Owners Donna Morris & Bill Sweat moved to Oregon in 2006 and purchased a 20 acre property in the Dundee Hills. The winery and estate vineyard name is Winderlea, a name derived from combining the word “wind” and “lea” meaning field or meadow.
A. The estate vineyard Winderlea (originally named Dundee Hills Vineyard in 1974) was planted in the 70s making it one of the oldest vineyards in the region. It’s prime elevation of 450 to 580 feet and south and southwesterly aspect creates a near perfect spot to produce world class Pinot noir.
B. In addition to Winderlea’s home estate vineyard, Winderlea is now farming a 50 acre property planted to 24 acres of Pinot noir and Chardonnay just 2 miles down the road which they named Worden Hill Vineyard for the road on which Winderlea and the Worden Hill Vineyard sit. Worden Hill Vineyard also has plantings dating back to the late 70s and has expansive views and exposure to the Coast Range. This 2021 Winderlea Worden Hill Vineyard Pinot noir is Winderlea’s first release of Pinot noir from this site.
3. Winderlea Winemaking Philosophy:
A. Winemaking is led by winegrower Bill Sweat and consulting winemaker Robert Brittan. Winderlea seeks to produce wines of elegance rather than power. To that end we use cool fermentations (under 80 degrees), gentle punch downs, only French oak of which a modest percentage of it new (25% or less). We strive to purchase once used Chardonnay barrels for our Pinot noir as well (a little house secret). We typically age our Pinot noir for 10 to 12 months in barrel before we bottle and age in bottle 3 to 18 months before we release.
4. Our Sustainability:
A. Winderlea strives to be a sustainable business in all that we do from farming to our commitment to the community. Winderlea was just the 4th winery in the world to receive B Corp Certification in April of 2015. A gold-level recipient of Travel Oregon’s Sustainable Business Challenge, Winderlea’s own path towards sustainability is reliant on three key pillars: responsible agriculture, biodynamic farming, and energy-efficient facilities. Together, these tactics ensure that Winderlea’s wines are made with respect to the Earth – now and for generations to come.
B. In 2009 we began Biodynamic® farming on the Winderlea vineyard. Owner, Bill Sweat, leads the biodynamic farming on our estate vineyard. Biodynamic farming practices refer to a holistic approach that combines intense organic farming practices with unique preparations that stimulate plant and biological life. This process is said to bring the farm into balance with the natural rhythms of the earth, sun, moon, and neighboring planets, increasing natural output and quality. Winderlea received Demeter Biodynamic® Certification as of March 2015. We received Certification for both grape growing and winemaking.
Timeline of Key Dates
1974 – The Beginnings
The Bauers Family start planting what will eventually be 16.5 acres of Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Gamay on their 20-acre parcel in the Dundee Hills, on Worden Hill Road. They name the vineyard the Dundee Hills Vineyard. Over the next 20 years, the Bauers sell this fruit to Elk Cove Winery, Rex Hill Winery, and Adelsheim Winery.
1999 – The Bauer’s Family sells the Vineyard to the Goldschmidt Family
Over the next few years, the Goldschmidts will remove the Cabernet, Merlot, and Gamay and replace those blocks and vines with Pinot noir. By 2004, the entire 16.5 net planted acres will be Pinot noir.
November 2005—Winderlea Wine Company, LLC is formed and receives Bonded Winery Number 365.
After spending weeks at a time in the Willamette Valley searching for a vineyard site during 2004 and 2005, Donna and Bill file for a bonded winery license in order to start operations with the 2006 vintage.
May 2006—Bill and Donna are shown the former Dundee Hills/Goldschmidt Vineyard which is now for sale.
November 2006 – Bill and Donna purchase and close on the Dundee Hills/Goldschmidt vineyard site.
The vineyard is re-named Winderlea Vineyard and produces its first vintage for Winderlea, a mere 600 cases including 200 cases from their new estate and 400 cases sourced from purchase fruit from neighbor Vivian Weber
Jan 2007—Winderlea takes over farming of the Winderlea Vineyard.
In addition to producing Pinot noir from the Winderlea Vineyard, Winderlea seeks out Chardonnay sources to add to its selection of wines. Winderlea establishes grape purchase contracts for Chardonnay from the Hyland Vineyard in McMinnville and the Carabella Vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains.
September 2007 – Winderlea breaks ground for it’s estate tasting room on the vineyard on Worden Hill Road.
Winderlea Vineyard & Winery, Dundee Hills AVA, Willamette Valley, Oregon
March 2008 – Winderlea establishes organic farming practices on the Winderlea Vineyard.
May 2008 – Winderlea opens its estate tasting room and releases its first wine over Memorial Day weekend.
Winderlea leads the way with a contemporary and sustainably built tasting rooms and is the first winery in Oregon to install EV Car chargers. As Winderlea invites guests to the tasting room, it designates 100% of it’s tasting fees towards iSalud!, the organization that provides healthcare services to Oregon’s vineyard workers and their families.
July 2008 – Winderlea launches its Summertime Friday Lunches, a first for the area.
March 2009—Winderlea establishes Biodynamic® farming and winemaking practices.
September 2009 – New Wines Identified for 2009 Vintage
Winderlea produces its first ever Rosé of Pinot noir and identifies blocks of the vineyard for new estate bottlings (Legacy, from the original 5 acres of own rooted Pinot noir and Imprint a 100% whole cluster wine made by winegrower Bill Sweat).
March 2010—New Vineyard Contracts established by Winderlea
With a desire to expand it’s offering, Winderlea established long term grape contracts with Dundee Hills neighbors Maresh Vineyard, Murto Vineyard and Juliard Vineyard. Outside of the Dundee Hills AVA, contracts are established with Shea Vineyard in Yamhill-Carlton; Crawford
Beck Vineyard in Eola-Amity Hills and the Meredith Mitchell Vineyard in the McMinnville AVA.
September 2012—Winderlea establishes their own physical winery operations in the Granary District in McMinnville.
March 2014 – Winderlea signs a long term lease and takes on farming for the Meredith Mitchell Vineyard.
Biodynamic farming practices commence at Meredith Mitchell Vineyard
March 2015— Winderlea earns BCorp Certification, becoming just the 4th winery globally to achieve certification.
April 2015 – Winderlea earns Demeter Biodynamic® Certification for grape growing and winemaking.
September 2016 – Winderlea starts sparkling wine program.
2016 Vintage Sparkling Brut released in October 2019.
March 2020 – Winderlea signs a long term lease and takes on farming for the Worden Hill Vineyard in the Dundee Hills.
Biodynamic farming practices commence a Worden Hill Vineyard.
February 2022 – Winderlea brings a flock of heritage Shetland Sheep onto Winderlea and Worden Hill vineyard to enhance biodynamic practices.