In Memoriam: Russell Rainey

Remembering the founder of Evesham Wood Vineyard and Winery



Russell Rainey, founder of Evesham Wood Vineyard and Winery near Salem, died July 9. He was 70.

Rainey was born February 1, 1952, in Monroe, Louisiana. Soon afterward, his family relocated to Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where he lived until graduating high school. While studying German at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, Rainey spent his junior year abroad in Germany, developing an appreciation for the wines made in Baden and Alsace.

After graduating college, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, here he planted grapevines and managed Cheshire Cellars, a wine shop inside The Cheshire Inn, a local landmark. One evening, while having dinner with friends, Rainey met Mary Ann Mattingly, a young server. The two fell in love and married in Fulton.

Hoping to work in the Pacific Northwest’s fledgling wine industry, they moved to Portland, Oregon, where Rainey worked in the wine wholesale business. In 1984, he also assisted late owner, Rachel Starr, open Great Wine Buys, now considered Portland’s oldest independent wine shop.

During the mid-1980s, while the Raineys were searching for ideal vineyard property, he accepted the role of Adams Winery’s winemaker. His first vintage was in 1984, made in Adams’ Northwest Portland location, the city’s first urban winery. After purchasing land on the outskirts of Salem, the couple established Evesham Wood Vineyard and Winery in 1986.

The winery responsibilities were easily divided; Mary ran the business while Russ made the wine. Rainey adopted many grape growing and winemaking techniques used in Burgundy, but still uncommon in Oregon. He chose not to filter Evesham Wood wines, nor irrigate his grapevines. Passionate about dry farming practices, Rainey established the Dry Roots Coalition, or DRC, a group and philosophy increasingly popular from the outset.

The Raineys eventually decided to grow their family; son Aidan was born in June 1997.

After 24 vintages, Rainey retired in 2010. He found a willing and adept successor, Erin Nuccio, his longtime intern. Nuccio and wife Jordan have expanded Evesham Woods’ market presence since taking over the business.

Rainey suffered from Frontotemporal Dementia, a rare neurological brain disease that ultimately took his life. He chose to donate his brain to the Oregon Brain Bank at Oregon Health & Science University. Memorial donations may be made to The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration:!?donation/checkout or OHSU Foundation, in the name of Layton Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

A memorial celebration will be held at a later date.

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