Cody Wright inside his new winery and tasting room. ##Photo Provided

New Face of Dundee

Purple Hands part of town’s revitalization

Purple Hands Winery

1200 N Highway 99W, Dundee, OR

Hours: 11am-4:30pm, Thurs.-Mon. Reservations required for parties of six-plus

By Peter Szymczak

What’s new, red all over and has Purple Hands? Purple Hands Winery, now open for tasting and bottle purchases in up-and-coming Dundee.

Purple Hands’ winemaker, Cody Wright, is a second-generation vintner from legendary vinicultural stock. His dad is Pinot icon Ken Wright and his stepdad is crémant master Rollin Soles (Argyle, ROCO).

You might say he was born with grape-stained fingers, hence the name of his wine label.

After years of making wine in his forefathers’ sizable shadows, Cody, now 36, has staked his claim on a primo piece of downtown Dundee. He’s built a tasting room and winery, and painted the structure a shade of red reflecting the Jory soils of the surrounding hills.

“Purple Hands is about the grape, not the color,” Cody said.

Like Cody, Dundee is taking a major step forward, too. The Dundee City Council recently established an urban renewal plan to spruce up the town’s main drag. If everything goes as planned, Dundee will sport revamped storefronts and a promenade featuring 12-foot sidewalks and bike posts, all to make the thoroughfare more wine tourist-, bicyclist- and pedestrian-friendly.

The improvements will happen over the next year or so, coinciding with the Highway 99 bypass project, which is already well underway and should dramatically alter the area’s traffic patterns. With these improvements, Dundee stands to become the bona fide wine country destination it has always had the potential to be, rather than a mere pass-through to Carlton, McMinnville or the coast.  

Dundee’s evolving direction is what attracted Cody to establish his new facility and tasting room here.

“We believe in all the action that’s coming to Dundee,” Cody said. “Dundee is our home, and it’s where we want to grow our business and build our family.”

Cody owns and operates the winery with his wife, Marque. The couple has a two-year-old son, Tyrus — Cody’s middle name, and one which should ring a bell for Ken Wright aficionados. Cole Rogers manages the tasting room and assists in the cellar.

In addition to his impressive pedigree, Cody has the education — degrees in environmental science and environmental geography from the University of Oregon — and an impressive résumé of winemaking experience.

“Being outside, doing horticulture and botany, and following it all the way into the winery, I’ve just always loved working with my hands,” Cody said.

During high school, Cody worked in his dad’s vineyards. After college, he honed his craft at Knappstein Winery in Clare Valley, South Australia, and Ata Rangi in Martinborough, New Zealand. He assisted making wine at Ken Wright Cellars and ROCO, and started his own label in 2005. His wines have earned acclaim from media, respect from vineyard owners and widespread consumer appreciation — Purple Hands is available in 30 states around the nation

Current production of Purple Hands is about 5,700 cases a year. All his wines, unfined and unfiltered, are made with native yeasts. Offerings include a fleet of single-vineyard designates from renowned sites in the north Willamette Valley — Freedom Hill, Holstein, Latchkey, Shea and Stoller, which retail for $50.

“I’m really into wines that show elevation, site, soil type and clone,” Cody said. “I just like being able to show people how unique Oregon is and our terroir.”

Cody also makes a Willamette Valley blend ($30; not available at the winery). At the top end is his “Le Nouveau Monde Prestige” ($90), a muscular — like Cody — blend made from his best barrels and aged in a higher percentage of French oak than his other wines.

He is also the winemaker for Tractor and Vine, the house wine at nearby Red Hills Market — it pairs exceptionally well with the restaurant’s wood-fired pizzas and gourmet deli fare.

The 5,000-square-foot building that houses Purple Hands was built by Cellar Ridge Construction of McMinnville, which also had a hand in the tasting rooms at Chapter 24, located at the opposite end of Dundee, in addition to Saffron Fields, Elizabeth Chambers Cellar and others. The structure, using repurposed metal and reclaimed wood, was built to Portland’s code for sustainability, with permeable surfaces, rainwater drainage, bioswales and native plant landscaping.

No joking: Dundee seems finally to be on a path of improvement, and Purple Hands will definitely have a hand in its success.

Peter Szymczak has written about food, beverages and culinary travel for Northwest Palate, The Oregonian, Sip Northwest and other publications. He lives in the heart of wine country, Dundee.

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