Central Oregon is famous for quite a few things: a world class ski resort, the staggeringly good beer, some of the most beautiful lakes on the planet, riding and hiking trails galore, and quite a few more things, too. One thing that doesn't immediately spring to mind, however, is wineries. Central Oregon weather can be unpredictable, making the careful cultivation of delicate grapes challenging in this climate. Yet, with the region's ample sunshine, Maragas Winery and Faith, Hope and Charity Vineyards are thriving.
Faith, Hope and Charity Vineyards is just the beginning for the 315-acre parcel of land in Terrebonne, nestled in the center of a private 1,800-acre valley. Currently, the property is a 15-acre vineyard, tasting room, vacation rental and an event site, with a guest ranch, cottages, an amphitheater and a tournament ski lake on the horizon.
They're growing nine hybrid grapes planted in 2010: LaCrescent, Vignoles, Marechal Foch, La Crosse, Frontenac Gris, Traminette, St. Croix, Leon Millot and Marquette. Winemaker Linda Donovan handcrafts each Faith, Hope and Charity blend and with 11 wines currently produced and more planned, the vineyard is well on its way to becoming a tourist and local destination.
Maragas Winery, established in 1999, is the founding winery and vineyard of Central Oregon, but its history goes back much further than that, as the Maragas family has been in the wine business for hundreds of years.
Founder Doug Maragas says, "In the United States, the Maragas family started a commercial wine grape brokering business and custom crush business in 1941 out of Lodi, Calif. At the same time and long before 1941, our family began growing grapes and making wine in Crete, Greece. My cousin currently manages the family vineyard in Greece."
That historical connection informs how Maragas makes wine today. "I love the product and the old world methods of making wine," he says. "I follow the same methods of winemaking and create the same style of wine that my grandparents followed and their parents, and so on. It's not the most efficient method of making large quantities of wine, but it is in my opinion the best way to make fine robust red wines. That is what we focus on. From organic growing to extended barrel-aged reds, it's a wholesome, natural and captivating product."
When asked why the Maragas family chose Central Oregon for its winery, the answer was simple. "First, we loved the area," Maragas says. "Next, when we came here, there were no vineyards, so the land at that time was less expensive than comparable lands where we could grow grapes. The area is amazingly similar to our family vineyard in Crete - volcanic sandy loam soil, dry summers, and lots of sun," he says. Finally, it was proximate (two to four-hour drive) to some of the greatest grape growing regions in the world. "Consequently," he says, "we could also source grapes from the unique viticultural areas." Even with Central Oregon's similarity to the vineyards of Crete, would the grapes really do very well in our harsh climate? Maragas explains, "Central Oregon is full of microclimates. The grapes that thrive here are for the most part the grapes that are native to the Loire Valley in France: Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc, Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. Additionally, Zinfandel, which arguably originated around Northeast Italy and Croatia, also does very well. Many other grape vine types also grow well here, We have 28 varietals growing in our first block of our vineyard where we did the bulk of our study on growing wine grapes, but these vines have shown the best balance of vigor, grape chemistry, and hardiness for our soil and climate."
The most fascinating thing about Maragas vineyard and winery isn't the varietals or the grapes or the style of growing, but the method in place for the Maragas family. "We all begin when we're children; the techniques of making fine wine are handed down from generation to generation," he says. "No matter the trials and tribulations in life that we encounter, that family bond and the passing on of this knowledge and tradition is the heart of why we make wine."
15523 SW Hwy 97, Culver
Faith, Hope and Charity Vineyards and Event Center
70450 Lower Valley Dr., Terrebonne