Philippe Girardet

Last Call: Philippe Girardet

A quick chat with Umpqua Valley pioneer

After leaving Cal Tech working as a rocket scientist, Swiss-born Philippe Girardet, with his wife, Bonnie, planted their first vines in the early 1970s in the Umpqua Valley. The couple built a winery on the estate in the early ’80s. Today, the second-generation, Marc Girardet, now leads the winery and vineyard operations.

Q: Can you describe some of the obstacles you faced some 40 years ago when starting the vineyard and winery?

PG: People’s skepticism about wines made here. Even the county extension agent at the time said, “You cannot grow grapes in Oregon.”

Q: Who most greatly influenced you when starting the winery?

PG: Richard Sommer from HillCrest Winery.

Q: What has been your proudest achievement thus far regarding the winery?

PG: Overcoming the market resistance and selling some wines for $100 a bottle.

Q: Can you name your top three vintages? How are those wines today?

PG: Cabernet Sauvignon from 1990, Baco Noir from 1998, Marechal Foch from 1994. All still drinking well today!

Q: You chose the Umpqua Valley as your home. Why?

PG: A nice, mild climate similar to home in Switzerland and a great place to grow grapes!

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