I have been following Knudsen Vineyards (pronounced Kuh-NUDE-sen) wines since the beginning in 2013, but
had not visited the vineyard or met with Page Knudsen Cowles, who along with two of her three brothers, are
carrying on the legacy of Cal Knudsen. The Knudsen Vineyards story and reviews of the winery’s Pinot Noir
and Chardonnay have been featured in past issues of the PinotFile: www.princeofpinot.com/article/1586/ and
To summarize briefly, C. Calvert “Cal” Knudson was a Weyerhaeuser timber products executive with a dream
of growing grapes and making wine. In 1971, he and his spouse Julia Lee bought a 200-acre walnut orchard in
the Dundee Hills. He was convinced that the North Willamette Valley could produce still and sparkling wines of
equal quality to the great wines of Burgundy and Champagne. When Cal planted 30 acres of vines in 1972, the
vineyard became the largest in the Willamette Valley and by 1975, when nearly 60 acres had been established,
it was the largest vineyard in Oregon. In 1975, Cal and Oregon wine pioneer Dick Erath formed Knudsen-Erath
Winery, becoming the first commercial winery in the Dundee Hills. Knudsen-Erath Winery produced Pinot Noir,
Chardonnay, Riesling and sparkling wines and became one of the largest wineries in Oregon.
The Knudsen Erath partnership would dissolve amicably in 1987, so Cal invested in Argyle Winery and
supplied Argyle Winery with grapes. Cal was a sparkling wine enthusiast and Argyle had begun to make
Oregon’s top lineup of sparkling wines under the direction of winemaker Rollin Soles. Knudsen Vineyards has
remained a primary supplier of grapes to Argyle, which has grown to become one of the larger wineries in
Oregon. Knudsen Vineyards has also supplied grapes to other renowned producers of still and sparkling wines
Cal passed away in 2009. Cal and Julia Lee’s four adult children now own Knudsen Vineyards and have
invested significantly in replanting and other enhancements to this historically significant vineyard. Knudsen
Vineyard now consists of 130 planted acres of primarily Pinot Noir (73%) and Chardonnay (24%), with a mix of
old vines and newer, high-density blocks planted to Dijon clones. They launched the Knudsen Vineyards winery
with the release of 100 cases of Pinot Noir from the 2012 vintage. 100 cases of Chardonnay followed the next
I met Page at the quaint cabin located at the top of Knudsen Vineyard. We took a driving tour of the vineyard
and then tasted some Knudsen Vineyard wines at the cabin. She is a Yale graduate with an MBA from Harvard,
and lives in Minneapolis, but manages the marketing and sales of the winery through frequent visits to Oregon.
She meets regularly with her brothers to formulate business plans.
She explained that the Knudsen Vineyards Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are vinified at Argyle Winery by current
winemaker Nate Klosterman, Soles’ protégé. Production has been increased to a projected 1125 cases in
2016. The nearby Erath winery and tasting room is on Knudsen property and the lease expires in 2018. The old
winery is no longer viable. Page said that there are plans to establish a tasting room at some point but it is
uncertain if the Erath facility will be used.
The 2014 Knudsen Vineyards Dundee Hills Oregon Pinot Noir was released in August. Mailing list members
get first crack at buying the Knudsen Vineyards wines. Visit www.knudsenvineyards.com. Tours of the vineyard
and tasting is available by appointment.
2014 Knudsen Vineyards Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.52, 560 cases, $55, screwcap. Clones 667, 777 and
115 planted in 1994-2004 in Jory soil at 570 to 810 feet elevation. Aged
15 months in French oak barrels, 25% new.
Moderately light reddish
purple color in the glass. A very gracious wine with vibrant aromas of
cherry compote, Asian spice and a hint of graham. On the palate, there
is impressive purity of dark cherry and blueberry fruit flavors with a
savory thread in the background. The interplay of fruit and savory
elements give the wine a special credence. The tannins are suave, the
oak is deftly integrated, the thirst-quenching, lengthy finish is fueled with
vivid, tangy cherry goodness.