It Takes a Vineyard
KAV Estate takes root in Chehalem Mountains
The saying goes “It takes a village.” But, a village for what? To raise kids? To be successful at work? To do nearly anything? While “it” can take on a variety of variations, the “village” has always been a support network, helping, guiding and lending expertise for the overall betterment of “it.”
In this story, “it” is wine, of course, and the “village” is all in the details.
On my way to the interview, I veered off the safety of the main highway to a gnarled, hole-riddled gravel road winding through the picturesque Chehalem Mountains. Under the time-worn trellis of a weather-worn train track — almost acting as some sentinel guarding the entrance to a secret place — I was approaching my final turn: Hells Canyon Road.
Dodging ruts and raises, I arrived at an idyllic farmhouse, complete with the charm of a nostalgic Rockwell porch. The muffled sound of distant energetic barking made me smile as I knew that sooner or later, the impending meeting between my clean linen pants and two excited Goldens — Doofs and Champers — would leave a “paw-fect” impression.
Kristin and Devin Andolsen welcomed me with open arms and open bottles of neighboring wines, wines that would best represent the terroir of their budding vineyard, KAV Estate. Named for the merging of their two families, Kalman and Andolsen, their new venture represents a myriad of shared passions, not the least of which is the joy they find in every shared sip and laughter-filled story.
Devin’s love affair with wine began in Dry Creek Valley. As one of the area’s top physicians, his father treated several of the area’s well-known vintners. After years of pestering, his patients finally persuaded Dr. Richard Andolsen to plant a few acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. Meticulously tended, the small plot grew into a sought-after, award-winning crop, featured as a single-vineyard designate. Helping his father harvest engendered an appreciation for the process, ultimately leading Devin to forego a career in banking and follow his heart to the wine industry, eventually becoming a highly respected sommelier.
With family roots in Oregon, but raised in California, Kristin loved the Pacific Northwest, so much so she studied at the University of Oregon. The opportunity to delve into the wines of the Willamette Valley did not come until after she met Devin through mutual friends at work. When her parents retired and moved back to Oregon from Los Gatos, California, Kristin and Devin explored wine country more frequently. As their relationship deepened, so did their adventures into the area.
In 2014, the couple left Dry Creek for the Willamette Valley. Kristin and Devin found 20 acres of prime vineyard land on Laurelwood soil. Here, on Hells Canyon, they prepped the ground and planted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in December of that year, followed by another block a year later.
Kristin poured a hefty sample of a local Pinot Gris to accompany this thirsty traveler on a tour of their property. A couple streaks of blonde fluff — from my new four-legged friends — flew past me as we began to walk. Dotted with towering trees, brambles of wild blueberries and freshly turned piles of soil, the site offered a free-flowing vibe reflected in the couple’s casual coolness and sense of hard work.
After the tour, we gathered in their farmhouse kitchen. With ’90s music in the background, we shared a few more sips from bottles opened hours before. Devin spoke of his desire to bridge the gap between isolating wine jargon and fun-filled tasting sessions of high-end offerings. Studying for his Master Sommelier status, he, along with Kristin, have the knowledge, passion and attitude to span that chasm.
As they take time to learn their land, grow the grapes and establish relationships with producers who will soon source their fruit, they are already becoming part of the special village of Oregon wine — one that helps one another out when times get tough. Advice from wine industry parents and the ones who live nearby, along with friends and neighbors in the biz, is also inevitable.
You know, it really does take a village; for wine, this is especially true.
From his first sip of wine to the last Scotch tasting, Ryan Stevens has loved the craft and the journey behind the bottle. As a contributor for Busted Wallet and Ask Men, he has found his niche showcasing the nuances behind the vices that make life a celebration.