Grapes and Grins

By Lisa Britton/For the Baker City Herald October 21, 2013 12:43 pm

Baker City Couple Starts Vineyard Near Richland 


Submitted photo Lance and Jacki Adams of Baker City own Baker County’s newest vineyard, in the Eagle Valley near Richland.
Submitted photo Lance and Jacki Adams of Baker City own Baker County’s newest vineyard, in the Eagle Valley near Richland.

By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

Lance and Jacki Adams own a vineyard.

This wasn’t really their plan — they don’t know much about growing grapes.

“Nothing. Absolutely nothing,” Lance says.

It happened like this: they wanted to buy some property, and a friend said a spot in Richland would be good for planting grapes.

“It was less than 30 days from the initial thought process to this property coming up for sale,” he says.

The deal closed in 14 days.

“It all just worked and fell into place,” he says.

 

And the grapes?

He contacted Oregon State University to see if they had a graduate student in the viticulture program who needed a project.

He was referred to the OSU Extension Service, which recommended he talk to Travis Cook (see story below).

Cook, a graduate of Baker High School, has a degree in horticulture and an emphasis in viticulture and enology from OSU. He manages vineyards in the Willamette Valley, and has established his own on his parents’ property in Keating.

In other words, OSU recommended that Lance call his neighbor.

It was good timing — this spring Travis and his dad, Mike Cook, founded Keating Vineyard Services to plant and manage vineyards.

This year saw a little over four acres planted of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot on the Adams land. Lance says they will plant more every year with the goal of 22 acres.

Eagle Valley Vineyards lies within the  Snake River Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area) that encompasses Southwestern Idaho and two counties in Eastern Oregon (Baker and Malheur).

Lance says they will sell the grapes; they don’t plan to make their own wine.

“I’m excited about growing the grapes and Travis is excited to get the juice. It’s a great partnership,” he said.

Planting The Grapes

The grapes were planted in three days over the Fourth of July weekend.

Adams said they had at least 45 people on the hill planting, and a total of 70 showed up during the “planting party,” as Jacki called it.

“We had people show up who we’ve never met before,” he said.

His job this summer was to build a deer fence — 4,700 feet of fence that stands seven feet tall.

“That was a monumental task — I knew nothing about building fence,” he said. “If it wasn’t for friends and really good people, we’d have never got it done.”

They both still work full-time in Baker City — he in insurance, and Jacki owns The Sycamore Tree. But they spend Sunday afternoon and Mondays in Richland.

As they learn more about growing grapes, he said they’ll take over some of the duties at the vineyard.

“Most of the vineyard has been hired help,” he said.

And maybe someday, when more acres are planted and harvested, it will open up new employment opportunities for the area.

But for now, they will watch their grapes grow.

“We just put it in God’s hands and let Him lead us down the path,” he said.

For more information, visit their Facebook page — search for “Eagle Creek Vineyards.”

 

New name for another vineyard 

By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

Due to an issue with trademark infringement, MotherLode Cellars will now be known as Copper Belt Wines.

MotherLode was the label for Keating Valley Vineyards, established in 2004 by Travis Cook and his parents, Mike and Cathy Cook.

Travis, who graduated from Oregon State University in 2007 with a degree in horticulture and an emphasis in viticulture and enology, lives in McMinnville and works for a vineyard management company that oversees 20 different vineyards. 

“MotherLode” paid honor to a local mine that was located within what was known as the Copper Belt.

“There is an article from 1905 that I stumbled upon after hearing Copper Belt as a potential name, brought up by my mother, who stumbled on it while at the museum,” Travis says. “I still wanted to maintain some historical relevance to the name so Copper Belt works.”

He’s not too worried about the process of rebranding his wine.

“Motherlode is not widely distributed, so I hope that our loyal customers aren’t bothered by it,” he said.

The new label will be released during a barrel and wine tasting Oct. 26 and 27 at the vineyard, 46881 Cook Road.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

This year’s crop

Due to the small size of the Keating vineyard, Travis also sources grapes from Willamette vineyards.

He describes this past growing season as “spectacular” in spite of a late spring frost that affected the Keating crop.

“In the Willamette Valley, where I get my Pinot Noir, and where I work most of my days, we had a huge rain storm in the middle of harvest that caused some big problems with rot,” he said. “In the vineyard it all comes down to the last four weeks — if they are good, then the year is good; if they are bad, then the year usually is bad. Every year is different.”

This was his ninth harvest.

“I was able to get some early fruit, so the wines from Copper Belt this year, like 2012, should be fantastic,” he said.

Business venture

Travis is passionate about vineyards and wine, and would like to see the industry expand in Baker County.

“Baker County wines have been a dream of mine for longer than I have been able to buy and drink wine,” he said. “The county is  so diverse in geology that some areas may work well, and others may not.”

This spring he and his dad started Keating Vineyard Services to plant and manage vineyards.

Their first was Eagle Creek Vineyards in Richland, owned by Lance and Jacki Adams (see related story above).

“We planted a little over four acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with plans of more acreage this next spring,” he said. “I am really excited about it. Like all farming there is risk on its success — the thing that makes it more risky is the fact that it has never really been tried.”

But he has a positive outlook on the venture.

Richland has the growing season and the soils, so I am happy to be helping out with the development of Eagle Creek Vineyards,” he said. “I think, hope and pray that God has some good things in store with the valley and a new wine region. So we will see where it goes.”

For more about Copper Belt Wines, visit the website at www.copperbeltwinery.com.