Jared Collins instructs Briley Ingram (from left), Chloe Warren, Layla Knight, Olivia Davison, Kaydence Vertner and Nole Lawson in the Tiger Vines Vineyard.##Photo by Brett Curtis

Reading, Writing, Rosé

Class always in session for YCHS Pinot Noir vines

By Michael Alberty

My most exciting high school horticultural experience involved growing a bean in a Dixie Cup. Students at Yamhill-Carlton High School receive college credit for growing Pinot Noir grapes. Boy, did I get a raw deal.

As I pulled an unfamiliar bottle of rosé from the shelf of a gas station in Carlton, the woman behind the counter appeared unusually pleased by my selection. I just assumed her establishment didn’t sell a lot of wine. “That wine is made with local high school grapes,” she said. That announcement had me hook, line and sinker.    

It turns out, Yamhill-Carlton High School students have been tending Pinot Noir vines on school property for eight years. During the hundreds of times I’ve driven past the school, how had I missed spotting Tiger Vines, the only high school vineyard in Oregon?

The Tiger Vines idea was hatched a decade ago by winemaker Ken Wright and the Yamhill-Carlton Winegrowers Association (YCWA). “Kids leaving this high school were having a difficult time finding local jobs. We had to do something,” Wright says.

Tiger Vines Rosé ##Photo by Marcus Larson

With the help of then local school board member Timothy Pfeiffer, Wright and the YCWA helped create a horticulture/viticulture class and summer internship program allowing Yamhill-Carlton High School students to earn credits at Chemeketa and Linn-Benton community colleges.   

Wright and his wife, Karen, used their own money, plus donations from the Erath Family Foundation and Joel and Louise Myers, to finance the construction of Tiger Vines Vineyard in the winter of 2012. The following spring, students and local volunteers planted 22 rows of Pinot Noir vines.

Jared Collins, an agriculture science and technology teacher at the high school, teaches the horticulture/viticulture class. He is supported by Mark Gould, the lead viticulturist at Ken Wright Cellars. According to Collins, “When the kids are in the vineyard, nine out of 10 times Mark’s a part of it.”  

The grapes from Tiger Vines — named for the school’s striped mascot — are used to make commercial wines at Ken Wright Cellars in Carlton. The profits from Tiger Vines sales are returned to their nonprofit corporation’s viticulture account to cover vineyard management costs and marketing.

Rachel Collins, a veterinarian and Jared’s wife, rides herd over the financial and marketing aspects of Tiger Vines. “Rachel is a real dynamo, Wright says. “She has taken the program by the reins to get all the licenses needed to sell the wine.”

Wright pays all winemaking expenses to help Tiger Vines minimize costs and maximize profits. “I promised the school that if they donated an acre-and-a-half of land for the vineyard, they would never spend another penny on either the creation of the vineyard or its ongoing maintenance,” Wright says.

Principal Clint Raever credits the class with keeping kids engaged and in school. He says, “Our most recent graduation rate numbers would certainly lend credibility to the statement that hands-on learning experiences help kids graduate.” And secure jobs.

Liberty Seal, Yamhill-Carlton Class of 2016, credits her professional success to her high school’s viticulture program. “I’m not even 23 years old, and I’m technically a crop consultant already for Marion Ag Services. It’s only because I accumulated six years of viticulture experience under my belt by starting way back in that high school class,” she says.     

To support this program, look for the Tiger Vines 2019 Pinot Noir Rosé in locations as diverse as Carlton Corners gas station and Park Avenue Fine Wines in downtown Portland. Or buy it straight from the official website ( for $22 a bottle.  

Filled with colors, aromas and flavors befitting a horticulture class, the Tiger Vines rosé begins with its color, the pinkish-copper sunrise shade of a ripe donut peach. The scents swirling from the glass match that description.

Initially, there’s a whiff of stone fruit that made me think this is what nectarine fruit leather might smell like. That fruit note is complemented by a fresh, floral quality reminiscent of laundry fresh from the dryer. It’s a heady mix of chalk, lilac and the spicy sweetness associated with daphne blossoms.

Any sweetness found on the nose stays there. This is a dry rosé with flavors of a tart pomelo performing a brisk tango with a strawberry-basil granita. The wine’s mouthfeel bristles with acidity. There’s also a mineral note that makes me think I must have licked chalk as a kid.    

The Tiger Vines’ pink wine is the best thing to come out of Yamhill-Carlton High School since The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. Get some. 

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