Carter Vineyard lies in the Willamette Valley's Eola Hills, on the 45th parallel directly west of Salem, Oregon. To the west across the coastal mountains lies the Pacific Ocean, and to the east the Cascade Mountains. A small arm of the Eola Hills ridge reaches southwest into Polk County, terminating in a knoll that commands a sweeping view southward of the valley. The Willamette Valley vineyard is a 30 acre plot of land that fully occupies the knoll.
We purchased the 30 acre cherry orchard that was to become Carter Vineyard in 1979, the same year our second child, Lauren, was born. So it's always been easy to remember how old the vineyard is. In 1980 we planted an experimental acre of everything we could get our hands on, and quickly came to realize that Pinot Noir does well at the site. In 1983 we planted 2.5 acres of the Wadensvil clone and a like amount of the Pommard clone, both on their own roots. The Pommard is planted across the crest of the knoll, and is the section of the Oregon vineyard from which our Hillblock Pommard comes. Subsequent plantings in 1987 and 2000 brought us up to 22 acres of grapes. They are all Pinot Noir, and include, in addition to the Pommard and Wadensvil, clones 115, 667, and 777, and are all planted on rootstock.
In 1990 we began selling grapes to Ken Wright who was making wine for his own Panther Creek Winery and for Domaine Serene Winery. We have had a long and "fruitful" relationship with Ken, and still sell the bulk of our grapes to him at Ken Wright Cellars. Our Hillblock Pommard went to Domaine Serene, and they made lovely wine with it, in their Evenstad Reserve, and from 1999 to 2001, as a separate vineyard designation available only at the winery. With the 2002 vintage we elected to use these grapes for our own wine.
The soil is a shallow silty clay loam known as Nekia. It's a well drained soil frequently found in foothills and rolling uplands. Under the top 30 inches of soil is fractured decaying basalt, a relic of Oregon's violent volcanic past. The shallowness of the soil forces the grapes to struggle a little for survival by digging their roots down in the crumbling basalt. As the basalt deteriorates, it releases minerals that are taken up by the plants and reflected in the flavors of the grapes.
The Willamette Valley's climate is dramatically influenced by the nearby Pacific Ocean. Winter storms bring about 35 to 40 inches of rain each year, but also keep temperatures above freezing most of the time. In summer there is little rain. Cool breezes flow through the Van Duzer Corridor, a pass through the coast range, moderating valley temperatures so that they seldom exceed 85 degrees. The combination of cool temperatures and plentiful sunshine produces fruit that is brilliantly colored, deeply flavored, and with enough acidity and tannin to preserve these qualities.
We are in this for the long term. Our effort is to grow excellent grapes in a manner that preserves and nourishes the soil. We use only cover crops and composted manure as fertilizers, and our spray programs use minimal amounts of the mildest products we can find while still preventing mildew and botrytis. We have planted several flower beds and allow a healthy growth of weeds to encourage beneficial insects. Judging by the bug and frog life we find in the vineyard, we have been successful. We also collect winter rain from the roof of the barn and store it in underground tanks to use in summer vineyard operations. Since 2006 we have been certified under Oregon's LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology) program as using internationally accepted sustainable growing practices.
Carter Vineyard is managed by Mark Gould.