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Winemaking in the Shadow of the Sisters: Terrebonne’s newest winery offers tastings with a view 

Areas around Terrebonne are showing to be perfect for vineyards and winemaking.

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With its broad expanse of sagebrush and Alfalfa farms, the Terrebonne area may not scream wine country, but with a burgeoning group of wineries, it is quickly becoming a winemaking hotspot.

What began with Maragas Winery in the late ‘90s now includes Monkey Face Vineyards, Deschutes River Vineyards, and the latest addition to the family—Faith, Hope, and Charity Vineyard, which opened last year. All of wineries offer exciting alternatives to the fruit-forward pinots cranked out by the wineries in the Willamette Valley and offer a chance for Central Oregon to make its mark on the state’s robust wine making industry.

The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Terrebonne, which literally translates to “good earth,” offers both a soil and climate that cold-hearty grapes thrive on.

“We have very sandy soil, which is perfect for grapes,” said Cindy Grossman, co-owner of Faith, Hope and Charity Vineyard. “And wine likes warm days and cool nights.”

I met Grossman at her property this spring to learn more about what’s making this growing wine region pop. To get to her place, I turned off Highway 97 and down the winding, pastoral road that leads to her 15-acre winery.

Grossman is currently cultivating cold-hearty hybrid grapes with lovely names like St. Croix, Leon Millot, La Crescent, and Marechal Foch, on the expansive farm property she bought in 2000. In addition to the young vineyard, which will be ready for production in 2013, the property also includes alfalfa fields, a few houses, a tasting room and swoon-inducing views of the Three Sisters.

Grossman, formerly a Midwest general contractor, was looking for a new venture and fondly remembered a trip she and her husband took to Central Oregon.

“We had been through [here] once, and we thought, ‘let’s move to Central Oregon,’” Grossman said.

That snap decision led to the purchase of the farm, where the soil and south-facing property beckoned for a winery.

The tasting room is situated on the first floor of a stunning home, inspired by 19th century German barns. A brilliant blue pond stocked with fish sits outside, and a friendly herd of alpacas roams nearby. Naturally, the spot has become popular for weddings and corporate events in addition to tastings.

On my visit, I was informed that Grossman recently sold out of a popular white wine that incorporates Monkey Face Vineyard’s La Crescent grape, a varietal that Grossman is growing in her own vineyard. Instead she was offering a Marechal Foch from Monkey Face Vineyards grapes, as well as a cabernet and merlot with grapes grown and produced in The Dalles.

“We put in the vineyard, but at the same time we contracted for the grapes so we could have local wine made and [ready] in the bottle,” said Grossman, who already has a robust wine club roster and frequently offers drop-in tastings.

In addition to the grape grower and wine maker in The Dalles, who provided fruit for the winery’s cabernet and merlot, Grossman buys from a Medford vineyard. She trusts her Medford connection with the hybrid grapes she got from Monkey Face Vineyards, including the Marechal Foch.

I tasted the three varietals Grossman is currently pouring. The merlot, with hints of tobacco and smoke, was balanced with notes of dried fruit. The cabernet, the most full-bodied of the bunch, boasted soft tannins and notes of plum and cherry. Both would be great wines to complement any hearty meal.

While I enjoyed these two classic varietals, I was most excited by the Marechal Foch blended in Medford. This grape, which Grossman is currently growing on site and will be able to use in her own wines soon, was aged in neutral barrels in order to showcase the wine’s unique characteristics. It’s a bright, easy-drinking wine, medium bodied and fruit-forward. Reminiscent of successful Beaujolais Nouveaus, the acidity, fruit and slight earthiness of this wine married well and would be a welcome summer red on my table any day.

Central Oregon has been overshadowed by the Willamette Valley’s wine boom, but with the recent addition of Faith, Hope and Charity Vineyard to Terrebonne’s already impressive roster, Terrebonne’s wineries are proving that the High Desert can’t be overlooked as a wine destination. Terrebonne just may be the next hot wine tourism region touted in magazines and travel blogs. After all, the wine is more than fine and the views aren’t bad, either.

Faith, Hope and Charity Vineyard and Events Center

70455 Lower Bridge Way, Terrebonne

Open 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily or by appointment. Tastings are $5, or free if you buy a bottle of wine. Bottles are all currently offered for under $30.

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