Or everything you’d want to know about St. Josef’s (and a little bit more). Planted in 1978, St Josef’s is one of the pioneer wineries in the Northwest and one of the first 25 in Oregon.
St. Josef’s History
Like many pioneering wineries we have a story. Josef the owner/winemaker was born in Hungary with wine in his veins; as his grandfather had a winery in the picturesque valleys of Central Hungary. (Prior to the world wars Hungary was considered among the premier winemaking areas of the world- but that’s another story). Josef & family like many entrepreneurs fled out of Hungary after the war by the Communists and he grew up along the shores of Lake Constance in Southern Germany. After studying and apprenticing in baking he immigrated to the US. He soon was a baker in Chicago where in the large German population he met his wife Lilli. (Who also was German and fled the eastern bloc). Opportunity for new adventures and land brought them to the NW.
Josef and Lilli purchased acreage in the Willamette Valley about 30 miles South of Portland in the ‘garden spot’ next to the farming towns of Canby and Aurora, OR. Always hard working & ambitious they started a string of artisan bakeries while putting together a farm & vineyard on the side. Known in history books as the end of the Oregon Trail, the Willamette Valley boasts rich farmlands and favorable weather. Because of the soil content, combined with hot days, cool nights and abundant water Josef realized it was an ideal place for an aspiring vintner.
The first vineyards were planted in 1978 and after a few years of hard work and vision; they produced the first commercial vintage in 1983. Making St. Josef’s one of Oregon’s true wine pioneers, producing quality wines many years before the world had heard of the outstanding varietals of the region.
One of their early crowning moments occurred when the 1985 vintage of St Josef’s Cabernet won ‘gold’ at the NY Wine Summit- one of the most prestigious wine events in America. Not only did it make the local headlines but it also out showed some of the most famous California wines- including Robert Mondovi’s reserve cabernet.
Josef & Lilli continued to work long days at the bakeries and even longer nights and weekends establishing a farm & vineyards. After more than a decade in the NW, Josef finally turned in his baker’s apron and the smell of rising dough for the aromas of fermenting wine. The 64 acre farm with a rutted muddy driveway is now a picturesque vineyard. The old cow barn has been painstakingly reformed into a charming European style winery. All of this was hands on work; Lilli’s grandfather did the word-working & made the tables, Josef & family planted each vine and murals were painted by family members. St Josef’s now has 5 vineyards spread over nearly 40 acres and estate produces small batches of white wines including Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewurztraminer. And barrel aged red wines- including Pinot Noir and Syrah, along with a limited amount of select reserve releases.
We are celebrating over 30 years in the business… several years older than Starbucks and the micro brewers in the NW. We remain proud to be family owned & operated with 3 generations involved in the winery & vineyards. We are known for making vibrant wines and having a good time doing it! Please come visit and enjoy the wines, the people and European hospitality. The St Josef family is what you’d expect to find in the wine business – hard working & fun-loving people that strive to make the next vintage the best one yet!
Frequently Asked Questions of Josef
How did you get into the business?
Josef’s grandfather had a winery in Hungary. Like most businesses, the Hungarian communists took control of the operation and forced the owners/families out. Lilli (my wife) then talked me into it when we came to Oregon.
Why do you make & grow so many varietals?
We’d get bored in the cellar otherwise, plus we like to drink different style wines every week.
What is your favorite bottle of wine?
The open one! Really I like a nice chardonnay before the meal (I prefer a non-oaked one) and a full bodied red wine later on.
How did you get the name St Josef’s?
Back in the late 70’s, owner/winemaker Josef was still making wine in the basement and his friends were over enjoying the harvest. Talk got around to the fact that Washington had a saint (St Michelle), Idaho already had a saint (St Chappell) and California had many; but Oregon didn’t have one. So they said that he could become the first ‘saint’ of Oregon.
Does that mean that Josef is a saint?
No, because saints are dead. (Also St Josef is his patron saint and known as ‘the provider’. A fitting one since he provides both food and fun for the table.
Why haven’t we heard of St Josef’s before?
We are small–producing small lots of our vintages–4 red wines and 5 whites. And while we have been making wine for the past 30 years we haven’t been actively out in the market selling. While the 1st generation was concentrating on the vineyards & farm while the 2nd generation was starting a family.
Where is the fruit sourced from?
Over 90% of the fruit is grown in our 4 Estate, Jory-soiled, vineyards in the Canby and Aurora area of the Willamette Valley. As one of the oldest vineyards in Oregon, most were planted as far back as 1978. For our reserve Cabernet & Merlot blends we source fruit from warmer climates. We are also proud to sell Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Riesling to other award-winning wineries.
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