The Lewis & Clark Wine Trail
by Ellisa Valo
Starting from campus, the vinous adventurer can travel in just about any direction to discover a winery that is owned, operated, or staffed by a graduate of Lewis & Clark College.
Travel north and you may come across alumnus-owned Dimmick Cellars, which makes its wine in an urban Portland "microwinery" facility known as Hip Chicks Do Wine.
Head west through Oregon's wine valleys and you can visit several wineries owned by fellow graduates, including Lemelson Vineyards, Francis Tannahill Winery, Anne Amie Vineyards, Brick House Vineyards, Elk Cove Vineyards, and many others.
Turn south toward California's Napa Valley and you can catch up with alumni at the well-known ZD Wines and Groth Vineyards, as well as several smaller boutique wineries.
And if you travel east--way east--you might even share a glass of Sangiovese with Michael Falchini '94 at Casale-Falchini in Tuscany.
At first glance, Lewis & Clark may not strike you as a college that would cultivate winemakers. There is no agricultural program here. We offer no degrees in the wine arts. And yet, many of our graduates have chosen paths that lead not to boardrooms, but to barrel rooms.
As some of the leaders in the field, these alumni have helped raise the stature of the humble grape to America's highest-value fruit crop and grow an industry that contributes an estimated $50 billion annually to the U.S. economy. More than 92 percent of that economic impact comes from California, Washington, and Oregon, three of the top four wine-producing states in the country.
We caught up with three wine professionals whose Lewis & Clark studies ranged from political science to philosophy to art history, and we asked: How did you get from here to there? Each tells a unique tale: One took the direct route, joining the family winery right out of college; another took the scenic route, exploring a thrilling career abroad before coming home to launch a second career in viticulture; and the third pursued a path somewhere in between the two, following her own passion until the lure of the family wine business became irresistible.
Regardless of the road that brought them to the wine life, each can no longer imagine being anywhere else. For them, a high-rise office will never have the allure of a subterranean cellar. A freeway commute is no match for an afternoon on a tractor. And a cup of coffee in a break room will never compare to the elation of a new vintage in the glass.
Freelance writer and wine enthusiast Ellisa Valo diligently researched the products of each of the profiled wineries and can personally vouch for their quality.
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