In The Beginning
Patton Valley Vineyard got its start in Chicago, in the early 1980′s. Graduate students Dave Chen and Monte Pitt divided their time between their studies at Northwestern University’s J.L. Kellogg School of Management and the windy city’s great wine shops, all the while dreaming of starting a winery together. After graduation they parted ways, heading to separate coasts, but their passion for wine continued to grow.
The Search For The Perfect Site
Monte seized every opportunity to visit Dave in Oregon, where he combed the Willamette Valley for the perfect vineyard site for growing world-class Pinot noir grapes. That search was guided by terrior. Loosely translated as “a sense of place,” the concept suggests that a vineyard’s characteristics—its soil, elevation, and topography—contribute to the unique qualities of its wine, especially Pinot noir. After more than two years and visits to nearly 50 sites, they landed in Gaston, Oregon, where they purchased an abandoned orchard planted with 72 acres of cherry and prune trees.READ MORE
Knowing little about planting a vineyard, Dave and Monte hired consultants to study the Gaston site. They performed soil and topography analyses and offered expertise on farming options and clone and rootstock selection. The prevailing wisdom at the time was that the best wines were made from fruit sourced in and around the Dundee Hills. Sites west of Highway 47 (and outside of Yamhill County), including the one Dave and Monte had chosen, were considered less desirable. Today, conventional wisdom has changed, and some of Oregon’s most reputable and acclaimed wines are made from grapes sourced outside of the Dundee Hills AVA.
Time To Plant
When it was time to plant the vineyard, Dave and Monte consulted with Alan Holstein. One of the outstanding viticulturists in the valley, Alan cleared 40 acres of old orchard trees from the top of the site and laid the vineyard out according to the site’s soil. In 1997, the first 10 acres of Patton Valley Vineyard were planted.READ MORE
By now, Monte and his family had relocated to Oregon and he took over vineyard operations, including overseeing the planting. The “high tech” approach popular at the time drew on conventional farming techniques like drip irrigation and use of non-organic fungicides. Monte accepted this methodology initially, but quickly realized that it wasn’t compatible with the vision of sustainable farming he and Dave had for their vineyard. They turned the water off in 1999 and have been dry farming since. They began to fertilize with organic matter like compost and use organic fungicides. Patton Valley earned LIVE certification as a sustainable operation with their 2006 vintage (see Sustainability Section). Today the Patton Valley estate includes 24-acres planted exclusively with Oregon’s favorite grape, Pinot noir. (See Winery and Vineyard)
Who Will Make The Wine?
With the first ten acres planted, Dave and Monte faced their next challenge: who would make the wine? Since neither had experience as a winemaker, Monte volunteered to do the legwork. Between 1996 and 1998, he worked harvest at Beaux Freres, one of Oregon’s premier producers of Pinot noir. With three seasons under his belt and a deeper appreciation for the importance of careful viticulture and low-input methods when making excellent wine, Monte stepped into the role of winemaker for Patton Valley’s first two vintages, 1999 and 2000.READ MORE
With the support of the Willamette Valley winemaking community’s notable collegiality, Patton Valley grew through the early years with the help of numerous friends. The generosity of neighbors Joe, Pat and Adam Campbell, who own Elk Cove Vineyards, was exceptionally valuable; Patton Valley fermented its first two vintages there. Two harvests in, Monte and Dave decided to seek out the best winemakers in the business.
Patton Valley has been privileged to work with several truly gifted winemakers since: Todd Hamina took the reins from Monte from 2001 to 2005; Jerry Murray was the winemaker from 2005 to 2010; and Derek Einberger, current Winemaker and Vineyard Manager, joined Patton Valley in 2010.