Kathken Vineyards
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Great vineyards are not just about grapes and vine. They are also about emotion and memory. They are about special events in places that leave impressions in our hearts. That is what a great vineyard is all about.
Kathken Vineyards is a quiet, secluded 51 acre vineyard in the fir covered Eola Hills, just 7 miles west of Salem. The site is at 700 ft to 900 ft with a south west exposure. We have 40 acres in producing vines, 34 acres of Pinot Noir (various clones but predominately Pommard and Wad-ensvil) and 6 acres of Pinot Gris. All plants are on a Geneva Double Curtain or a Carbonneau"Open Lyre" trellis system, which is high maintenance but, coupled with our elevation, makes for optimum production and quality. Ken and Kathy Slusser are the owners, managers and working staff of the vineyard and the Bella Vista tasting room.
Between the years of 1970 and 1996, I was the owner/contractor of K & K Development, Inc., a very successful construction company that built and sold custom houses in northern California and Kauai. In 1993, my youngest daughter began her studies at the University of Oregon in Eugene and on one of our visits, we attended a function at a winery. After chatting with the winemaker, I fell in love with the idea of owning and operating my own vineyard. In November, 1995, my wife and I bought a 51 acre vineyard near Salem and moved into the Eola Hills of Oregon, considered to be one of the finest Pinot Noir & Pinot Gris growing regions in the country. The vineyard configuration, when we purchased the vineyard, was 24 acres of producing vines – 9 acres of Reisling, 6 acres of Pinot Noir, 6 acres of Chardonnay, and 3 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon. We discovered that the Cabernet never ripened and that the Reisling and Chardonnay did not generate enough income so we began grafting these varietals over to Pinot Noir in 1996 and completed the grafting in 1999. In addition to these improvements, from 1997 to 2000, we planted an additional 16 acres of new fields – 95% Pinot Noir with the remainder in Pinot Gris. The current vineyard consists of 40 total producing acres – 34 acres of Pinot Noir and 6 acres of Pinot Gris.

After 7 years of selling our grapes to Sokol Blosser, Erath, Lange, Willamette Valley Vineyards, Stangeland, Sylvan Ridge/Hinman, & Flying Dutchman, we finally figured out that the money was in the winemaking! I took some courses, drained all the knowledge I could from my fellow winemakers, read a library’s worth of books about winemaking and jumped in with both feet. Our first release was a 2000 Pinot Gris and then a 2001 Pinot Noir. My daughter, Daneen, used her creative talents to establish a label, stock our tasting room with “grape-related” gifts, create brochures and our business cards. The rest, as they say, is history! We now have nine different wines, which include a Late Harvest Pinot Gris and a Pinot Noir port-style wine.
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