California-based Jackson Family Wines just bought Zena Crown Vineyard, in Salem's lovely Eola-Amity Hills
This story appears in the October issue of Oregon Business Magazine.
On December 18, 2012, a massive windstorm blew through the Willamette Valley, causing severe roof damage to Kevin and Carla Chambers’ triple-wide mobile home just outside Newberg. “We had a waterfall in our house,” says Kevin, a vineyard manager who has worked in the Oregon wine industry for 35 years. “My wife and I looked at each other and said, ‘Obviously, we’ll have to do something about our living situation.’”
Back in 1989, the couple had bought a 32-acre property called Resonance, knowing that it was an exceptional site for growing pinot noir grapes. In the hands of local winemakers such as Peter Rosback at Sineann and Brian Marcy at Big Table Farm, Resonance fruit consistently made some of the best wines coming out of the valley, according to reviews in respected publications such as International Wine Cellar.
So it was with mixed emotions that Kevin and wife Carla decided to part with their property, selling it to the illustrious Burgundian winery Maison Louis Jadot. (The sale price was not disclosed, but insiders say it broke a record for per-acre price for a vineyard in Oregon.) Setting the international wine world atwitter, legendary Jadot winemaker Jacques Lardière came out of retirement to run the company’s Oregon outpost.
“It was hard to let go of Resonance,” Kevin says. But with the money they made from the sale, the Chambers were able to buy their first stick-built home—on a Christmas tree farm in the Eola-Amity Hills.
While modest in size—the property has 20 acres of planted vineyards—this Resonance sale is just one of a half dozen recent Willamette Valley real estate transactions that signals the region’s growing appeal on the international wine stage. This trend is being driven by a handful of factors: the drought in California, comparatively low land prices in the Willamette Valley and the aging of Oregon winemakers. But the central reason large, out-of-state players are investing in the Willamette Valley is consumer demand for Oregon pinot noir.
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