From vine to wine: Hanson Vineyards derives from a sense of place

September 2010 Posted in Food & Drink

By Kristine ThomasJason and Clark Hanson’s motto is from “vine to wine” at Hanson Vineyards.

When searching for a reason to return to the West Coast, Jason Hanson never thought he would land where he did.

A 1991 graduate of Silverton High School, Hanson left his family’s farm in Monitor to receive his bachelor’s degree from Ithaca College in New York and master’s degree at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He spent 18 years on the East Coast working various jobs with his last at a political research firm.

His father, Clark, had dabbled in amateur winemaking for more than 40 years but when he started hand-digging a wine cellar, his family members began to question if the hobby was something more serious.

“In my search for a reason to come back to the Pacific Northwest, I hadn’t really thought about starting a business or farming for that matter,” Jason said. “But when I saw how far my father had come with this hobby and how much effort he was putting into it, the idea practically leapt off the page.”

Clark and Jason Hanson started Hanson Vineyards in Monitor almost five years ago with Jason becoming the fourth-generation for farm the land owned by his family since 1905.

“Over the years, we have grown clover, hops, berries, grass seed, walnuts and wheat,” he said. They currently have 8 acres total in Pinot noir, Pinot gris and Riesling grapes and plan to add more acres this fall.

Since he was 6 years old, Jason has worked for his family and local farmers – picking berries, training vines and hauling pipe.

“Back then, my folks raised walnuts so every fall was filled with crawling around in the mud, picking them up,” Jason, 37, said.

Now his autumns are busy working in the vineyard and winery. This year, he said, the grapes won’t be ready to harvest until late October. “We didn’t even have sun until July so that put everything behind,” he said.

What he enjoys about growing grapes and making wine with his father is that every day is different and brings new challenges.

Clark said he began making wine in 1968 because he saw the berries going to waste.

“Making wine is fun to do because it’s an ever-changing process,” Clark said. “It’s a mixture of both science and art and if you try to embrace just one side of the equation, you are going to miss something.”

“We have a hands-on philosophy at Hanson Vineyards,” Jason said. “I think the wineries in the East Willamette Valley are more hands-on with their winemaking and vineyards because we are smaller.”

He also said wines made at East Willamette Valley wineries are gaining recognition and are winning awards at competitions. The Hanson 2007 Pinot noir won a gold medal at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition in New York and Outstanding Oregon Pinot noir from the Oregon Wine Awards.

“We’ll never be a big winery, nor do we want to be,” Jason said. “We hope that the wines we make… very artisanal, old-world style in small quantities… will remind people of the family farm. We’ve been here along the banks of Butte Creek for four generations and we believe that our wines reflect that.”

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