Southern Oregon Wine Institute’s new vineyard: groundbreaking ceremony at Charlie’s Place

The first vines in the form of rootstocks for Charlie’s Place vineyard were planted on May 15, 2018. The vineyard has been given its name in memory of the renowned viticulturist Charlie Williams. Dorothy Williams, the widow of Charlie Williams, UCC President Deborah Thatcher and UCC Interim Director of Viniology Andy Swan, addressed dozens of listeners on the almost three acres of vineyard space that has been allocated to serve as a lab for vinology students at UCC.

The upper enclosure of Charlie’s Vineyard will be planted with white vionnet, the lower enclosure will be an equal mix of tempranillo and syrah and the existing vines surrounding the Danny Lang Center are of pinot noir and sauvignon blanc varieties according to Swan.

“I wanted to diversify the varietal mix so that our students would gain more experience,” said Swan.

Swan and Thatcher gave special thanks to the numerous business partners involved in the development of Charlie’s vineyard.

“My perspective is that the best projects, and the most impactful, are the result of many people coming together with diverse skills and diverse resources, and making something happen that could not happen without a collaboration between all the parties involved,” said Swan.

“Under the leadership of Andy Swan, and with the very generous donations of our industry partners, we find ourselves here today to officially dedicate this new outdoor lab to Charlie Williams, and to his legacy,” said Thatcher.

Thatcher stated that Charlie’s viticultural career led him to the Napa Valley in California: “His career included serving as Vice President of Vineyard Operations for Robert Mondavi Winery, and overseeing the development of the vineyards at Opus One Winery, a joint venture between Robert Mondavi and the Baron Philippe de Rothschild family of France.”

“Robert’s expectation was excellence,” said Williams.

According to Williams, wine made under her husband’s management is still prized to this day: “Opus One is history today. Wine lovers will buy a bottle for $300, $400, $500.”

After Charlie’s ambitious career in Napa Valley, the Williams chose to transplant.

“Fortunately for us, Charlie’s and Dorothy’s love of the outdoors, and of fishing, led to their discovery of Douglas County. After buying land here and then permanently moving here in 1991,” said Thatcher. Both Charlie and Dorothy harvested rootstock on their property of eight acres after moving to Douglas County, according to Thatcher.

Charlie had a lifelong passion for tending to vines and their soil. “Charlie, a native of California, was a farmer’s son,” said Williams. “His experience of a very strong agricultural father put that special gift of loving to work in the dirt. As a matter of fact, Charlie loved to work in the dirt, and wanted to come back to work in the dirt, and he did.”

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