Ken Wright Cellars was founded in 1993 and its first vintage was produced in 1994. Prior to creating Ken Wright Cellars, Ken founded Panther Creek Winery in 1986 and made wines there from 1986 through 1994. In 1993, Panther creek was purchased by Ron and Linda Kaplan, the current owners.
Ken Wright Cellars' first building was an old brick building, a former glove factory, which the winery shared with Domaine Serene Winery. The 1993 through 1996 vintages of Domaine Serene wines were made by Ken Wright Cellars for Domaine Serene.
Located in rural Carlton, Oregon, Ken Wright Cellars is devoted to showcasing the inherent quality of selected vineyard sites. With a clarity and breadth that is unequaled by other varieties, the people at Ken Wright cellars believe pinot noir best expresses the character of these sites. Rather than stamping wine with a varietal trademark, they see pinot noir as a vehicle for conveying the aroma, flavor and texture of the location in which it is grown.
Ken Wright Mission Statement
Located in rural Carlton, Oregon, Ken Wright Cellars is devoted to showcasing the inherent quality of selected vineyard sites. With a clarity and breadth that is unequaled by other varieties, we believe pinot noir best expresses the character of these sites. Rather than stamping wine with a varietal trademark, we see pinot noir as a vehicle for conveying the aroma, flavor and texture of the location in which it is grown.
We also have a place in our hearts for the limited production of two white wines, Chardonnay from Celilo Vineyard near White Salmon, Washington, and Pinot Blanc from Freedom Hill Vineyard.
Ken Wright Vineyard Regions of the Northern Oregon
While it is true that the Oregon wine industry is still in its infancy, definable grape growing regions have emerged. Three main geological events are responsible for the formation of these regions. The collision of the Pacific (Juan de Fuca) Plate and the continental plate resulted in the shearing off of the soft sediments on the ocean floor. These sediments have been and continue to be steadily added to our coastline. Aeons of weathering and pressure have compacted those soft sediments and created the sandstone and siltstone mother rock which lies below most of the Williamette Valley. Basaltic flooding from an active volcanic chain in central Oregon covered the Oregon 20 million years ago. Vestiges of this mantel still remain and would be represented in areas such as the Dundee and Eola Hills. As recently as twelve to fifteen thousand years ago, the Great Missoula Floods occurred. The catastrophic failure of a twenty-five hundred foot high ice dam burst forth the water from Lake Missoula at a rate of ten times the combined flow of all the rivers of the world. This event scattered debris from Canada and Montana across the Williamette Valley and helped to carve the Columbia River Gorge.
Ken Wright Vineyards of the Dundee Hills
Vineyards planted in the Dundee Hills of the northern Oregon provided the start for the modern wine industry of Oregon. These initial plantings took place in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. The most common soil type of the area is described as Jory. These soils are volcanic in origin with basalt as the mother rock. They are unusually deep for hillsides, often 6 to 8 feet to bedrock. There is also a high percentage of clay in the soil which, combined with the soil depth, tends to hold moisture later into the season than other soils we work with. The wine from this region typically displays aromas of red fruits, strawberry, cherry and raspberry. The mouth feel is often rich and emollient.
The vineyard was planted in 1990 to own-rooted Pommard and Wadenswil. Located in the heart of the Dundee Hills between Domaine Drouhin and Archery Summit with a southeast to northeast inclination. Jory soil. The nose exhibits a mix of red and black fruits. The wines are forward, textural and elegant. Approximately 350 cases are produced. The vineyard is owned and managed by Michael Mega.
Ken Wright Vineyards of the Eola Hills
The main development of the Eola Hills area took place from the mid 1970’s through the early 1980’s. The most common soil type of the area is described as Nekia. These volcanic soils are shallower, generally 1 to 3 feet in depth, and have less clay than the Dundee Hills. As a result, these soils will dry sooner, encouraging earlier ripening of the fruit. The wines of this area typically possess aromas of black fruits, black cherry, plum and cassis, with acidity levels that are naturally higher than in other growing areas, contributing to a sense of structure in the mouth.
Located at the southern end of the Eola Hills and faces southeast. The vines were planted in 1982 and 1983. They are vertically trellised and are of the Pommard clone. Elevation is 450' to 550'. The soil is a mix of Jory and Nekia. Both are formed from igneous rock and have a reddish-brown tint. This site, however, has less depth than similar soils in the Dundee Hills. Wine from this vineyard is typically very forward, with aromas of black cherry and cola. Approximately 625 cases are produced. The vineyard is owned by Dick and Nancy Daniel, and managed by Mark Gould.
Located just 1 mile from Canary Hill in the Eola Hills, Carter Vineyard is lower on the hillside yet has a leaner and less fertile soil. It is mainly Nekia soil, which is formed from weathered basic rock. It lies at an elevation of 325' and was planted in 1983. This bottling is comprised of the Wadenswil, Dijon 777, Dijon 667, Dijon 115, and Pommard clones. The wine is firmer than Canary Hill in its youth but evolves beautifully after a few years in bottle to show black fruits and fresh, healthy earth scents. Approximately 650 cases are produced. The vineyard is owned by Jack and Kathleen Carter, and managed by Mark Gould.
Planted in 1983 to the Pommard clone on its own roots. Located on the east side of the Eola Hills above Hopewell with an east–southeast inclination at an elevation of 250'. Jory soil. Distinctive candied cherry aromas, firm structure, very ageable. Approximately 140 cases are produced. The vineyard is owned and managed by Dick & Betty O’Brien.
