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Tired of mowing grass? Grow wine grapes instead

Bob and Mignon Ervin turn front lawn into vineyard


Photo Credit: STAFF PHOTOS: VERN UYETAKE - Bob Ervin pours a taste of one of Monte Ferro Wines chardonnays during a tasting.

Ever get the urge to tear out the lawn and put in a low-maintenance water feature or slabs of attractive stone or concrete? For many homeowners, including Bob Ervin of Lake Oswego, that is more than a fleeting thought. Even though the patch of grass wasn’t large, Ervin was tired of mowing it. His solution: Replace it with a vineyard.

Ervin has always been passionate about food, and in 2007, when he was nearing the end of his long career in the food industry, Ervin and his wife, Mignon, settled in Lake Oswego. Perched atop a ridge in the Uplands neighborhood with a panoramic view of Oswego Lake, the couple make productive use of the property. They raise bees, chickens and ducks, have an extensive garden plus an aquaponic gardening system with koi. It seemed natural to grow grapes for wine.

They launched Monte Ferro Wines in 2009, focusing on producing small quantities of well-made, cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Ervin and his wife, Mignon, enjoy cooking and make many unique products from foods they grow in their home garden, including jams and vinegars.

“These vines only generate about 180 to 200 bottles a year,” he said of his home vineyard, but in all, Monte Ferro Wines produces about 500 cases of wine a year.

Winemaker Terry Brandborg of Brandborg Vineyard and Winery in Elkton, Oregon (Umpqua AVA), is Monte Ferro’s winemaker.

“We count ourselves fortunate to have Terry making wine for Monte Ferro,” Ervin said. “His Monte Ferro Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays have won wine awards from Sunset Magazine and the San Francisco Chronicle and are standouts in their price category.”

Ervins wine cellar is well stocked with Monte Ferro wines. He considers himself lucky to have Terry Brandborg of Brandborg Vineyard and Winery in Elkton, Oregon (Umpqua AVA), as Monte Ferros winemaker.

Monte Ferro purchases grapes from Stoller Vineyards in Oregon’s Dundee Hills AVA for 2010 and 2012 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir; Dion Vineyards in the Chehalem Mountains AVA for 2010 and 2011 Chardonnay and 2013 Pinot Noir; Bradley Vineyards in Elkton AVA for 2013 Oregon Pinot Noir and Westbrook Vineyards in the Umpqua Valley AVA for 2011 and 2012 Oregon Pinot Noir.

Ervin explained that the winery is “purely virtual by design.” By buying rather than growing grapes he can source the fruit from select vineyards. When it is ready to harvest, it is delivered where Brandborg will make the wine; the wine is bottled by a mobile service and labeled.

“I don’t want to drive out to check if the fruit is ready to harvest,” Ervin said.

Current releases of Monte Ferro include 2009 Monte Ferro Syrah, 2010 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, 2011 Monte Ferro Chardonnay, 2011 Monte Ferro Oregon Pinot Noir, 2012 Monte Ferry Chardonnay, 2012 Oregon Pinot Noir, 2012 Willamette Valley Stoller Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2013 Oregon Pinot Noir, 2013 Willamette Valley Dion Vineyards Chardonnay and 2013 Willamette Valley Dion Vineyards Pinot Noir.

Eager to taste Monte Ferro wines? Ervin self-distributes the wines locally to Wizer’s Wine Shop, World Class Wines, Nature’s Choice Market, New Seasons Markets, E and R Wine Shop, Vinopolis, Vino Portland and Cell Door Portland. Outside the area the wines are distributed by Oregon Wine Sales and Oregon Wine Country Distributers.

Those wanting to sample are welcome to come to Monte Ferro Wines tasting room. Tasting fee is $10 for a flight, which is applied toward purchases. The tasting room is small, so appointments are necessary; call 503-803-9180 or email monteferrofoods@gmail.com. Visit winesbymonteferro.com for more details about wine club and the specific wines.

Ervin makes vinegar from some of the grapejuice for his personal use and to give as gifts.

Contact Barb Randall at 503-636-1281 ext. 100 or email brandall@lakesoswegoreview.com.

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