Ken Wright Cellars

Ken Wright Cellars Aging Wine With Nomacorc


Rather than stamping wine with a varietal trademark, Pinot noir is the ultimate vehicle for conveying the aroma, flavor and texture of the location in which it is grown. We also have a place in our hearts for the limited production of two white wines, Chardonnay from Celilo Vineyard near White Salmon, Washington, and Pinot Blanc from Freedom Hill Vineyard and Meredith Mitchell Vineyard.

Location Description

Located in rural Carlton, Oregon.


Fax: 503-852-7111


  • Showcasing the inherent quality of selected vineyard sites.

Additional Information

  • Meeting / Conference Facilities:
  • Caves:
  • Wedding Facilities:
  • Picnic Facilities:
  • Dog Friendly:
  • Winery Tours:
  • Wine Tasting:
  • Art or Architecture:
  • Organic / Biodynamic:
  • Awards:
  • Wine Club:
  • Lodging / Bed & Breakfast:

Average Bottle Price

$ 55


Ken and Karen Wright


The seed for a career in wine was planted squarely in Bourbon country of Lexington, Kentucky. While waiting tables to put himself through school, Ken was exposed to fine wines from regions around the world. The passion became avocation when Ken left the Bluegrass State to attend enology and viticulture classes at UC-Davis. Eight years were spent winemaking for Ventana Vineyards and Talbott Vineyards in Monterey County of California’s central coast. Friends from the Willamette Valley piqued Ken’s interest in the region when they would visit, and a trip to the Dundee Hills in 1982 convinced him that this was where the finest Pinot noir in North America was being grown.

In 1986, with family, belongings and 10 barrels in tow, Ken moved to McMinnville and started Panther Creek Cellars. His concept of focusing on vineyard-designate bottlings began during those years at Panther Creek and was cemented as a core philosophy in 1994 when Ken Wright Cellars was founded in historic downtown Carlton. A Chardonnay from Celilo Vineyard in Washington State and a Pinot Blanc from the Willamette Valley added to the winery portfolio and in 2001, an additional label was launched, Tyrus EvanTyrus Evan. The name on the vintage western label came from Ken’s two son’s middle names; the wines, also made in Carlton, are from fruit sourced from the Del Rio Vineyard in Oregon’s Rogue Valley, Ciel du Cheval in the Red Mountain AVA of Washington and Seven Hills in the Walla Walla AVA of Oregon.

With his appreciation of sense of place, it was a given that Ken would contribute to the locations and industry near and dear to his heart. Instrumental in organizing the six new American Viticultural Areas (AVA’s) in the Northern Willamette Valley that define in detail the distinct growing areas within the region, he wrote the proposition for the Yamhill-Carlton AVA and served as the association’s first President.

For the town of Carlton, his work with the Visioning Committee helped develop a 20-year plan for the community. Ken and his wife Karen have been active in downtown improvements as well, from selecting the trees and vintage street lamps lining Main Street to purchasing and restoring historic buildings in keeping with the town’s rich, agricultural heritage. Ken and Karen bought the town’s train station that was built in 1921. After extensive restoration, this beautiful building now houses the tasting room for Tyrus Evan and Ken Wright Cellars, in addition to hosting a variety of community events. The town’s granary and accompanying silos are next on the list for potential development.

Ken is also a founding member of two respected and well-loved events in the Valley: Carlton’s Walk in the Park is held the first weekend every August, and showcases a wide range of fabulous artists and musicians, along with the region’s top restaurants and wineries. Now in its sixth year, the Event has raised over $150,000 in support of local charities and community service organizations. ¡Salud! is a joint venture between the Oregon wine industry and Tuality Hospital, and provides healthcare for the seasonal workers and their families who are so integral to the industry. Held in November after the Fall Harvest, the Event showcases the Valley’s top 42 Pinot Noir producers, who auction just five cases of wine from the best barrel in their cellar. With over $6 million raised to date, ¡Salud! has had a profoundly positive health impact on thousands of our seasonal workers and their families.

