On Calkins Lane at the edge of the Chehalem Mountains in Oregon's Willamette Valley, a beautifully tended 23-acre vineyard stands next to the pretty Bergström winery, where Josh Bergström makes some of the best wines in Oregon. The biodynamically farmed vines belong to Paul de Lancellotti and his wife, Kendall Bergström-de Lancellotti, who is Josh Bergström's sister. In the winery, Bergström has been making the wines from this vineyard, most going into a single-vineyard bottling for Bergström Wines, some for de Lancellotti's own bottling.
It was all looking so cozy, but behind the scenes there were family tensions that have resulted in wrenching changes for both wineries and for the Inn at Red Hills, which had been started and managed by Kendall. The inn, located in Dundee, opened with great fanfare in 1999 and includes a locavore restaurant, Farm to Fork.
On the wine side, Bergström will no longer be making de Lancellotti's wines. For several years, Josh made wines for outside clients at the winery (including the excellent early vintages of Ayoub), until he and his family partners decided to focus only on the family's winery. At that point, in 2008, Josh and his father bought out the siblings, including Paul and Kendall. Bergström took out a long-term lease on the de Lancellotti vineyard and farmed the site.
"Recently Paul asked if he could increase his production to a case level that I was not comfortable producing," Josh said. "So I thought it best to ask [him] to find another winemaker who had his best interests in mind, and I have asked for half of the de Lancellotti vineyard in the form of a long-term per-acre contract [much like I do with Shea and Temperance Hill, among others.]"
"This will free up Paul to farm and make the wines that are true to his vision while also allowing Bergström to focus on the blocks of de Lancellotti Vineyard that have traditionally made our single-vineyard wine great. Nothing about our de Lancellotti Vineyard Pinot Noir will change, and Sigrid Chardonnay will continue to have de Lancellotti fruit in it.
"And, I think that you will start to see more and more exciting wines from Paul as he grows his brand independent of my efforts and Bergström Wines. So really, we are just shifting business structure to make family happy and both businesses happy."
"Yes, it's been a crazy year," de Lancellotti said, "but the good news is that I am focused on de Lancellotti Family Vineyard and taking the majority of the vineyard back for our brand. I will have two estate Pinots in the future, and of course the estate Chardonnay."
At the Inn at Red Hills, Kendall's partners ousted her earlier this year, when a round of refinancing was required. As of this week she is no longer involved. Provenance Group, a boutique hotel consulting and management company that specializes in "distressed properties," according to its web site, assumed management in February. Provenance's clients include Hotel Max in Seattle and Hotel Lucia in Portland.
Ownership was taken over earlier this week by Harvest Inn LLC, composed mostly of the original partners from Southern California, without Kendall, who said the chef at Farm to Fork had resigned.
"Obviously, it's tough to lose something that I put my heart and soul into," Kendall said Tuesday, after the deal closed. "Now I can focus on my previous family, and get back to my real-estate business."
Michael Twelftree — Barossa Valley, Australia — August 25, 2011 7:52am ET
Caroline Bergstrom — Portland, Oregon — August 25, 2011 5:31pm ET
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