Van Duzer Vineyards was on of the first to locate at the mouth of the Van Duzer Corridor, embracing the now famed microclimate defined by a deep gap in the Oregon Coastal Range that draws brisk air from the Pacific Ocean into the Willamette Valley. The vineyard is in the direct path of marine winds, and benefiting from the cooling gusts, a moderate temperature and long growing season.
Van Duzer Vineyards selected a Zephyr for its labels, the gentle west wind of Greek mythology, symbolizing the unique climate. According to Greek legend, Zephyr and other wind gods were commanded by Aeolus, king of the winds, for which the Eola Hills wine region east of Van Duzer Vineyards is named.
We interviewed Danielle Blanchette, Guest Services Coordinator at Van Duzer to learn more:
Customer Service Relations: Danielle Blanchette
Van Duzer’s choice of a Zephyr on the label, references the region’s defining winds
Independence Hotel (IH) Your bio mentions, “special requests are your specialty.” What’s the A) Coolest, and B) Weirdest request you’ve received?
Danielle: Honestly, I haven’t experienced a coolest or weirdest request, but I have found that special requests can be as simple as letting the customer feel like their question was important, and that their order was both valued and completed to the fullest of my abilities. I put myself in their shoes and it always makes me feel like I made their day, just as I’d want someone to do for me in the same situation. The wine speaks for itself or they wouldn’t be ordering, but what helps them return is adding that special experience.
IH: I read you are a lover of the coast. What Van Duzer bottle do you recommend sipping in the valley, and which one do you take with you to the beach?
Danielle: I love to recommend sipping on our 2016 Homestead Block Pinot Noir. However, it is a bold wine. If someone is looking to enjoy a Pinot Noir with a delicious homemade/take out dinner, our 2018 Pinot Noir Estate is perfect.
Every time I stay at the coast my go to is the 2019 Estate Pinot Gris and/or Pinot Noir Rosé. Both are delicious and will go with a variety of seafood that you will get at the coast. It’s also great to have as glass on the patio.
The gorgeous tasting room at Van Duzer’s flagship vineyards.
A selection of Van Duzer’s wines representing diverse varietals
IH: Van Duzer is one of the newest AVA in Oregon, what does that entail? And what makes the Van Duzer AVA different from the rest of the Willamette Valley?
Danielle: The AVA was created because many wineries –Van Duzer included –are affected by the oceanic winds that funnel into the valley from as early as 3:00 in the afternoon. The breeze dries out the vine canopy and decreases fungus production. The wind helps with growing grapes and supporting sustainable practices by reducing the amount of spraying that happens throughout the growing process. Also by having the wind, the grapes adapt by thickening their skins, giving the wine more color and tannin. The AVA is a bit cooler during the growing season compared to north of the Willamette Valley, and the Pinot Noir tends to grow with a cooler location, which is why Oregon is known for it.
IH: Van Duzer is a part of several philanthropic organizations connected to the arts. Why is it important for Van Duzer to give back to the community? And what is the most creative part of the winemaking process?
Danielle: Our owner Carl Thoma and wife Marilynn are extremely involved in the Arts and have collected art for many years. Also, wine itself is an art. There are millions of wineries because no two are the same. Each winemaker has a technique or style that they want to express. This follows into art, as no one artist is the same in their expressions and techniques. I’d say the most creative step to winemaking is blending the wine! To work together different qualities of the grapes, really showing the vintages and styles all in one.
IH: In terms of philanthropy?:
The winery team and Thoma family are involved with the following organizations: the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Lyric Opera of Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago and the Santa Fe Opera. Local wine sponsorships include the Annual Boo Bash for the Willamette Valley Humane Society, the Autism Society of Oregon’s Annual Charity Golf Tournament and Mcminnville’s Juliette House.
The Carl & Marilynn Thoma Foundation was established in 1986 to fulfill the Thomas’ broad passion for philanthropy. Inspired to make contributions with broad yet personal impact, in 2014, the Thomas went on to found the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation to distinguish their initiatives in, and support of, visual art.
Proprietors, Carl and Marilynn Thoma are patrons and supporters of the arts and philanthropists in addition to their role at Van Duzer.
An arts event hosted by the Thoma Foundation
IH: The winery selected a Zephyr, the gentle west wind of Greek mythology, as a symbol of the unique climate. If your role at Van Duzer were to be named after a god, which god/goddess would it be and why?
Danielle: The thought was to allude to the winds of the corridor, as well have a unique, eye catching, stand out label that makes you want to try the wine when you see it on a shelf. And if I a god, I would be Artemis, for her strength, protectiveness, and overall stand towards her own power and beliefs.
IH: Can you tell us a little about the artist who designed the label?
Danielle: John Martinez was an Opera bulletin board designer in New York, who has an Art Nouveau style to his art. The proprietors liked his work and thought he would bring the vision they had to life.
IH: That’s great, we noticed Martinez has also created dust covers for a wide range of book publishers and his work can be seen in the collections of the Library of Congress and Museum of Modern Art.
John Martinez’s work on Van Duzer’s art work
Given that art plays such a role in the culture of Van Duzer, it is fitting that the Vineyard hosts regular painting nights.
Summer is the perfect time for sampling Van Duzer’s Rose
Yoga session on the grounds of Van Duzer Vineyards
An artistic rendering of Van Duzer’s Flagship Vineyard