Ken’s most recent undertaking was the funding of a winery for the viticulture program at Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Oregon. All of these accomplishments were recognized in 2005 when Ken was awarded the VINI Award at Classic Wine Auction for a lifetime of service to the wine industry and Oregon’s community at large.

The Team

Ken and Karen Wright, Proprietors, Wine Maker, Soccer General
Alberto Alcazar, Cellar Master
Ivory Duyn, Winery Ambassador
Jessica George, Tasting Room
Mark Gould, Vineyard Manager
Joylin Kent, Cellar Assistant
Abby McManigle, Executive Chef
Seth Miller, Vineyard Manager
Julianne Nelson, Oregon Wholesale Sales
Amanda Paradis, Accountant / Math Geek
Angela Rhoads, Office Manager / Wine Princess
Asa Sarver, National Sales Manager
Carrie Simonson, Tasting Room Manager
Richard Simonson, Shipping Manager / Mr. Go To
Meredith Symons, Tasting Room
Taylor Varuska, Vineyard Manager

Estate Vineyards / AVA

Abbott Claim Vineyard:

This site is a portion of the original John F. Abbott Donation Land Claim and lies in the middle of Savannah Ridge, a small east-west ridgeline of sedimentary rock just east of Carlton. This is a consistent broad face of land with soil depths of 30 inches to mother rock. Elevation ranges from 400' to 475' and the inclination is S-SE. Soils are mostly Wellsdale with some areas of Willakenzie, Melbourne and Peavine. All of them lie atop mother rock of fractured sandstone and siltstone.

The planted acreage totals 17 acres. Vines are roughly an equal mix of Pommard clone on Riparia Gloire rootstock, 777 on 101-14 and 115 on both 101-14 and 3309. As would be expected from a vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton District the wine is very darkly colored, dense and lush. Fruits tend to be darker such as plum, cassis and black cherry.

Ken and Karen Wright own the vineyard. Mark Gould is the vineyard manager.

Guadalupe Vineyard:

The vineyard was planted in 1989 and represents the definable change of the Jory soils of the Dundee Hills to the sedimentary soil of the Yamhill-Carlton District. It is spaced 7' by 5' and is planted to the Wadenswil and Dijon 115 clones. The soil, known as Willakenzie, is a well-drained shallow soil over siltstone. It lies at an elevation of 350'. The vineyard consistently produces small berries and clusters that are intensely colored. The wine possesses the character of blue fruits, cocoa, leather and earth. Approximately 400 cases are produced. Jim Stonebridge and Kathleen Boeve own the vineyard. It is managed by Joel Myers.

McCrone Vineyard:

Located in the Yamhill-Carlton District, this is a densely planted vineyard (1 meter x 2 meters). The sedimentary soil, know as Wellsdale, is extremely well drained and promotes early ripening. Elevation is 400' with a south-southwest inclination. Slopes are 5 to 15 degrees. Half of the vineyard was planted in 1992 to the Dijon 115 clone grafted on 3309. The second half was originally planted to Dijon Chardonnay clones but was grafted in 2000 to the Dijon 777 clone of Pinot noir. The wine from this site ages very well. It is powerful, dense and deeply colored focusing mainly on black fruits. Approximately 700 cases are produced. Don and Carole McCrone are the vineyard owners. Mark Gould and Taylor Varuska are the vineyard managers.

Savoya Vineyard:

This is the first vineyard directly owned and developed by Ken Wright Cellars. The vineyard is located in the Yamhill-Carlton District northeast of Carlton. Planting began in 1999 with 4.5 acres of clones 777 and 115 on phylloxera resistant rootstock. Total planted acreage as of spring 2002 is approximately 17 acres. Vine spacing is 6.5' x 4' and the elevations averages 450'. The soil is comprised of marine sediments known as Wellsdale and Willakenzie. These are sandy soils which drain quickly and hasten the ripening process. Our first commercial crop, 2002, has produced a muscular wine that has aromas of dense black fruit, seared meat, cedar and anise. Approximately 240 cases are produced. Ken and Karen Wright are owners. The vineyard is managed by Mark Gould and Taylor Varuska.

