Vidon Vineyard melds science, craftsmanship into Oregon wine

By on November 14, 2018

Don Hagge turned his physics degree from University of California-Berkeley into a position with the Apollo space program, but his passion for Pinot Noir took off decades after the project’s final mission. (Photo by Ellen Landis/EllenOnWine.com)

NEWBERG, Ore. – Vicki Lewis and her husband Don Hagge, a Ph.D., and former NASA physicist, purchased in 1999 what is now Vidon Vineyard (pronounced “VEE-dawn” – a contraction of their names) in Oregon’s North Willamette Valley to pursue their love of Pinot Noir.

They’ve since planted 14.5 acres in the deep red, volcanic Jory soil of the Chehalem Mountains American Viticultural Area. Along with Pinot Noir, they’ve established Tempranillo, Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Viognier.

Don, the founding winemaker, and head winemaker David Bellows, a Ph.D. with a background in molecular biology, craft wines that are worth seeking out. And their exceptionally rich scientific backgrounds touch virtually every part of the enterprise, from vineyard management to winemaking to the production line.

In the field, both Vidon Vineyard and the winery are certified sustainable in two key ecological programs: Salmon-Safe (which helps keep water clean and protected for native salmon to safely spawn) and LIVE (Low-Input Viticulture and Enology).

In the winery, Don has designed a bottling line for glass stoppers, which he uses exclusively to eliminate the possibility of cork taint. He also designed and manufactured an argon gas wine-preserving and dispensing machine that minimizes waste.

As Don says, “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to make good wine, but it doesn’t hurt if you are.”

Vidon Vineyard grows NASA-inspired tier

Don Hagge has established the Spanish red variety Tempranillo at Vidon Vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains of Oregon’s north Willamette Valley. (Photo by Ellen Landis/EllenOnWine.com)

In 2017, Vidon released three wines named in connection with Don’s work on several of NASA’s quintessential space programs in the 1960s: the 2015 Explorer Tempranillo, 2015 Saturn Syrah and 2015 Apollo Chardonnay.

2016 Apollo Chardonnay: The follow-up vintage for this tier of the Chardonnay program produces a fragrant tropical aroma that is spellbinding! Tickling the taste buds are rich, harmonious layers of baked pear, savory spice, Honeycrisp apple, buttery almond brittle and fresh diced pineapple salsa. Aging in a Billon French barrel contributes beautiful understated oak nuances. Well-balanced with brisk acidity keeps it vibrant through the memorable finish. SRP: $60

Vidon Vineyard recently launched a series of estate wines that serve as a tribute to the NASA space programs that founding winemaker Don Hagge worked on. (Photo by Ellen Landis/EllenOnWine.com)

2015 Explorer Tempranillo: This uber-expressive Tempranillo opens with a wonderful floral-scented aroma. Coating the palate are bright flavors of blackberry, tarragon, juicy raspberry, candied cherry, a nice integration of toasted oak and savory elements. Succulent fruit is supported by vivacious acidity, then smooth and approachable tannins to set up the finish that is long and spicy. SRP: $30

The Vidon Vineyard 2015 Estate Saturn Syrah is part of a series of estate wines that pay tribute to the NASA space programs founding winemaker Don Hagge served on. (Photo by Ellen Landis/EllenOnWine.com)

2015 Saturn Syrah: Viognier (3 percent) is co-fermented with Syrah to create a rich and deeply structured Syrah. Dark fruits and meaty notes on the nose are enticing. It displays both power and finesse from first sip, filling the mouth with black plums, boysenberries, purple mulberries, charcuterie, black peppercorn spice, minerally notes and hints of olive tapenade. Full bodied and well balanced, with an aftertaste that keeps on delivering. SRP: $30

And although not a part of the space-inspired series, I’d be remiss not to mention a couple of Vidon’s incredible Pinot Noirs.

2015 Brigita 777 Pinot Noir: Spicy aromas broadcast a marvelous savoriness as this 100 percent 777 clone Pinot Noir greets the nose. Floral notes, red plum and red cherry fruit join earthy elements, and the tannins are refined. Eighteen months in 35% new French oak adds lovely spiced oak tones. Nicely restrained alcohol at 13.7% keeps the focus on the purity of fruit and fine-tuned balance, and the persistent finish sings with spiciness. SRP: $50

2015 3-Clones Estate Pinot Noir: Three blocks of clones 777, 115 and Pommard from a warm, southwest facing vineyard comprise this smoothly textured Pinot Noir. Aromas and flavors of red and black cherries, fresh-chopped herbs, tobacco, cranberry-cherry chutney and allspice unfold delectably. Well-balanced with the long-lasting finish that shows off a stimulating trace of orange zest. SRP: $40

Mr. Studly, bees serve as Vidon Vineyard mascots

The colorful Mr. Studly is a mascot at Vidon Vineyard in Oregon’s Chehalem Mountains. (Photo by Ellen Landis/EllenOnWine.com)

If you have the opportunity to visit and taste these well-crafted wines, two “mascots” may welcome you. Mr. Studly, a confident and colorful rooster might be strutting outside the tasting room, in the vineyard or near the trellis pergola, under which you can enjoy the dappled shade while you survey the vineyards.

Meanwhile, the honeybee on their wine labels and capsules honors the bees that made a home between floors of an old well house on the property. These signs of wildlife add to the charming atmosphere as you linger and appreciate the result of wine borne from equal parts science and passion.

For further exploration, visit their website at www.vidonvineyard.com.

About Ellen Landis

Ellen Landis is a certified sommelier, wine writer, wine educator, wine event moderator and frequent judge at prominent regional, national and international wine competitions. Ellen and her husband, chef Ken Landis, sold Landis Shores Oceanfront Inn, a boutique resort on Miramar Beach, Calif., in 2015 and relocated to the Pacific Northwest.

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