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|Friday, September 01, 2006|
The grounded grower
Wine pioneer Dick Erath sells his operation but takes his beloved vineyards with him into a new future.
By Robin Doussard
To get to the farmer’s house in the red dirt hills above Dundee, you turn off the main highway and carve your way through miles and miles of grapevines. The last few turns take you down then up dirt roads until you’re 750 feet atop a hill, deep inside a vineyard. It is here that the farmer has put his elegant, comfortable home, built low and wrapped with windows precisely so he can keep watch on his vines, which run right up to the edge of the house to embrace him. “I talk to them,” says this grape whisperer. “You can tell if they’re happy.” And the tall, gentle pioneer has devoted his life to making them happy.
Even though Dick Erath sold his winery, his name and his considerable legacy to Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, he did not sell his grapes, which sprawl over 114 acres of the Dundee Hills. “I knew there would be an empty spot when I sold,” he says, sitting on his shaded back porch overlooking the sprawling valley, his crystalline blue eyes gazing at the vines that reach toward him. “Which is why I wanted to keep the vineyards.”
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