Ken Wright Vineyards of the Yamhill-Carlton District
The vineyards of the Yamhill-Carlton District were planted mostly in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. The primary soil of this area is called Willakenzie, named after the Willamette and McKenzie rivers. It is a sedimentary soil with a sandstone base rock. The sand content is quite high and the soil therefore very well drained. The sites are generally on the lower slopes of a volcanic ridge. Wines of the area possess aromas of red and black fruits, with added elements of cocoa, leather and fresh-turned earth. Acidity levels are generally lower than other regions, prompting these wines to be lush and agreeable in their youth.
Abbott Claim Vineyard
ur newest arrival to the stable. This site is a portion of the original John F. Abbott Donation Land Claim and lies in the middle of a sedimentary ridge east of Carlton. This is a consistent broad face of land with soil depths of 30 inches to mother rock. Elevation ranges from 400' to 475' and the inclination is S-SE. Soils are mostly Wellsdale with some areas of Willakenzie and Peavine. All of them lie atop mother rock of fractured sandstone and siltstone.
The planted acreage totals 17 acres. Vines are roughly an equal mix of Pommard clone on Riparia Gloire rootstock, 777 on 101-14 and 115 on both 101-14 and 3309. As would be expected from a vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton District the wine is very darkly colored, dense and lush. Fruits tend to be darker such as plum, cassis and black cherry.
The vineyard was planted in 1989 and represents the definable change of the Jory soils of the Dundee Hills to the sedimentary soil of the Yamhill-Carlton District. It is spaced 7’ by 5’ and is planted to the Wadenswil clone. The soil, known as Willakenzie, is a well-drained shallow soil over siltstone. It lies at an elevation of 350'. The vineyard consistently produces small berries and clusters that are intensely colored. The wine possesses the character of black fruits, cocoa, leather and earth. Approximately 400 cases are produced. Jim Stonebridge and Kathleen Boeve own the vineyard. It is managed by Joel Myers.
Located in the Yamhill-Carlton District, this is a densely planted vineyard (1 meter x 2 meters). The sedimentary soil, know as Wellsdale, is extremely well drained and promotes early ripening. Elevation is 400' with a south-southwest inclination. Slopes are 5 to 15 degrees. Half of the vineyard was planted in 1992 to the Dijon 115 clone grafted on 3309. The second half was originally planted to Dijon Chardonnay clones but was grafted in 2000 to the Dijon 777 clone of pinot noir. The wine from this site is powerful, dense and deeply colored focusing mainly on black fruits. Approximately 700 cases are produced. Don and Carole McCrone are the vineyard owners. Mark Gould is the vineyard manager.
This is the first vineyard directly owned and developed by Ken Wright Cellars. The vineyard is located in the Yamhill-Carlton District northeast of Carlton. Planting began in 1999 with 4.5 acres of clones 777 and 115 on phylloxera resistant rootstock.. Total planted acreage as of spring 2002 is approximately 17 acres. Vine spacing is 6.5’ x 4’ and the elevations averages 450’. The soil is comprised of marine sediments known as Wellsdale and Willakenzie. These are sandy soils which drain quickly and hasten the ripening process. Our first commercial crop, 2002, has produced a muscular wine that has aromas of dense black fruit, seared meat, cedar and anise. Approximately 240 cases are produced. Ken and Karen Wright are owners. The vineyard is managed by Mark Gould.
This site is in the Yamhill-Carlton District just west of the Chehalem Valley. Our fruit is sourced from three small blocks, one of which is planted to the Pommard clone, one to the Dijon 114 clone and the last to Dijon 777 clone. Soils are primarily of the Goodin and Melbourne type which are sedimentary in origin. The three blocks range in elevation from 450 to 600 feet and were planted in 1989. The wine from this vineyard has a complex array of aromas and flavors including black and red fruits, particularly blueberry, spice and earth. Approximately 725 cases are produced. The vineyard is owned by Dick and Deirdre Shea and managed by Javier Marin.
Planted in 1974, this is one of the earliest vineyards to be sited in the Yamhill-Carlton District. It is planted to the Pommard clone on its own roots with an 8’ x 6’ spacing. The vineyard has a southwest inclination and lies at an elevation of 425'. Soils are of the Wellsdale type which are sedimentary in origin. Aromas of plum and cassis with matching flavors. Hints of clove and cedar. Approximately 200 cases are produced. The vineyard is owned and managed by Betty Wahle.
Ken Wright Vineyards of the Coastal Range
We source fruit from two vineyards located in the foothills of the coastal range. Both tend to be late to ripen due to the cooling influence of maritime air flowing into the valley from the Van Duzer Corridor. These sites also tend to have higher levels of tannin which make them great candidates for extending cellaring but they are unlikely to be as immediately pleasurable as many of our other sites.
Freedom Hill Vineyard
Freedom Hill Vineyard is located in the Coast Range just south of Dallas, OR. The soil type is known as Bellpine, which is sedimentary in origin. The fruit from our 2.85 acre block is wholly Pommard clone. The vineyard was planted in 1980. Wines from this site are the firmest and most structured that we work with. They have great longevity. Approximately 340 cases are produced. The vineyard is owned and managed by Dan & Helen Dusschee.
Meredith Mitchell Vineyard
The vineyard was planted in 1988 to own-rooted Pommard clone. The site is southwest of McMinnville in the coastal foothills. Spacing is 12’ x 6’ with an average elevation of 300’. Soils are shallow with basaltic mother rock only 20 to 30 inches below the soil surface. Consistently producing small clusters and berries this vineyard renders wine which is intense and structured, requiring a bit more aging than may of our sites. Approximately 310 cases are produced. The vineyard is owned and operated by Susan Meredith and Frank Mitchell.