A Little Bit of Harvest History

Greetings, everyone! I’m Kimmy, Jimmy Leyden’s granddaughter and I am excited to announce that I’ll be taking the helm of the Courting Hill vineyard blog. For my first blog post, I thought I might enlighten everyone with a little bit of history about the Courting Hill Vineyard. First, though, I’ll give you a little background on the history of wine in general. Winemaking is an ancient art. So ancient, that it dates back around 7,000 years to the time of ancient Greeks and their festivals in honor of Dionysus complete with the stomping of the grapes. Around the world since then millions of pairs of feet have continued this jolly, juicy celebration. The grape harvest has been captured in art over the centuries. One famous example is this panel of the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry by early Dutch renaissance painters the Limbourg brothers.
640px-Les_Très_Riches_Heures_du_duc_de_Berry_septembreHow is this relevant to Courting Hill vineyard, you ask? To address this question we will full speed ahead in time and cross the seas to California in 1889 when the University of California Davis established an experimental vineyard in California’s Lake County known as the Jackson Hill Vineyard. Planted in this vineyard there were grape clones acquired from all over will Europe. However initial interest for this project dwindled and so the University abandoned the vineyard in 1903. Fortunately about 50 years later, it was revisited by Dr. Gosheen of the University and the interest in the Jackson vineyard’s European clones was renewed. This leads us to the moment you’ve all been waiting for: — Drum Roll! — The start of Courting Hill Vineyard in 1981!
When my grandparents Jimmy and Helen Leyden moved to Banks, Oregon with ambitions to start a vineyard, they acquired 40 acres on a south slope with a view of Mount Hood to the east. A local building contractor pointed out as he gave then his home construction bid, “you folks are building on my old courtin’ hill.” It seems that back in olden days of yesteryear courting couples would come up this hill for the beautiful view and a little “privacy.”
Fast-forward again to early 2000, when details about three Jackson Pinot Noir clones available from the UC Davis plant material department were published. The spirit of adventure took hold in the plants were ordered, shipped, and planted upon arrival at courting Hill, which gives the vineyard a deep sense of history and connects it all the way back to the vineyards of Europe. Later, the whole story of the Jackson Vineyard appear in the UC Davis Grape Program Newsletter and by that time Courting Hill’s Jackson plants were coming into full production.
For many years now we’ve offered the You Pick experience, where home winemakers, choosing from the many Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay clones that cover hillside can pick and help with the crushing, meet with fellow winemakers and enjoy the goodies on the harvest table.
I hope you all enjoyed this brief look into Courting Hill Vineyard’s history!
The Courting Hill awaits your presence. A Votre Sante!
Warm late autumn wishes,

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