Youngberg Hill winery, inn and vineyard sits in the heart of natural beauty in McMinnville. The tasting room looks out on 20 acres of vineyards with views of the Cascade Range, Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, and on a clear day, Three Sisters. To the west, the Coast Range is visible just 25 miles away.
For owners Wayne and Nicolette Bailey making wine in this beautiful setting is about more than winning awards. Although Youngberg Hill wines are frequently rated 90-plus by Wine Spectator and have garner awards from the likes of the NorthWest Wine Summit and San Francisco Chronicle’s International Wine Competition, the Baileys have their eyes on a different prize — stewardship of the land.
Since purchasing the winery in 2003, the Baileys have implemented strict sustainable farming principles. For starters, Youngberg Hill, which was founded in 1989, has been farmed organic since they took over. Although the USDA has not certified the vineyard organic — a process Wayne Bailey said is prohibitively tedious, “we are farming organically without being organically certified,” he said.
And Youngberg Hill has gone even further, achieving LIVE and Salmon Safe certifications in 2005. LIVE certification denotes international standards of sustainable viticultural and enological practices in wine-grape and wine production. Salmon Safe designation demonstrates that Youngberg Hill uses practices that protect water quality and fish habitat. The Oregon Wine Board certified Youngberg Hill’s winery and wines as sustainable. Youngberg Hill is now working toward biodynamic certification, an even higher standard than organic.
For Wayne Bailey, the dedication to green process is rooted in his past. “I am a farm boy from Iowa. By virtue of that I lived during a time when chemical farming became the rage.” Bailey bore witness to the degradation of the land as use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides became the norm. “I grew up with that and have seen how it killed the life on the farm,” he said. He also saw cancer rates spike in the community.
But the Baileys’ commitment to sustainable practices is also rooted in the future. “We are a family farm, like most farms and vineyards in Oregon,” he said. Daughters Natasha, Jordan and Aspen (aged 12, nine and five, respectively) are part of the daily life and work of Youngberg Hill, and, their parents hope, part of the future. “Our goal is that 50 years from now when they are standing here, it will be even healthier than it is today.”
You can sample Youngberg Hill wines at the tasting room, which is open every day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Currently the 2008 Natasha Pinot Noir, 2008 Jordan Pinot Noir, 2009 Estate Pinot Noir and 2009 Chateau Rogue are available for purchase. If you’d like to stay a while, you can book a room at the elegant inn, which plays host to summertime weddings (and elopements), as well as winemaker’s dinners and special events during the year.
However you experience Youngberg Hill, Bailey said you are sure to notice the commitment to place in every sip. “Our wines express the authenticity of where they come from.”