An Enduring Legacy

Dick Erath's impact on Oregon wine

Dick Erath poses for a picture with a cat and a bottle of wine.##Jereld R. Nicholson Library, Linfield university, ¡Salud! Program


Dick Erath’s death represents a significant new benchmark in Oregon wine’s history. As one of our industry’s pioneers, his passing has many people contemplating how wine in our state has evolved since its infancy. Much like an aging bottle, nuances develop that only occur with time. It’s interesting to ponder the last 50 or so years. Many changes have taken place, including Erath selling his winery to Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in 2007.

As I received stories and memories of Dick for this issue, I was struck not only by his many accomplishments but also generosity. He was willing to share his knowledge of growing grapes and making wine with anyone. Others were never considered competitors, but rather colleagues and often friends.

Dick realized the importance of supporting our industry. He created the Erath Family Foundation with some of the proceeds from his winery sale. Since its inception in 2007, the nonprofit has funded over two million dollars for projects advancing regional wine industry initiatives in the areas of support services, education and research. Some examples include subsidizing student scholarships at both Chemeketa and the Southern Oregon Wine Institute, ensuring Oregon Wine Symposium sessions were translated into Spanish and Tuality Healthcare Foundation’s ¡Salud! program with a mobile medical van.

Yet, his most noteworthy contributions might be to Linfield University’s Oregon Wine History Archive. He regularly donated notebooks, photos and journals– items that might once have seemed inconsequential but now hold greater significance. Currently, anyone can access these pieces, providing a more extensive story of wine in Oregon.

A collaborative culture developed early among those wine pioneers. Dick– along with a handful of others– was instrumental in nurturing a cooperative attitude endures to this day. My hope is this legacy, driven in part by Dick’s generosity, prevails in the spirit of Oregon wine for the next 50 years… and beyond.

Explore the Oregon Wine History Archive by accessing photos, video interviews and more online:

Michele Francisco spent her childhood reading and writing, eventually graduating from UCLA with an English degree. She attended graphic design school and began a career in design and marketing. After moving to Oregon in 2010, Michele studied wine at Chemeketa Community College and began Winerabble, a Northwest-focused wine blog. She has been a cheerleader for Oregon wine since her arrival.

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