A Flurry of Fun - Ashland is Base Camp - Winter '24 Issue

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Deer Creek Vineyard and Wine Lounge

Wine

Deer Creek Vineyard and Wine Lounge

A Triple Love Story

Story by Lisa Manyon

Photography by

 

When cause marketing and sustainable winemaking practices collide, it’s beyond a crush; it’s the perfect pairing.

Together, Kenan and Audra Hester have married their talents and each other to create a synergy that is rare and beautiful to behold. Deer Creek Vineyard and Wine Lounge is truly a labor of love designed to give back to the community.

Kenan shares, “One of the things that brought our love together in the first place is a strong desire and commitment that we both held for many years, even before being together, to make a difference for those hurting most in the world around us. Having both been through and affected by critical circumstances and events, we have a deep care and understanding for the hurting among us. Audra curated a career of helping to build, market, and ensure accountability in the space of critical causes and disaster relief, working to help build and even found a number of different amazing and impactful organizations that make a real, meaningful difference for those experiencing critical need in the world. 

Kenan explained that he had a dream for Deer Creek Vineyards to become a farm that is a model of sustainability and community re-investment. When Kenan and Audra fell in love, it became quickly apparent that their powers united could be what it takes to make that dream a reality.

Fast forward to today and Kenan and Audra are working together each day to make a difference through small-scale, family-focused, community-benefitted farming. The intent is to make the fruit of their labor a blessing to the community and the people involved.

“Our love story has solidified the trajectory of our operation through developing a concrete mission, vision and values first. Audra and I have collaborated to flesh out the common vision we share for impacting this community positively and being a model farm for others to follow. We’ve begun to identify both practical-boots-on-the-ground ways that we can invest our time, energy, and resources, in addition to vetting organizations that we will be supporting financially to grow causes that we are passionate about,” emphasized Kenan.

Speaking of causes they care about, Deer Creek incorporates sustainable growing practices, too. They treat the farm like the diverse, interdependent ecosystem that it is, and make decisions based on what is best for the people doing the farming and the land being cultivated. When I asked them about the sustainability practices that are in place and currently being addressed, they shared so much information I could have written an article about that alone.

Some of the impressive highlights include taking measures to redesign the irrigation and sprinkler system to reduce overall water usage by 40%. They no longer spray on the land any non-estate sourced products that are not OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute)-approved. They no longer use herbicides, fungicides, and poisons, and are implementing cover cropping annually to feed the soil naturally. They’re also making many of their own sprays onsite from raw organic ingredients that are better for the land and farmers who tend it. This includes brewing their own microbial solutions and compost teas which can be applied directly to the soil, eliminating the need for pelletized synthetic fertilizers.

In additional to all the positive changes that have already been made, there is an even bigger vision for the farm and vineyards. They plan to add sheep and chickens to the mix to graze in the vineyard and help fertilize the soil. Incorporating solar technology to make the greenhouse food production projects more sustainable is also in the works.

“We continue to incorporate technology to the extent that we can to reduce the back-breaking elements of farming for our vineyard team. We are always looking for ways to reduce consumption of vital resources in the process of farming. We are always improving efficiency of our processes, which improves our overall sustainability outlook. We will also begin to incorporate farming of Chinese medicinal herbs into our production game plan beginning in 2024, with a purpose of making and providing herbal and botanical products that can facilitate health and well-being for members of the community, visitors to our farm, and global shoppers alike,” says Kenan.

Another facet of the vision incudes a closed loop aquaponics fruit/vegetable cultivation

and fish farming operation online in the greenhouses.

“We are committed to using only natural and holistic methods to provide subsistence food crops for the families involved in the farm and to give away weekly to members of the community in need. We will also sell our produce in local farmer’s markets and direct to the public here at the farm. We want to help make sure that folks in our local community never go hungry because they don’t have the money or ability to get good food. This is something we feel strongly about doing, regardless of whether our wine customers participate, but it’s a great way to make our wine a tool for doing good in the community and getting our customers engaged in our efforts to address the problems we face collectively.”

The Deer Creek Vineyards “Pay it Forward” program is coming soon, too. Wine Lounge patrons will be able to purchase a $25 bag of fruits and vegetables grown fresh on the farm to donate to a local family in need.

On top of all the good the Hesters are doing in the community, the wine is exceptional. Each pour is unique in character. I typically lean towards red, and the Pinot is delicious. To my surprise and delight, I thoroughly enjoyed each pour on tap. The Rosé is off-dry and incredibly refreshing, perfect for warm spring and summer days. The Pinot Gris is well balanced and the fresh, crisp Chardonnay is absolutely delightful. After sampling each pour, I enjoyed a lovely glass of the Chardonnay (so good).

I should also note that Kenan’s first entries in the Oregon Wine Experience competition did not disappoint. “Deer Creek Vineyards is thrilled to continue the tradition of award-winning wines from this site, taking multiple silver medals for our white and Rosé wines,’ he humbly shared, “as well as winning the only Double Gold medal for Pinot Noir from Southern Oregon at the 2022 Wine Competition, one of only three Double Gold medals awarded to Pinot Noir in the state of Oregon that year!"

Kenan noted that they have three years of Traditional Method sparkling wine in production. They plan to further develop their sparkling wine program and expand the red and white wine programs by planting new varieties: Gamay Noir for red wines and Rosé production; Pinot Meunier for sparkling wine and red wine production; and, Aligoté, Pinot Blanc, and Riesling for white wine production. There are other varieties and styles on the list, and those will be revealed at a later date.

The vineyard views are breathtaking. The Wine Lounge and grounds are perfect for relaxing gatherings with friends and family. And best of all, when you sip at Deer Creek, you are sipping on the mission, vision, and values infused in every glass. Did I mention the farming practices are organic? Audra, Kenan, and the entire Deer Creek Vineyards Family have co-created a true Southern Oregon gem.

I highly encourage a visit the Wine Lounge to enjoy the wine, the views, and delicious treats that are sourced from a locally owned caterer/chef. Many of the food items come from local community gardens. Be sure to check out the Deer Creek merch, too. 

I think they said it best when they concluded, “We all need each other, and the more we work together locally to solve our local problems, the sooner we can foster the sort of thriving community where pain and suffering are eliminated and abundance and prosperity proliferate.” Check their website for current hours, including tasting by appointment, and events or give them call.

 

2680 Deer Creek Rd., Selma

541-597-4226

 www.DeerCreekVineyards.com  

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