Raising a class of wine in Milton-Freewater

| Print |  Email
Archives - July 2007
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

Modern design defines new Portland indoor market

The Latest
Thursday, June 25, 2015
thumbSnøhetta JBPM exterior www mir noBY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR

An international architecture firm known for its design of the National September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion in New York unveiled its plan this week for a modern indoor/outdoor food market at the foot of the Morrison Bridge in downtown Portland.


Read more...

Urban benediction

Linda Baker
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
072215 THUMB Credit-PontificalAcademyofSciencesBY LINDA BAKER

Charlie Hales has long viewed sound urban planning as the route to salvation: social, economic and environmental. This week, the mayor's city design philosophy got the nod of approval from a bona fide spiritual authority, Pope Francis.


Read more...

Reader Input: Rx for Health Care

July/August 2015
Wednesday, July 15, 2015

We asked readers how Obamacare has impacted their business.


Read more...

Flattery with Numbers

July/August 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY JOE CORTRIGHT

The false promise of economic impact statements.


Read more...

Farm in a Box

July/August 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Most of the food Americans consume is trucked in from hundreds of miles away. Eric Wilson, co-founder and CEO of Gro-volution, wants to change that. So this past spring, the Air Force veteran and former greenhouse manager started work on an alternative farming system he claims is more efficient than conventional agriculture, and also shortens the distance between the consumer and the farm.


Read more...

Storyteller in Chief: Natural Prophets

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY SAM BLACKMAN

Storyteller-in-chief with the CEO and co-founder of Elemental Technologies.


Read more...

The Private 150: From Strength to Strength

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

Revenues in Oregon's private, for profit sector maintained solid growth as the economy continued to rebound.


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