The allure of the Yamhill Valley
The reasons people flock to the Yamhill Valley are as varied as the geographic diversity of the region. From lush valleys to forested mountains, from quaint towns to the nearby Oregon coast, the area offers something for everyone. And since the Yamhill Valley has secured its reputation for world-class wines, perhaps it’s not surprising so many folks wish to establish permanent homes here — with plans to enjoy the valley’s wine-related pleasures or even to create the celebrated nectar of the vine themselves. That people are attracted to Oregon’s Wine Country is obvious. Why they’re relocating might be more intriguing.
“I moved to McMinnville to plant grapes and make great wine,” said Kellen Lignier. A native of El Paso, Texas, Lignier grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico before she moved to Nuits-Saint-Georges in the heart of France’s famed Burgundy region. There, she and her husband, Romain, operated a respected winery in an estate home dating from the 1600s. When her husband died after an illness, Lignier gathered her children, Lucie and Auguste, and headed for Yamhill County.
"There is no doubt that, if I bought a plot of land here, in four years I could have good grapes and produce excellent wine,” said Lignier. She said the valley’s superb terroir lends itself to exceptional winemaking. But she also noted the local people. “Folks are committed to good stewardship and healthy living here,” Lignier said. “It’s a sane community.”
Winemaker Chris Berg reinforced Lignier’s sentiments, emphasizing the Yamhill Valley’s geography, soils and location on the 45th parallel. But he also reflects on the region’s wine roots. “It was that little cluster of winemakers sharing an agrarian lifestyle in the 1970s and ‘80s,” said Berg. “It’s blossomed into a family and community.” He was attracted to the spirit of adventure and individualism of the area’s wine pioneers. “They truly had a sense they could take risks and do what they wanted,” he said.
Originally from Lawrence, Kansas, Berg founded Roots Wine Company along with his wife, Hilary, in 2002. Berg extols the sense of community throughout the area today. “For me, life in the valley is sharing information with other winemakers, sharing meals and the strong sense of family here,” he said.
Henry Kass and his wife, Rose, found their way to the Yamhill Valley by word-of-mouth. “I kept hearing about this exceptional city, this remarkably well-planned town of McMinnville,” said Kass, from Rochester, New York. A retired government and public administration professor with stints at a number of universities, Kass was intrigued by what he heard — his fields of study meant he knew quite a bit about running a city. And it didn’t hurt that the couple was already familiar with Oregon wines. “We fell in love with Oregon wines by drinking them,” said Kass.
When they first arrived in the area, the Kasses settled in Lake Oswego, where they further explored the world of local wines. The couple eventually settled at McMinnville’s Hillside Retirement Community. “It may have been Providence that we ended up in the Yamhill Valley,” said Kass.
Whatever the reason, the delights of the Yamhill Valley are abundant and diverse for those who choose to settle here — or simply to visit. Either way, we’re certain your visit to Oregon Wine Country will be an unforgettable experience. Who knows? You might even decide to stay awhile.