Dave and Deolinda Coelho inside their Amity tasting room. ##Photo by Marcus Larson
The Coelhos make a number of Port-style wines, including three non-vintage selections: (from left) Serenidade, Fascinação and Aventura.
##Photo by Marcus Larson
The Coelho winery and tasting room are housed in what once was the old Amity hardware store. ##Photo provided

Port Authority

Portuguese heritage heart of Amity winery

By Patty Mamula

Even now, it’s not unusual to meet couples who were high school sweethearts, such as Dave and Deolinda Coelho, owners of Coelho Winery in Amity. What is uncommon is both have grandparents from the Azores, a Portuguese group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean 930 miles from Lisbon.

However, even that detail is not exceptional, at least in Tracy, California, a Portuguese farming community in the San Joaquin Valley. The majority emigrated from the Azores in the early 1900s searching for better opportunities.

“Our families were friends, and we’ve known each other since grade school,” explains Dave. “When we played sports against each other in school, I often teased her.” They were married in 1980 and held their reception in the Portuguese Hall.

Hardworking and industrious, the two have been partners in business and life for more than 40 years. Deolinda handles finances while Dave manages operations.

The newlyweds farmed for several years until an acquaintance, recognizing Dave’s mechanical aptitude, offered to sell him a vacuum truck business. The large industrial machines “vacuum out sewers, culverts and other industrial and construction applications,” he explains. Dave recruited his brother to help in the thriving business.

High school sweethearts Dave and Deolinda in their hometown, Tracy, California. ##Photo provided

Four kids and eight years later, they decided to move, searching for land in Oregon, Washington or Idaho. They fell in love with the Yamhill Valley near Amity, purchasing 40 acres in 1991. “Our kids grew up in Oregon. We chose to move just before our eldest son, David, was to start kindergarten,” recalls Deolinda. “And now David is working with us full time. It has been a good move for us.

“Our other three children are successful in their own careers and endeavors. Samuel has his own winery; Stephanie is a nurse in Eastern Oregon; and Jeanne has her own businesses in interior design and a coffee shop. It is very exciting to see how our four children have been successful in their families and ventures.”

Over the next decade and more, they focused on raising their family — now with 13 grandchildren — making a living, building community connections and watching the growth of Willamette Valley wineries. Time moved fast for the large family.

Dave reentered the industrial vacuum business, first as a side job to his McMinnville city job, then full time as demand increased. They bought a new vac truck, using their property as collateral. “Our motto was to get into anything new with both feet forward,” he explains. His trucks were often needed at the local steel mill, but he also traveled the Northwest and into Nevada for jobs. Soon, they purchased another truck, and another. Ore-Vac was so successful they had financial room to consider their original dream of “doing something with our land,” Dave says.

He had worked for some farmers when they first arrived in Amity, including Myron Redford at Amity Vineyards. The Coelhos’ gently sloping, south-facing property was ideal for a vineyard. With the help of a consultant, the family planted 28.5 acres of Pinot Noir grapes in the spring of 2002. “We knew Pinot grew well here, so that’s all we planted in the beginning,” Deolinda notes. 

“Then we wanted some variety for our customers,” Dave adds. They grafted an acre to Pinot Gris and 1.5 acres to Chardonnay in 2006, leaving 26 acres of Pinot Noir.

The Coelhos’ home vineyard sits in the Van Duzer AVA, an area that produces high-acid wines resulting from the influence of cooling ocean winds funneling through the Van Duzer Corridor.

“We decided we wanted to make wine. We didn’t want to just be farmers,” remembers Dave. Still, he proudly refers to himself as a farmer. From the beginning, he has always been closely involved with production, working alongside their winemakers. Current winemaker Chris Bertsche started in 2016, having gained experience at wineries in California and Oregon.

“We didn’t want to deal with a middle man,” says Deolinda. “We wanted to have control over our commodity because the farmers we knew growing up in Tracy [California] didn’t have any control,” she continues. “We’re vertically integrated, from vine to bottle,” Dave adds.

They produced 500 cases for their first vintage in 2004. From the outset, they drew from their Portuguese heritage to name their wines: Pinot Noir was Paciencia; Pinot Gris, Renovacão; and Chardonnay, Apreciacão.

Some years before, the Coelhos purchased the old fire-damaged Amity hardware store and leased it. Then they started thinking about building a winery and tasting room. “We both did not want to have the winery tasting room located at our home on the vineyard. Home is home,” says Deolinda. So, they renovated the historic hardware store, saving the original wood to use on walls and as trim for tables. They even repurposed the wooden doors and windows. The result remains a spacious, homey tasting room with processing facilities and storage in adjacent buildings.

Eventually, they acquired more vineyard property. In 2014, they signed a long-term lease with Zeitoun Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA; planted in 2000 and 2001, the site comprises seven acres of unknown Pinot clones. In 2015, they purchased Delfina Vineyard in the McMinnville AVA; established in 2000 and 2010, the property contains 15 acres of Pinot Noir.

The Coelhos moved from Portuguese names to labels highlighting single-vineyard Pinots, with small amounts of Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. Still, they wanted to showcase Portuguese wines. In 2006, the winery released a ruby Port-style wine called Serenidade made with Marechal Foch grapes.

“Around that time, we were redesigning our label,” recalls Deolinda. “A friend painted a brilliantly colored abstract with a sailboat in the foreground. When I saw it, I said that belongs on a Port.”

Soon, they added Aventura, a Port-style wine made with traditional varieties: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Cão, Souzão and Alvarelhão. They source the fruit from Silvaspoons Vineyard, a family friend’s estate in Lodi, California. The wine’s saturated label shows a group of Portuguese whalers in a harbor dressed in their Sunday best. The painting was inspired by a family photo of Deolinda’s grandfather, a whaler in the Azores.

The winery’s newest Port-style wine, Fascinacão, comprises Alvarinho and Verdelho varieties, and features a painting of boats typically seen in Portuguese fishing towns.

Limited to 100 members, the Coelho Port Club releases three bottles once a year every February. This year’s offerings included the 2020 Ruby-style dessert wine, a field blend aged for 16 months, and the 2016 and 2011 Tawny-style wines, the former a sweeter version, while the latter is a “profound example of vintage Port.”

The Coelhos also produce a traditional Douro-style red blend, Tradicão, made with six Iberian varieties. Other wines with grapes from Lodi include Antecipacão, a Petite Sirah, and Povo, a Barbera.

In 2021, the family produced approximately 15,000 cases, mostly Pinot Noir. The winery hosts custom-crush clients and a few alternating proprietorships, plus produces a Bunny brand sold through distribution.

Located in the heart of Amity, the tasting room is open daily and remains a gathering place for family and friends.

A recent Portuguese dinner featured Fado music and authentic food from author Ana Patuleia Ortins’ cookbook. The evening proved to be even more of a celebration than anticipated as the oldest son, David, suddenly left the dinner after receiving a much-anticipated phone call from his expectant wife that No. 4 was on the way. Dave and Deolinda barely had time to say goodnight to guests before hurrying to welcome their new grandchild that same night.


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