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Dick Erath: An Oregon Legend

Dick Erath's wine

Willamette Valley’s Dick Erath

Dick Erath’s contributions to the Oregon wine industry were numerous and profound. In the 1960s, he was  actually working in the California wine industry. It was during his time in California that he became interested in Pinot Noir, a grape variety that he believed could thrive in Oregon’s climate. After visiting Oregon in 1967 and witnessing the similarities between the state’s climate and that of Burgundy, France, Erath became convinced that Oregon had the potential to become a world-class wine region.

Did you know? In 1972, Erath sold his California vineyards and moved to Oregon with his family. He founded Erath Winery in the Dundee Hills, which became one of the first wineries in the region.

Dick Erath's vineyard legacy at Erath Winery: Sustainable fields in Oregon's Dundee Hills.
Dick Erath’s vineyard legacy at Erath Winery: Sustainable fields in Oregon’s Dundee Hills.

Erath’s early work in the area helped establish the Willamette Valley as a premier wine-growing region. His passion for sustainable farming practices was ahead of its time and has influenced the region’s modern winemakers and wineries.

Dick Erath and His Winery

Erath was an advocate for the Oregon wine industry as a whole. He was a founding member of the Oregon Winegrowers Association and helped establish the Dundee Hills as an American Viticultural Area (AVA). In 2006, Erath was inducted into the Oregon Wine Hall of Fame, an honor that recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the state’s wine industry.

Despite his success, Erath remained humble and committed to his craft. He once said, “I’m not trying to change the world. I’m trying to make a living making wine.” However, his impact on the Oregon wine industry was far-reaching. In addition to his work at Erath Winery, he also helped to establish several other wineries in the Willamette Valley, including Ribbon Ridge Vineyard and Chehalem Winery.

On March 29, 2023, Dick Erath passed away at the age of 87. His legacy, however, lives on. Today, Erath Winery continues to produce exceptional Pinot Noir and other varietals, with a commitment to sustainable farming practices that reflect Erath’s vision for the region. The winery’s tasting room in Dundee offers visitors the opportunity to taste some of the wines that made Erath a legend in the industry.

Dick Erath’s contributions to the Oregon wine industry were immeasurable, and his passing was felt deeply by the entire community. However, his impact on the region will be felt for generations to come. And his pioneering work will continue to inspire winemakers and wine lovers alike.

Want to read more on Pinot winemakers? Try these books!


Fish, Tim. 2023. “Oregon Wine Pioneer Dick Erath Dies at 87 | Wine Spectator.” Wine Spectator. Wine Spectator. March 31, 2023.

“The Story of Erath | Erath Winery Oregon.” n.d. Accessed June 2, 2023.

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