Pinot Noir, ‘Bonnie Jean Vyd’, Ken Wright
Located in the Yamhill Carlton AVA and planted in 2010 (9acres) and 2014 (9acres) between 400-450ft on a east southeast slope.
Bonnie Jean vineyard, the newest source of fruit for Ken Wright Cellars’ line-up of single vineyard Pinot Noir wines, was named in tribute to Bonnie Jean Laughlin, a sweet, special-needs girl who was the delight of her parents, Robert and Dorothy Laughlin. She passed away in 1995 before her 28th birthday, and fifteen years later, when Ken Wright approached the Laughlins to plant a vineyard on the 20-acre parcel that their family had owned for generations, it was Wright who suggested the name. Situated on the eastern slope of Savannah Ridge in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, adjacent to the Abbott Claim and Angela Estate vineyards and composed of Wellsdale soil that slopes gently down from 450 to 400 feet in elevation, the vineyard was initially planted in 2010, producing its first wines with the 2013 vintage.
Producing extraordinary wine grapes is just the most recent incarnation of a property that could practically stand as a symbol for the entire Willamette Valley’s long and colorful history. If you were to make a miniseries from the people who have utilized this land, and the events that have transpired here, you would have to weave together the following elements: An influential pioneer family with deep roots that go back to the very beginnings of the Oregon territory, and Yamhill County in particular. The entire genesis and scope of a thriving orchard industry that made the Willamette Valley synonymous with world-class agriculture and orchard products like prunes, walnuts and cherries…and then practically vanished overnight. Seasons that saw great abundance followed by seasons of great destruction and scarcity. And finally, in its latest role, a world-class vineyard named after a special young woman that has returned the land to the forefront of modern agricultural use. The land that now bears Bonnie Jean Laughlin’s name is a microcosm of the sweep of Oregon history, and a testament to the rejuvenation of the land on which it is planted
The lands that would become the Bonnie Jean vineyards rode the tides of the orchard business. Prunes were a hot product in the 1930s, and most of the Bonnie Jean hillside was planted in them at that time. Abraham Laughlin built one of the first local drying sheds for both prunes and walnuts, and Stanford Laughlin doubled its size. Cherries, particularly maraschino cherries, came into vogue in the ‘40s, and half of Bonnie Jean’s prune trees were replaced by cherry trees. All three crops – cherries, prunes and walnuts – thrived on the property, but the 1962 Columbus Day wind storm damaged many trees, especially walnut trees that had suffered a blight and were knocked flat by the severe storm. Deep, unusual frosts in the early-‘90s were the death knell of walnuts in the valley and on the Laughlin properties, and the trees were ripped out and replaced by fields of grass seed and the red clover that stains these hillsides bright red in the spring when the plants bloom before going to seed. Cherries lasted until the early years of the 21st century, when market conditions and labor shortages made commercial cultivation untenable. The last Laughlin cherry orchard was torn down in 2005; the company now operates divisions that supply wholesale feed and transport products. Bob and Dorothy Laughlin are now in the process of transferring the business and property to nephew Larry Kubes, with an eye towards continuing the family tradition into the next generation.
A tradition that now makes the Bonnie Jean vineyard synonymous with fine wines from the prestigious Yamhill-Carlton AVA, and continues the agricultural heritage of this incredibly fertile area. On bottles of Bonnie Jean vineyard wine from Ken Wright Cellars, original artwork depicts a bluebird nestling among cherry trees as a tribute to what has come before on the land.