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Carl Dauenhauer stands in his decades-old vineyard on the family property in Dayton.

By Rusty Rae

Some 40 years ago, Carl Dauenhauer, plowing a section of land on Walnut Hill, stopped his tractor. He leaned back, put his feet on the dash and surveyed his surrounding property. It was the tail-end of the stagflation recession of the ’70s, and he marveled at the beauty of the land, his family’s homestead.

But as much as he enjoyed farming, it didn’t prove lucrative. He remembers asking himself, “What’s in it for Carl?” in half-prayer, half-frustration. “I decided, at that moment, there had to be something different from what it was at the time.”

So, Dauenhauer started propagating vines. “Back then, there wasn’t anybody selling wine plants,” he notes with a chuckle.

A native of Ballston, Dauenhauer acquired a taste for wine while serving in the Army. He was injured in Korea, a non-combat impairment that sent him to Tokyo General Hospital for treatment. Once on the mend, Dauenhauer was able to leave the ward and explore the city. “The Ginza was only a couple of blocks from the hospital,” he recalls. “I really didn’t acquire a taste for saké, but with the exchange rate the way it was then, there was plenty of French wine; that’s how I learned to drink Burgundy.”

In 1957, he married the love of his life, Lores, in McMinnville. A year later, when his father broke his back, the couple moved to the Dayton homestead and started farming. At one time, they were cultivating 1,600 to 2,400 acres. The land wasn’t all theirs, but they grew corn, wheat, beans, strawberries and raised cattle, too.

Finally, Dauenhauer planted his vine starts around 1980.

“We were friends with Dick Erath — we bought wine from him. He was our first customer, and our grapes went to him for the first seven years,” Dauenhauer says.

In 1987, his grape buyer advised Dauenhauer to wait — and wait some more; it was a terrible year for ripening. He recalls, “Then one day, the grapes grew hair, and that’s how I lost 125 tons of Pinot Noir. And that’s why we built the winery.”

They named it Hauer of the Dauen— pronounced Hour of the Dawn and derived from the family moniker. In 1999, Dauenhauer received his first official winery license. “Everything was set in my mind at that time as to what we were going to do,” he says. They began entering competitions and going to shows. The tasting room is a showcase to the many medals and awards the brand has earned.

Hauer of the Dauen Winery has won many local festival and wine society awards over the years.

Hauer of the Dauen makes and markets its own brand, but Dauenhauer still sells most of his fruit as well as produces bulk wine for the general market. Originally, he produced wine only from the excess fruit. “We’d do about 100 cases a year and managed to get rid of it to the family. Fortunately, I have many, many cousins.” He quips, “If you really want a critic, just give it to your family.”

Today, Hauer of Dauen offers a treasure trove priced for the common man — the most expensive bottle is $20 — and includes seven varieties: Pinot Noir, Lemburger, Gamay Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer. The wines are available at the tasting room, and in some grocery stores and restaurants.

Dauenhauer turns 85 this November — Lores died in 2017 at age 80. Though other family members are integral to the operation, particularly at harvest, he’s still “stirring the pot” as the main force behind the winery. The whole family has worked at the facility and during harvest; at some point in the future, he says his two sons will purchase the property and continue the family business.

“I never had a vision that I would ever accomplish anything other than being a good steward of the land,” he says in retrospect.

Indeed, you can taste the stewardship in the wines he produces at the modest tasting room in Dayton, where time seems to stand still, the air is just a little fresher and one can find a sense of serenity in nature.

As he notes, “The hours of dawn — God gives you another day.”

“I never had a vision that I would ever accomplish anything other than being a good steward of the land.”

—Carl Dauenhauer

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