2011, though challenging in many ways, appears to be a year of above average-fruit quality. The vines bore a lot of fruit, and with the late season it became worrisome that all the fruit would ripen, so measures needed to be taken. In a late year like 2010 and 2011, we really ride the razor’s edge, waiting with bated breath to see how ripe the fruit can get before the rainy season begins. In an effort to ensure that fruit fully ripens, it is often necessary to cluster thin, dropping clusters of otherwise perfect grapes in order to ensure that fewer clusters fully ripen and develop concentrated flavors. Often cluster thinning enhances the character and concentration of flavors in the remaining grapes since the vines are stressed and have less fruit to focus their energy on. In the end, the harvest at our 470 acre certified organic vineyard at King Estate can be characterized as a year of lower than typical yields but high quality. It is always a difficult decision to drop so much fruit on the ground, and it comes at a great economic expense, but it is also the only decision if you want to improve quality, harvest good fruit, and ultimately make the best wine possible in a challenging year. The goal is to overcome whatever obstacles are presented to make the best wine we can.
The King Estate solar power project has entered another phase. Bare metal racks are quickly disappearing as workers cover them with high-tech panels that will soon be able to generate energy from the sun.
Read more about the King Estate Solar Vineyard
We are best known for our exceptional wines (obviously), but we also grow and harvest exceptional organic lavender. Garden manager Jessie Russell and her crew care for more than ¾ of an acre of lavender. Varieties include white ‘Cape Blanco,’ a small crop of ‘Provence,’ and our most prevalent variety, ‘Buena Vista.’ ’Buena Vista’ was developed by Dr. Don Roberts, a retired professor from OSU and a lavender farmer himself. It is an exceptional varietal of lavender. Roberts distills the organic King Estate lavender at Premier Botanicals in Independence, Oregon.
This year, the estate produced 3.25 gallons of essential lavender oil which we will use to make lotion, soap, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, and of course essential oil. You can shop for our estate lavender products by clicking here or by visiting the King Estate visitor center.
Watch the video to take a closer look at the lavender harvest and distillation processes:
King Estate is teaming up with SolarCity, a national leader in solar power, as well as Lane Electric Co-op, and Advanced Energy Systems to install the largest solar power system at a winery in the Pacific Northwest. Construction on the 973.84 kilowatt (kW) solar system began this month.
Five years in the making, this is a very exciting time for the winery, the culmination of a lot of hard work between us and our partners in this project. This installation is a collaboration between King Estate and Advanced Energy Systems, which developed the project; SolarCity, which provided financing and integration support; and Lane Electric as the utility partner. The system’s 4,144 solar panels on about 4 acres of land should eliminate more than 38 million pounds of carbon dioxide over the next 25 years. According to estimates provided by the Environmental Protection Agency, this amount is equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 3,381 passenger cars or 1.9 million gallons of gasoline. The King Estate solar power system is large enough to offset the annual power usage of approximately 100 residential homes.
With 1,033 acres, King Estate is home to the world’s largest contiguous organic vineyard. Our organic certification was granted by Oregon Tilth, one of the strictest certifying agencies in the country. We have also been inspected and certified by Salmon-Safe, which recognizes that our farming inputs and practices have no negative impact on salmon and other aquatic life. This is of great importance here at King Estate because the natural springs that begin on our property flow to the Siuslaw river, and some are key tributaries.
To increase awareness of this fish-friendly certification we have partnered with the non-profit Salmon-Safe organization to bring you this exciting contest. All you have to do is pledge to sip Salmon-Safe wine and choose wild instead of farmed fish. You’ll be entered to win a year long membership in the King Estate Tower Club and a year’s supply of wild Bristol Bay salmon delivered right to your door.
This year King Estate faced a surprising challenge to our restaurant’s operation. Many of you know first-hand that our restaurant program is built on a firm dedication to support local sustainable agriculture, and it is just one of a great many rising businesses in Oregon’s food and wine industry that promote values like organic farming, fair wages, and fostering a vibrant local economy. In many ways the misguided appeal of our restaurant permit was aimed at senselessly undercutting the rising food and wine industry in Oregon.
With your very, very important support, which came in many forms: petition signatures, letters to legislators, blog comments and more, we undertook a major initiative at the Oregon legislature to protect ourselves and like businesses across this great state. As a result, we were not only able to protect our restaurant but we changed the law for the benefit of all wineries, and even paved the way for a few others in the state to establish their own full service restaurants. It was a profound success that began with a collective effort to speak up for common sense, for the future, and for responsible job creation.
Our friend Laurin Huse, the Rehabilitation Director at Cascades Raptor Center, arrived at King Estate Winery on a breezy but sunny day with four boxes. Each box contained a rehabilitated 4-month-old barn owl that came to the Cascades Raptor Center as an orphan. Some baby birds were only days old when they arrived at the center. Once they arrived at CRC the birds were paired with an adult owl foster mom who taught them everything they needed to know to survive in the wild. When they proved they can survive in the wild by demonstrating their ability to catch live prey in a specialized hunting enclosure, these young owls got the opportunity to return to the wild.
The summer season is in full swing at King Estate. Willamette Valley summers are exceptional, and there is never a better time to visit the estate and enjoy lunch with a bottle of wine on our terraces. The spring flowers on our organic fruit trees have transformed into small apples, figs, and cherries soon to be enjoyed by visitors ordering our cheese and fruit plate.
Weddings occur most often during the summer due to the Willamette Valley’s mild weather and King Estate’s beautiful, green vines. With full time event planners on site and catering from our restaurant and bakery, a wedding at the estate is a perfect celebration.
Our inaugural Wine Country 5K was a great success. Two weeks before the event we had to shut down registration due to overwhelming response and to save space for on-site registrants. This being our first year putting on the race, we wanted to make sure we could accommodate the parking needs and keep the runners safe. We ended up with 479 runners and many more spectators. We look forward to building on this success next year and hope you’ll join us! Big thanks to our friends at the Eugene Marathon for helping us put this together.