Shea Vineyard:

This site is in the Yamhill-Carlton District just west of the Chehalem Valley. Our fruit is sourced from three small blocks, two of which are planted to the Pommard clone, with the third to Wadenswil. Soils are primarily of the Goodin and Melbourne type which are sedimentary in origin. The three blocks range in elevation from 450 to 600 feet and were originally planted in 1989. Trellis style is vertical shoot positioning. The wine from this vineyard has a complex array of aromas and flavors including black and red fruits, particularly blueberry, spice and earth. Approximately 725 cases are produced. The vineyard is owned by Dick and Deirdre Shea.

Canary Hill Vineyard:

Located at the southern end of the Eola Hills and faces east. The original vines were planted in 1983 and 1984. All of the acreage planted to Pinot noir was Pommard clone. Two and a half acres that were originally Chenin Blanc were replanted to Pommard and Dijon 114 clones. Six acres that were planted to Chardonnay were replaced with Dijon 777 clone. The entire 20 acres are now planted to Pinot noir. Elevation is 450' to 550'. The soil is a mix of Jory and Nekia. Both are formed from igneous rock and have a reddish-brown tint. This site, however, has less depth than similar soils in the Dundee Hills. Wine from Canary Hill is typically very forward, with aromas of black cherry and cola. Approximately 625 cases are produced. The vineyard was owned, planted and tended for many years by Dick and Nancy Daniel. It is now owned by Ken and Karen Wright. Mark Gould and Seth Miller manage the vineyard.

Carter Vineyard:

Located just 1 mile from Canary Hill in the Eola Hills, Carter Vineyard is lower on the hillside yet has a leaner and less fertile soil. It is mainly Nekia soil, which is formed from weathered basic rock. It lies at an elevation of 325' and was planted in 1983. This bottling is comprised of the Wadenswil, Dijon 777, Dijon 667, Dijon 115, and Pommard clones. The wine is much firmer than Canary Hill in its youth but evolves beautifully after a few years in bottle to show dark fruits and fresh, healthy earth scents. Approximately 650 cases are produced. The vineyard is owned by Jack and Kathleen Carter, and managed by Mark Gould.

Nysa Vineyard:

The vineyard was planted in 1990 to own-rooted Pommard and Wadenswil. Located in the heart of the Dundee Hills between Domaine Drouhin and Archery Summit with a southeast to northeast inclination. The soil is of the Jory type. Nysa is densely planted with a spacing of three feet by six feet. The nose exhibits a mix of red and black fruits. The wines are forward, textural and elegant. Approximately 350 cases are produced. The vineyard is owned and managed by Michael Mega.

Vineyards of the Coastal Range:

We source fruit from two vineyards located in the foothills of the coastal range. Both tend to be late to ripen due to the cooling influence of maritime air flowing into the valley from the Van Duzer Corridor. These sites also tend to have higher levels of tannin which make them great candidates for extending cellaring but they are unlikely to be as immediately pleasurable as many of our other sites.

Freedom Hill Vineyard:

Freedom Hill Vineyard is located in the Coast Range just south of Dallas, OR. The soil type is known as Bellpine, which is sedimentary in origin. The fruit from our 2.85 acre block is wholly Pommard clone. The vineyard was originally planted in 1980. Wines from this site were once the firmest and most structured that we worked with. After replanting from phylloxera devastation the site was refitted with a vertical shoot position trellis. This switch from a hanging trellis affords more shading of the fruit area. The less exposed berries have thinner skins and lighter tannin levels which allow the resulting wine to be lush and approachable at an earlier age. Approximately 340 cases are produced. The vineyard is owned and managed by Dan & Helen Dusschee.

Meredith Mitchell Vineyard:

The vineyard was planted in 1988 to own-rooted Pommard clone. The site is southwest of McMinnville in the coastal foothills. Spacing is 12'' x 6'' with an average elevation of 300''. Soils are shallow with basaltic mother rock only 20 to 30 inches below the soil surface. Consistently producing small clusters and berries this vineyard renders wine which is intense and structured, requiring a bit more aging than may of our sites. Approximately 310 cases are produced. The vineyard is owned and operated by Susan Meredith and Frank Mitchell.

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120 N. Pine St
Carlton, Oregon 97111
United States

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