Saffron Fields Vineyard owners Angela Summers and Sanjeev Lahoti outside the tasting room. Summers holds their flower children; Yorkshire terriers Daisy (left) and Iris. ##Photo by Andrea Johnson

Sanjeev Lahoti (1964–2020)

Honoring Saffron Fields' co-founder

By Hilary Berg

Born in Mumbai, India, on Oct. 23, 1964, Sanjeev Lahoti of Saffron Fields Vineyard grew up in the Hindu faith, alongside his brother, Vikas, under the loving care of his parents, Mahendra and Sudha. He suffered from a heart attack and died in his Oregon home on Oct. 26. He was 56 years old.

Besides being gifted in school, Lahoti was a celebrated swimmer. “He was in a swim club in Mumbai and still holds records at that swim club” explained his wife, Angela Summers. “He swam from the time when he was very young through being on the swim team in college.”

After graduating from Amravati University with a degree in chemical engineering in 1987, Lahoti applied for and was accepted to the chemical engineering graduate program at the University of Alabama. Summers explains, “He made nearly a perfect score on the GRE when he was looking to come to grad school in the U.S.” Besides being brilliant, Lahoti was also passionate. “He was always the first to lead a student strike and not go to school when he was a student in India,” she laughed.

In Tuscaloosa, Sanjeev fell in love with the Crimson Tide and met the love of his life, Summers. “We both ended up, by serendipity, at Alabama at the same time, and were going through the same course series together.” But it wasn’t until they both moved to Houston that they started dating. Lahoti added yet another degree, earning an MBA in marketing from the University of Houston-Clear Lake; Summers completed her PhD. They married in 1990.

In Houston, he started his own company, Virasa Technologies, in 2002. The highly successful venture developed and licensed monosilane-based polysilicon production technology for use in solar panels and semi-conductor chips. Summers also launched her own engineering company, SIS-TECH. They supported each other’s careers while building their lives together in Texas.

From their home, they planned adventures around the world, with art being a major focus. “The very first vacation Sanjeev and I went on was New Orleans to go to a Claude Monet exhibit,” Summers said. “Through the years, we’ve traveled to visit exhibitions at museums; from the beginning it was something that he and I did together, whether it was viewing work in a museum setting or looking at work to acquire.”

Travel was not always for leisure though. Lahoti conducted business around the globe, including trips to Seattle and Portland, exposing him to the charm of the area. When the two started discussing their eventual retirement, wine entered the picture.

“We were interested in the wine country lifestyle, and Sanjeev had told me he thought I would think Oregon was gorgeous,” Summers explained. Their first mutual trip to the area was Thanksgiving Weekend in 2003, and the very first piece of real estate they visited, just outside Yamhill, made a lasting impression.

“I just remember it was just so beautiful that day; the sun was out, and the real estate agent said it had been raining for two weeks before. She told us when we arrived, ‘Hey, you brought the sun with you.’” Summers recalled. “You could see the Coast Range and the blue sky. It proceeded to rain for the next three days. On every other property we visited, it was pouring. Before the end of the trip, we went back to the first property, and it was clear again for a couple hours. We both thought, ‘This must be meant to be, every time we come here, the heavens open up and smile at us.’”

In 2004, Lahoti and Summers purchased the 89-acre property, originally a grass seed farm complete with a massive former dairy barn. In 2007, they established Saffron Fields Vineyard, planting their initial grapevines that now total 32 acres of Pinot Noir and three of Chardonnay. Their inaugural fruit was sold to Tony Rynders, a Willamette Valley winemaker with an impressive résumé and his own brand, Tendril. The 2009 fruit was processed and put into barrel. Summers recalls Rynders told them not to be upset if the wine made from their grapes was not what they expected. “‘These are only three-year old vines; I’ll use them as a blending grape; there won’t be any single-vineyard designate; don’t expect it to be special,’” she recalled.

In early 2010, Lahoti and Summers attended a barrel tasting at Tendril. “Tony had taken us through several barrels of different wines; some of them were awesome and some needed a little bit more time,” she recalled. “And the last one he poured for us turned out to be ours and it was just amazing.” Rynders agreed.

“Until that point, from 2004 when we bought the property until this moment in 2010, it was something I was doing WITH Sanjeev, but once I tasted that wine, it was something I wanted for myself just as much,” Summers noted. Lahoti was hooked, too. The plan suddenly transformed from simply growing to also making wine of their own. Science-minded, Lahoti became a certified winemaker through the University of California, Davis, and a first-level sommelier. Community-minded, he joined the Yamhill-Carlton AVA and the Oregon Winegrowers Association.

They made plans to design a tasting room, which entailed deconstructing the barn and salvaging truckloads of wood to be used inside the building and beyond, including the eventual construction of the couple’s recently finished home at the top of the vineyard. As an homage to the once-towering structure, Lahoti and Summers preserved the north side pillars.

“We left it up as an architectural memory, so that we could show people why we didn’t save the barn; they can see just how huge that barn actually was. It wasn’t feasible to keep it as it was.” As the barn came down, they realized those “structural supports” made of concrete and wooden beams were actually never anchored to the ground. “We thought it was holding the barn up, but instead the barn was holding it up.”

Lahoti and Summers built a stunning, modern tasting room and hired Rynders to make their wine. The tasting room also housed a third of their eclectic art collection, including a Jaume Plensa sculpture, “Tale Teller II,” that made a year-long stop at the Portland Art Museum before being installed at the tasting room.  The kneeling life-size person made of stainless steel letters sits on a rock inside the Japanese-designed garden; Summers says it was the most meaningful art piece to Lahoti.

“The intent is that everyone has stories to tell and hand down through the generations, and that these stories are what binds us all together,” Summers explained. “Jaume makes the sculpture faceless, which means anyone who views it can imagine that the physical form is their ethnicity, is from their culture.”

Besides art, they shared a love of pets, which include fish aquariums, koi ponds, their “flower children” Yorkshire terriers Iris and Daisy, and Chutney, a 27-year-old parrot. Philanthropy was yet another passion. “Sanjeev and I actually funded a couple of drinking water wells in India.” This altruistic spirit fits with his calming presence and kind nature. Lahoti was known by many to be a comforting presence during difficult times.

“No matter how crazy things seem to be going and how overwhelmed I felt with work and life, all he had to do was take his hand and just touch my arm and everything would go back to ‘It’s gonna be O.K.’ That’s what I’m gonna miss the most,” Summers said. “He didn’t have to say anything. Everyone has told me about how he was so calm and gentle, and I’ve had friends and relatives from all over the world call and say, ‘I don’t think you know, but whenever I was having a hard time, I would call him and he would just listen and ask me questions about it. And then at the end, I would know what to do.’ A lot of people are going to miss his way of gently helping them along their path.”

As for Saffron Fields, Summers is committed to continuing the business Lahoti lovingly cultivated for their future, now her own.

“In 2010, my husband started building what was going to be my future, and he did that not just through developing the physical entity that is Saffron Fields, but because of him, he connected me with so many people who are now such very, very good friends,” Summers said. “Oregon’s where I want to live. It’s where I want to be. I’m going to work really hard to keep it.”

For those wishing to make a donation in Lahoti’s honor, two charities are suggested: Sri Meenakshi Devasthanam Temple ( and Heifer International ( 


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