A TIP-OFF FROM THE FRENCH
After several calls from the French who wanted to purchase our 70 acres of south-facing slopes, Robin Pfeiffer learned they wanted the land for wine grapes. The family sold their sheep, and planted grapevines. “The only thing we knew about wine grapes was that we liked wine and dried grapes were called raisins,” noted Robin Pfeiffer. However, he learned after careful analysis that their site was ideal for grapes.
New to the industry and with timber growing on the property, the Pfeiffer family chose to harvest what was needed to serve as the trellising posts for the vineyard. Each post was cut, peeled and pounded by hand. “The hand peeling process took an entire summer, before we could stack the posts to dry, and then be treated,” recalls Robin.
NAVIGATING ROWS WITH THE NORTH STAR
The strategy for planting the vineyard was just as painstaking. As the vineyard was laid out, using the North Star as a point of reference, Robin meticulously planned for straight rows – one after another. The first line was drawn with a tractor. Each row after was based on the proceeding row with the tractor digging each line. What the family envisioned and what they ended up with was quite different; however, in hindsight, they wouldn’t change it for anything. Currently, the vineyard rows have a gentle “S” shape to them.
The planting of the vines was to be equally spaced. Each person took a piece of string and tied a knot part way down serving as the spacing distance between each planted vine. “Well, each person tied a somewhat different length and therefore, our plants don’t line up perfectly.” No worries, the wines produced from this vineyard are spectacular. It’s as if the grapes preferred this situation. Total number of vines at Pfeiffer Vineyards equals 38,500.
The entire operation was a family affair. “Everyone helped out. Mom and Dad lived on the property until they passed a few years ago. Mom acted as the nurse in the beginning. Dad made the signs for all the rows. Everyone else just pitched in wherever needed,” notes Robin. “I’d describe it as organized chaos.” A testament to the family environment, the Pfeiffer family has 60%-70% of their seasonal workers return every year, many of who have been with the family for more than twenty years.
Robin and his wife Danuta grow the grapes and produce wines that consistently represent and forecast the future of the Oregon wine industry. Their wines have been celebrated by Presidents and Prime Ministers, and neighbors and friends around the world. They developed an on-site winery and tasting room, an enchanting Water Garden where guests can linger for hours, Villa Evening Winemaker Dinners, and an indoor/outdoor Fireplace Pavilion for special events and gatherings or simply roasting marshmallows over a glass of Pinot Noir. You will find them most days chatting with visitors or working in the vineyard.
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