Originally published July 25, 2017 in LifeGrid Magazine
By Karla Erovick
While relatively new to producing wine from the lovely Chehalem Mountains, owners Ken and Celia Austin aren’t new to agriculture. Ken’s family has been involved in Oregon agriculture and hospitality for seven generations. Their purchase of property for Rain Dance Ranch was intended to raise llamas, preserve the land, and grow agricultural crops.
It was 2009 before they decided to plant vineyards and grow grapes. At first, they were content to sell their grapes to other wineries but in 2013 they made the decision to produce their own wine, in part by the encouragement of a winemaker who was making wine from their grapes for another winery. Bryan Weil (from Alexana) put the bug in the Austin’s ear about making their own wine with his help and the rest is history.
The Austin’s consider themselves stewards of the land with a focus on immaculate farming, paying close attention to every detail on their property, gentle winemaking, and agricultural preservation. Today, Rain Dance is home to 120 acres of farmland including 73 under vine, wildlife corridors, preserved native trees and over 100 llamas who add a unique twist to their sustainability program.
Rain Dance Vineyards is a collection of four estate vineyards across 120 acres in the Willamette Valley’s Chehalem Mountains AVA. Each of their four vineyards sites are located on hillsides at varying elevations. These sites are certified through LIVE (Low Impact Viticulture and Enology) and are also Salmon Safe certified, planted in the following varieties: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling and Gewürztraminer.
Grapes are dry farmed sustainably using top vineyard practices such as multiple thinning passes to ensure low yields, careful attention to cover cropping, and balanced pruning. Vine by vine composting is one particularly unique approach used to accommodate the Austin family’s insistence on native tree preservation.
The care that they lavish on their land pays off in the quality of the wine. Each of their artisan-crafted wines reflects the vineyard soil, elevation, exposure to sun, and grape characteristics, and when combined with the alchemy of wine-making produces a beautiful, balanced bottle of wine. The wine-making becomes an extension of what happens in the vineyards, bringing out the unique characteristics of the vintage and the grape itself. When you taste one of their wines, you can almost taste the vineyard. In addition to several Pinot Noir’s, the Willamette Valley’s most famous wine, they also make a Rosé of Pinot Noir, Riesling, Chardonnay, and Gewürztraminer.
The best way to sample their wines is a visit to their tasting room where you will enjoy homegrown wines and gracious hospitality in an elegant country setting. Not only will you taste wine, experience tranquil views from the covered porch and patio, and browse through a selection of artwork and estate woodwork in their tasting room. You’ll be greeted with gracious hospitality – often by one of the owners, and treated to a tasting at the tasting bar, on the covered porch or outdoor patio. Imagine sipping delicious wine while watching llamas stroll past. Afterward, browse a selection of featured artists and owner, Ken Austin’s fine woodwork from reclaimed estate trees.
They are often asked why they chose the name “Rain Dance” for their winery. The Austin’s had recently returned from attending Sun Dance and were seeking a name for their property. It rains a lot in Oregon, so they selected the name “Rain Dance.” It seems wonderfully appropriate.
You can visit them in their tasting room daily from 11 am – 5 pm. They are located at 26355 NE Bell Road in Newberg, Oregon, just minutes from downtown Newberg. Phone +1 (503) 538-0197.
Their current release wines include:
Rain Dance Estate Pinot Noir ($40)
Rain Dance Estate Reserve Pinot Noir ($60)
Nicholas Vineyard Pinot Noir ($50)
Nicholas Vineyard Rosé of Pinot Noir ($22)
Nicholas Vineyard Chardonnay ($30)
Nicholas Vineyard Riesling ($22)
Nicholas Vineyard Gewürztraminer ($27)