Michelle Soter at Mineral Springs Ranch. ##Photo by Andrea Johnson

Michelle Soter

Remembering a wine industry holistic leader

By Mark Stock

In September 2019 — after a long battle with cancer — Oregon wine country lost a prominent figure in Michelle Soter. Passionate about wine and its sustainable place in the larger landscape, she helped elevate her eponymous label, Soter Vineyards, to lauded heights. Michelle and her husband, Tony, launched the brand in 1998.

Michelle earned a degree in marketing from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. During her six years working at Moraga Vineyards — marketing the Southern California winery — she acquired an ardent interest in the environment, sustainable practices and organic farming. This knowledge and passion helped guide Soter Vineyards’ approach in the care and management of Mineral Springs Ranch.

Passionate about the ranch, a gorgeous 240-acre plot in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, Michelle’s work with the vineyard and label helped spotlight green winegrowing practices and elevate the consumer experience from a traditional tasting room to something more experiential.

Visitors are often treated to farm tours, culinary treats, or intimate and informative tastings. Those tours include encounters with farm critters, glimpses of the kitchen garden and an understanding of how a diverse farm could support both its own ecosystem as well as world-class wine. 

Michelle ultimately adapted her inherent respect for the environment into a flourishing Willamette Valley site capable of truly special bottlings. The label continues to produce a variety of Pinot Noirs, sparkling, Chardonnay, rosé and more, which combine to reflect the purity and potential of their appellation.  

Tony describes Michelle’s impact on their business: “Her genius — as a ‘recovering’ advertising professional — was in integrating the vision and insisting on authenticity throughout the organization. She wanted a visible and tangible manifestation of values which could create an experience that was compellingly genuine. A set of values that is recognizable as coherent with Oregonian aspirations, that is presented by inspired employees and resonates with visitors and neighbors alike because it’s not just an image but a visceral experience.

“She always wanted people to leave with something more than a bottle of wine: knowledge, inspiration and joy for life.”

While her mark on the wine industry is evident, Michelle’s legacy lives on in her ardent and abiding convictions in environmentalism, organics, Biodynamic farming, nutrition and holistic living, all on display at her beloved Mineral Springs Ranch.




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