I have been thinking a lot about the challenges the wine pioneers* faced before they moved to Oregon to plant a grape vine that “would never grow this far north.” In a 1984 article by Gerald Asher of Gourmet Magazine, David Lett recounted that a Professor of Enology at the University of California, Davis, went so far as to say, “You’ll be frosted out every spring, rained out every fall, and get athlete’s foot up to your knees.” In spite of these warnings and doubts, David and Diana Lett and others such as Dick Erath, Charles Coury, Gary Fuqua, Bill Blosser and Susan Sokol-Blosser, Dick and Nancy Ponzi (just to name a few), said, “we’ll take that chance.” Maybe the professor was right, maybe they would fail, but they had to find out for themselves. They were willing to take the leap of faith. They believed in their vision and they had confidence in their knowledge and abilities to make their vision a reality. Vision and confidence helped them to blaze a new trail that others were curious about, but lacked the courage to take the risk. The early members of the Oregon Wine community did face many challenges, but they banded together with anyone who caught the vision and they worked steadily toward their goal. Today, something that never should have happened is a 2.7 billion dollar industry for the state of Oregon.
The reason I have been thinking about those early wine pioneers is because I too have a vision that some will tell me is impossible. Besides going to Linfield College fulltime to earn a bachelor’s degree in business management, I am also the director of a small nonprofit in my community which focuses on positive youth development. Once I am able to focus all my efforts on the nonprofit organization, I know that I will be facing many of the same challenges and doubts that the wine pioneers faced. I have been inspired by their perseverance and by the camaraderie among the first members of the wine industry. When I am feeling discouraged and uncertain, as I begin to blaze my own uncharted path, I will remember the courage and the confidence of the wine pioneers. I will find others who have the same vision I have for my community and, in spite of the challenges, we will build a lasting legacy that will make our community healthier and stronger for generations to come. Thank you wine pioneers for taking a leap of faith. You have left a wonderful legacy for the state of Oregon and for others who have been inspired to take that same “leap of faith” in order to bring change and prosperity to our communities.
*I know that many of the founding members of the Oregon Wine Industry humbly resist the term “pioneer’ but I find it to be a highly fitting and complimentary term for these brave, intelligent, and talented group of people.
Kathie Byers - Busniess Management Major - Class of 2014
This project is supported in part by a grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust: Oregonians sustaining, developing and participating in our arts, heritage and humanities.