Oregon Bounty 2006 Day Four: Central Oregon – You Want To Do What?
Today is a bit of a homecoming for me. I’m in Central Oregon, where I was born and raised. A lot has changed here over the past 45 years. Growing up, we had to drive 20 miles for a special night out, and that was at the region’s one pizza parlor, on the south side of Bend. Today you can eat meals here that rival the best you’d find in Portland’s top restaurants.
The redefining of Central Oregon has come in phases, led by individuals who took risks and defied the odds. John Gray developed Sunriver in a place that seemed at the time to be in the middle of nowhere. Bill Healy took a mountain where you couldn’t go directly from hotel room to lift chair, and turned Bend into a winter destination. Today, Doug Maragas hopes to take a bare patch of land north of Redmond and make Central Oregon a winegrowing region.
Doug knows there are plenty of naysayers. But, there was a chorus of detractors in the late 60s and early 70s who said people like David Lett, Dick Ponzi, Dick Erath and others were nuts for thinking you could grow Pinot noir in the Willamette Valley.
I toured the spot where Doug hopes that vines will one day greet visitors arriving in Central Oregon from the north. He believes he’s found a microclimate that, with some careful tinkering with varietals and farming practices, will produce fine wines. While you’d think that the first ones in line to poo poo his plans would be the long time farming families who’ve tilled this ground for generations, Doug says they’ve talked about following his lead. Wine grapes — just like hay — are a commodity. If they can double the yield on their annual crops, well, money talks. So, they’ve watched the nouveau red barn rising out of the desert — soon to be home to Maragas Winery — with more than just passing interest.
During Oregon Bounty, Doug is featuring tastings of his recent vintages at the new winery. Check out the Central Oregon section of traveloregon.com/bounty and go to Winery Events. To see a video diary of my experiences today, just click on the video window here.
Or, read about my reflections of growing up in Central Oregon and how times and places have changed.
I’m back on the road today, headed for Southern Oregon. I’ll catch up with you tomorrow.
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