At a recent dinner celebrating “dry-farmed” Oregon wines at Portland’s Southeast Wine Collective, diners listened intently as winemaker Russ Raney explained why he and John Paul decided to form the Deep Roots Coalition.
Evan Roberts from Crowley Wines, Brian O'Donnell from Belle Pente, Katie and Tom Monroe from Southeast Wine Collective, and Russ Raney, founder of Evesham Wood
“Back in the late ‘90s, we were astonished by the number of vineyards that were going into the Willamette Valley with irrigation,” said Raney, who is the founding winemaker at revered Oregon winery Evesham Wood. The Willamette Valley, which gets 42 inches of rainfall a year, seemed like one place that you shouldn’t need to irrigate—or so believed Raney, who had worked on vineyards in Germany, where irrigation is frowned upon. John Paul of Cameron Winery in the nearby Dundee Hills adamantly agreed. Not only was the duo passionate about conserving water, they aspired to make complex, place-driven wines. In 2004, they formed a small collective of winemakers who spurn irrigation, relying on natural rainfall alone. They called it the Deep Roots Coalition, in honor of the way non-irrigated vines’ roots sink deep into the soil in search of moisture.
My story on the merits of dry-farming vineyards—both for the planet and the palate—appears in the winter issue of Modern Farmer.