David Adelsheim and Chehalem Mountain
David Adelsheim and his wife, Ginny Adelsheim, drew the world’s attention to Chehalem Mountain when they established the region’s first winery in 1971 called Adelsheim Vineyard. Unlike other early wine pioneers in Oregon, David had no formal education in wine; everything he accomplished with Adelsheim Vineyard was a product of all the advice he got from early vintners in the region.
Adelsheim purchased 19 acres of land in Yamhill County, which earned him a place on the list of the first ten families to make wine in Willamette Valley. Many have attributed his quick adaptation to the wine world to his earlier engagement in the army, where he worked in personnel management. His growth rocked Oregon’s wine industry as he swiftly made his way to the top.
Highlights from David’s early undertakings include working at the Lycée Viticole in France and the prestigious Eyrie Vineyard. He served as president of the Oregon Winegrowers Association and chairman of the Oregon Wine Board. His influence was pivotal in helping Oregon State University import Burgundy clones and getting German and French scientists to share their clones with winemakers in Oregon.
When David Adelsheim arrived in Oregon seeking a site for his vineyard, there was no way of telling what area was best and what soil would yield the desired result. The common practice was to avoid areas on the valley floor because the soil is prone to frost. The climate in Oregon is cooler than that of California and resembles Northern France.
Picking the Perfect Location
While scouting for the right place to plant grapes, early grape growers, including David Adelsheim, opted for hillsides with gentle slopes and preferably slopes facing south.
Did You Know: A south-facing exposure allows the vines to catch as much sunlight as possible. This is very important in cold climate regions where grapes can have difficulty ripening.
Since David Lett’s vineyard has “jory loam soil,” it was only logical for Adelsheim to follow suit. This was how he wound up in the Chehalem Mountains in May 1971. For David, situating his winery in Chehalem was driven by the area’s suitable elevations, exposure, and soil type.
As a wine pioneer, David was involved in virtually every event that shaped Oregon’s wine industry. He is LIVE certified, and his wines have consistently made it to the list of top 100 wines in the United States and across the globe.
He has been very active in bringing diversity into the wine industry and has championed causes that are instrumental in easing clonal importation and creating wine events geared toward reinforcing Oregon’s position in the wine world. His influence is also felt in the areas of wine labeling regulations and ensuring that Oregon wines adopt the highest standards for winemaking and grape growing. One can confidently say that David Adelsheim played a crucial role in the modern wine industry of Oregon.
Read: The Willamette Valley AVAs
To appreciate his landmark efforts in putting Oregon wines in the global spotlight and laying a solid foundation for other winemakers, he was honored with Lifetime Achievement Award by Oregon Wine Board in 2012. Thanks to David’s (alongside other wine pioneers’) efforts in setting the best standards in winemaking, organizing events, and AVAs, Oregon now boasts over 300 wineries and 500+ vineyards.
Dive Deeper: Willamette Valley Wine Tours
On this day in history
June 4, 2021 — David Adelsheim hosted the founders of Oregon‘s first ten wineries at Quarter Mile Lane Vineyard in Newberg. This iconic event was to celebrate friendship and the families’ successes and mark the 50th anniversary of the purchase of Adelsheims’ first vineyard.
August 30, 1812 — Town builder, writer, adventurer, and renowned Hungarian-American pioneer winemaker Agoston Haraszthy was born on this day. He is dubbed “the father of California wine” and a wine pioneer in California and Wisconsin. He is the founder of Buena Vista Winery and the first to establish a vineyard in Wisconsin. Haraszthy introduced over 300 varieties of European grapes to California.
Visit Adelsheim on the Early History Willamette Valley Wine Tour through Wine History Tours.
Want to read more? Try these books!
- “People To Know: David Adelsheim – Winespeed”. 2022. Winespeed. https://winespeed.com/people-to-know/david-adelsheim/.
- “Adelsheim Hosts Historic Gathering Of The Founders Of The First Ten Wineries In Oregon’S North Willamette Valley — Adelsheim.” 2022. Adelsheim. https://www.adelsheim.com/learn/foundersdinner.
- “Wine Business – Home Page For The Wine Industry.” 2022. Secure.Winebusiness.Com. https://secure.winebusiness.com/profile/1015038/david-adelsheim.
Photo attribution: David Adelsheim, courtesy of Adelsheim vineyard