Dana Campbell Vineyards takes root in the Rogue

By John Darling

How does a career as Ashland’s public works director prepare you to create a beautiful vineyard and start marketing some tasty red wines?

For engineer/Navy officer/waste-water treatment authority Paula Brown, planting her south-facing slope with Malbec, Tempranillo and Viognier was the perfect career move; it uses a lot of the same skills

“It’s just chemistry and a lot like waste water treatment, only in reverse,” joked Brown, looking over her 6.5-acre vineyard, soon to be augmented with an on-site winery above Ashland’s North Mountain Avenue.

Brown and her husband, Patrick Flannery, bought their 33-acre farm in 1997, growing pasture grass and echinacea before vineyard-owning friends turned them on to grapes.

An analysis of the site by renowned vineyard climatologist Greg Jones of Southern Oregon University showed it would be ideal for 15 varietals and would be able to meet their goal of sustainability with low-water use.

The project slowed when Brown was called up in 2005 for 16 months as commander of a construction regiment in dangerous Anbar Province, west of Baghdad.

“The good thing about it was we were constructing things, not destroying them,” said Brown, who still goes on projects worldwide with the Navy. “We helped the country be safe and have a place for security forces. It’s really great to be back.”

The couple’s first vintage from Dana Campbell Vineyards — the couple’s middle names — debuted Aug. 28 at World of Wine at Del Rio Vineyard. Their signature wine, made “by accident” from leftover Viognier and Tempranillo, became “Vionillo,” which, Brown says has “a nice, fruity flavor with notes of tangerine.”

Randy Gold of Pacific Crest Vineyard Services in Talent manages the vineyard and Cal Schmidt of Schmidt Family Vineyards and Linda Donovan of Pallet Wine of Medford make the wine. The onsite winery is in the permitting process with county planners and will employ a winemaker.

Starting a vineyard means an extensive period of investment, to be harvested five or six years in the future, says Brown. Economically, it’s a challenge, but with help from the government — they recently received a $20,000 Oregon Energy Trust grant for a 10-kilowatt wind generator — and a great location just minutes form Ashland Plaza, Brown and Flannery are poised to do well. 

“How do you make a million in the grape business? You start with $2 million,” Flannery joked.

The couple lauds the explosion of wine in the Rogue, with Brown noting, “Every new winery brings in different tastes, something no one’s done before, so more wineries make it a better experience for everyone.” 

John Darling is an Ashland writer.

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