When talking to one of Oregon’s original wine growers, I learned something about the human pioneering spirit, namely that it never diminishes. Dick Erath started selling Oregon wine from a card table in his garage. Now he lives perched on a hill with a view of some of the most noted vineyards in the world, evidence of an industry that he helped to build.
I asked him if he ever thinks about his role in founding a new and celebrated wine region.
“Nope,” he says without hesitation.
And I believe he answers this way partly due to his confidence and humility, and partly because he doesn’t take the time to reflect. He’s too busy following his curiosity.
Now that he’s stepped aside from heading the wine label that he built from the ground up, he’s no less enthused about the pursuit to which he dedicated his life. Only he’s returned to his roots. He’s making wine in his garage, one barrel at a time. “You can experiment more when you’re working with small lots.”
And he’s not really retired from his other life pursuit either: he’s still working on building new wine regions from scratch. He partners with the Bostocks in Arizona, where they’re searching for just the right varieties to bring that rising wine region into wider acclaim. A few days after we met, Erath planned to travel to the Puglia region of Italy to investigate different, rare varietals that might fare well under Arizona’s harsh conditions.
Dick Erath’s pioneer days are far from over.