Marks Ridge Winery

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Marks Ridge Winery

Marks Ridge would appear to be Oregon’s newest winery. At least for the moment. Having christened their tasting room during the first week of December 2008, owners Jay and Janet Westly are up and running.The couple call themselves “accidental vintners.” They operated a small millwork and cabinetry business in Southern California for 30 years before coming to Oregon. Finally, after the kid was grown, they decided to make a total lifestyle change.

As with many other wine lovers, the mystique of Wine Country captivated them. Weeklong wanderings around Northern California’s Sonoma and Napa regions, in particular the Russian River Valley, whetted their appetite for more, and more often.

But it was a European vacation that proved to be the decisive persuader. From Bordeaux and the Loire Valley in France to Germany’s Rheingau region, they drank in Old World pastoral pleasures both literally and figuratively.

When you follow up sampling freshly harvested grapes at the world-renowned Chateau Margaux with floating lazily down the Rhine River, the immersion is too seductive to resist.Still, at that point in time, the Westlys didn’t yet have in mind working but rather simply living in a rural setting, preferably with a view and reasonably close proximity to wineries. High-rent districts weren’t in their budget, so some creative looking was required.
The process took several years. Southern Oregon came on their radar early. They even considered a property with a vineyard but decided against it. Too much work, they concluded.
Expanding their search, they went north into the Willamette Valley and even ventured briefly to eastern Washington before concluding its dry climate didn’t suit their sensibilities.

In the end, they wound up a bit off the beaten track in the foothills of the Cascade Range, four miles north of Sweet Home. The retreat they found on Marks Ridge and the nearby Linn County community of 9,000 inhabitants seemed to be a perfect fit.

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