Vineyard photo

The Black Hole (Ongoing)

In 2000, Diane Kenworthy returned to her native California. Buddy Beck along with his long-time associate, Angel Martinez, took over the management of the vineyard. Buddy and Angel had worked as a team for many years farming the Domaine Drouhin vineyards across the Willamette Valley in the Dundee Hills AVA. Buddy had recently created Advance Vineyard Systems, a vineyard management company targeting high-quality small and medium sized Oregon vineyards. I remember the first day that Buddy and I walked the vineyard: He knelt down, scooped-up a handful of soil, held it to his nose to smell it, sifted it in his hands, and said, “This is nice dirt, I’d like to farm it for you…” Having gone through three Cat-drivers, I cautiously asked, “How about the rocks?” I don’t recall exactly what he said, but the gist of it was, “Rocks are great for drainage, and that’s how you grow great Pinot noir. We’ll deal with the rocks…” Ten years later, we’re still working together – Deb, me, Buddy, Angel and, of course, the rocks.

It was about that time that Deb gave the project its first name: “Black Hole Vineyard.” We quickly learned that farming on rock is expensive – not surprisingly, farm equipment is made to work in dirt. Dynamite works great in a quarry, but it’s not so good in a vineyard. So… regrettably… we need to do a lot of our work by hand, which is expensive. Apart from the costs of planting and farming Pinot noir, we also faced the problem of being years away from producing any wine quality fruit. In business terms, we were a “cost center”; starting an Oregon vineyard from scratch is an 8-year cash flow nightmare. One day, after writing a pile of checks, Deb remarked, “This place is just a Black Hole, all you ever do is write checks, and nothing ever comes out of it!” Ever diplomatic, I replied, “That has a nice ring to it, let’s name it Black Hole Vineyard.”