ERIC FRUITS

Because they have little chance of working for someone else, today’s teens need to be entrepreneurs. But, first, we must teach our teens that entrepreneurship starts small.


Read more...

What I'm reading: Brad Smith & Travis Boersma

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Brad Smith, founder of Hot Pepper Studios, and Travis Boersma, president of Dutch Bros. Coffee, share their recent reads.


Read more...

Branching out

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
DSC04185BY LINDA BAKER

A blueberry bush is a blueberry bush — except when it’s a blueberry tree.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS