DUNDEE, Ore. — Last year, the Duck Pond Cellars logo got a preening, and now the Fries family is using an image of Oregon’s state bird — the western meadowlark — to raise money for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
So far, sales of the Duck Pond 2012 Conservation Cuvée Pinot Noir meant the Dundee-based winery have donated $5,580 to the ODFW Conservation Program. That number is expected to double before long because the Fries family already has sold nearly 50 percent of its debut production of 224 cases.
“We were approached last summer by ODFW with the idea of a special label wine project,” Amber Fries, director of communications for Duck Pond Cellars, told Great Northwest Wine. “We loved the cause and felt it aligned really well with our family’s commitment to wildlife conservation. We were the ones who suggested the wine be a Pinot Noir that was a blend of fruit from several of our vineyard sites throughout Oregon.”
The wine retails for $24, and $5 of each sale goes to the ODFW fund.
“We will use the proceeds from the sale of the Conservation Cuvée for restoration of habitats vital to Oregon’s declining species,” Andrea Hanson, ODFW Conservation Strategy Coordinator, stated in a news release. “The generosity of the Fries family will help make a difference to our native wildlife.”
The family operates one of the most fascinating businesses in the Pacific Northwest wine industry. Since it launched the value brand Duck Pond Cellars in 1993, the Fries family has expanded to plant eight vineyards spanning 1,024 acres in four American Viticultural Areas within two states.
Four of their vineyards — Delaney, Hylo and St. Jory in the Willamette Valley and the young Coles Valley site in the Umpqua Valley — factored into the 2012 Conservation Cuvée.
“We’re thrilled to be partnering with ODFW on this project,” said Greg Fries, Duck Pond president and co-owner. “As a farming family, we have a unique appreciation for the land. It feels good knowing a wine we crafted will help promote healthy habitats for Oregon wildlife.”
The western meadowlark also thrives in the shrub-steppe habitat that surrounds the Fries family’s large plantings on Washington’s Wahluke Slope. Those vineyards feed its Desert Wind Winery program in Prosser.
“We worked together (with ODFW) on the label design,” Amber Fries said. “The meadowlark artwork is a conservation stamp winner from a few years ago, and we all thought it would be a good one for the inaugural wine offering since it’s the state bird.”
Oregon one of 6 in U.S. to honor meadowlark as state bird
It’s also one of the country’s most popular, Oregon is one of six states to feature the meadowlark as the state bird. The image used on the Duck Pond bottling also is available as an art print and on a collector stamp, both of which support Oregon’s fish and wildlife habitats.
When it comes to wetlands conservation, the Frieses have a living example at St. Jory. The tranquil yet productive vineyard near Salem features a restored wetlands nearby that’s now home to rainbow trout and migratory birds.
In Dundee, the family developed a water treatment pond that captures and filters water used to sanitize barrels and tanks through a constructed wetland before it is reintroduced to the estate vineyard.
Next fundraisers to focus on Wetlands Conservancy
This spring, the family also will extend its fundraising efforts to support The Wetlands Conservancy.
During this Easter weekend, Duck Pond will donate $1 for every bottle sold in its tasting room. Then in May and June, Duck Pond will run a mail-in rebate promotion, donating $3 per bottle to the conservancy for every bottle sold in conjunction with the program. Information on the program and rebate forms will be available at select wine outlets throughout the Pacific Northwest.
The 2012 Conservation Cuvée is available online, at the Duck Pond tasting room in Dundee and Local Ocean Seafood Restaurant in Newport, but not at Desert Wind in Prosser.
This weekend, however, the Oregon League of Conservation Voters will pour it at their Celebration for the Environment VIP reception in Portland.
“We are really excited to showcase it to this group of high-profile guests, high-ranking Oregon political leaders and leaders in the nonprofit and business sectors,” Amber Fries said.