What began simply as a way to “get back to the land” after a decades long departure from ranching roots in Colorado, MonksGate Vineyard has become the heart-and-soul expression of our devotion to responsible farming and the crafting of premium wines. Our 50-acre farm is located in the now-acclaimed Yamhill-Carlton AVA of Oregon’s Northern Willamette Valley where we, and subsequently our daughter and Second-Generation farmer Rebecca, were drawn to the maritime climate of cool nights, warm dry summer days and, of course, the opportunity to produce stellar wines!
Our vineyard site enjoys moderate elevation changes of 200 to 460 feet on predominantly south to southwest slopes allowing for even ripening across the blocks, which is useful in inclement years. The predominant soil type is Willakenzie, a silty clay loam over siltstone, although the gophers give rise to occasional piles of bright red clay-based soils found in the hills of a neighboring region adding to the diversity of our site. Mother Nature does our irrigating and we practice sustainable farming methods to ensure that the land will be environmentally and economically viable for generations to come.
And we have been “blessed” so to speak in our neighbors as well. Our property abuts that owned by a nearby Trappist Abbey whose monks had for years walked across our land as a form of meditation and who, after an unexpected chance encounter with us when two monks appeared from among our trees, became a source of historical knowledge about the local flora and fauna. They watched with pleasure as we began the daunting task of taming the acreage that had been claimed by 30-foot high fir trees, 20-foot high scrub oak and Oregon’s weed of choice, blackberries. And, yes, we did install a gateway, complete with statue of Saint Francis of Assisi, in the deer fencing to assure the monks may continue their contemplative walks unimpeded. Thus, a name was born!
Photogallery rendered here.
ESTABLISHING OUR MONKS GATE VINEYARD
Ron & Linda left Napa on a warm, clear blue sky day in October of 1998, arriving in Carlton, Oregon to overcast skies and a slight drizzle. The 10 degree temperature difference and the “bit” more rain that they had been tracking for three years while making their decision to move north was suddenly a chilly, wet reality.
They were, however, the proud owners of 50 acres of over- grown Christmas trees, scrub oak and 18’ high blackberry bushes. A wonderful old barn, or what was left of it, with birdhouses lining each side of the peaked roof and an equally antiquated farm house that had never seen heat not produced by a wood burning stove completed this vision that only a new owner could look on with pride.
1999 was a very long year of land clearing and, when they weren’t too tired to dream, of envisioning what the slopes they were slowing uncovering would look like with grape vines marching smartly across them. Winter rains caught them before they were ready to plant so their first delivery of 3,400 plants had to be put to bed for the winter in a make shift nursery in what was then the machine shop and is now the tasting room.
Spring 2000 found them with Willakenzie soil caked on their shoes and under their fingernails but their first vines where going in the ground! Their planting foreman, rolling his eyes all the while, let them plant the first vine then kindly moved them out of harm’s way and planting began in earnest. A crew of 8 men with clam shell post hole diggers hand dug all 3,400 holes. They were followed by a crew of seven men and women -- planting, tamping, staking and putting sleeves on each tender vine.
2001, 2002 & 2003 were a succession of planting, trellising, nurturing AND MONKSGATE'S FIRST COMMERCIAL HARVEST. More planting, trellising, nurturing and, of course, swelling with pride as each new block of vines went into the ground. Each year found the vines reaching out of their grow tubes for training wires, next into catch wires and finally topping the trellis system and needing to be hedged.
Summer and fall of 2004 was round two of land clearing, including approximately 20 acres of abandoned Fir trees that had been planted on five by five spacing and had grown to 30' high with six to eight inch diameters. They contracted to have the trees removed but were left with 36,000 (yes, 36 thousand!) stumps. With a rented excavator and several months of very long days, Ron & Linda finished digging the stumps just in time to get the winter cover crop down before the rains began.
2007 was the final year of planting. Three more acres of Pinot Noir and two acres of Riesling rounded out the now 20 acre vineyard and they were ready to devote all of their attention to sustainable farming and providing outstanding fruit to their contracting wineries and winemakers - including that for the MonksGate label.