Laurel Ridge is situated on a 240-acre estate, in the Yamhill-Carlton region of the Willamette Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA). The estate was fondly named Finn Hill when it was purchased by Laurel Ridge founder David Teppola in 1974, a nod to his Finnish heritage.
Growing up in Oregon, David had a passion for Oregon’s agricultural heritage and became particularly fascinated with wine and viticulture while studying abroad in Europe during his junior year of college. He admired the gracious and genteel way that people entertained and the elegance that wine brought to each meal. He grew to adore Pinot Noir, calling it the wine of Kings, and spent most of his vacation time exploring the Grand Cru vineyards of Burgundy.
The late 1960s and early 1970s saw the first investors were finding their way to the Willamette Valley from California with the hopes that Oregon would be an outstanding producer of cool-climate varietals like Pinot Noir. Among these investors was Charles Coury, who famously (and illegally) imported grape vines from France with which to plant his vineyard in Oregon. These are now known as the “suitcase clones” or the “Coury Clones,” and marked an important moment in the history of the Oregon wine industry. With the planting of these clones, other investors saw that Oregon had the soil types and climates necessary to produce world-class wines.
Charles and David became partners, producing several vintages together during the 1970s while David searched for a property on which he could plant his own vineyard. After years of exploration all over the Willamette Valley, David found a potential vineyard sight just outside the small town of Carlton, Oregon. At the time his colleagues were snapping up land in the area replete in Jory soil, a type known to be rich in nutrients and suitable for growing grapes. However, David’s site was rich in Willakenzie Loam, which at the time was a soil believed to be nutrient-poor and only suitable for native plants like Douglas fir, grand fir, blackberries, wild roses and certain grasses. Against the better advice of his colleagues, David purchased the farm, cleared the land, and planted his first vineyard just a few years later.
It was his conviction about the land that drives Laurel Ridge philosophy to this day. David believed that the makeup of the soil would do exactly the opposite of what his colleagues believed. That it wouldn’t kill grape vines, but rather, drive the vines deeper into the soil, forcing them to produce richer, more complex and nuanced wines- perfect for growing Pinot Noir. He strongly believed Willakenzie Loam soil was the perfect balance of nutrient availability to allow the grape vines to produce viable clusters, but was nutrient-poor enough to stress the vines to produce grapes instead of focus their energy on creating abundant canopies (read shoots & leaves) without producing enough grape clusters.
Shortly after buying Finn Hill, David met and married his wife, Susan, and they moved on to the property together in 1981. Susan shared David’s passion for the vineyard and his belief that world-class wines only come from world-class vineyards. As a joint venture they decided to take the leap from grape growers to wine makers, incorporating Laurel Ridge Winery in 1986, and produced their first vintage that year (coincidentally their first vintage was created in the same year that their oldest daughter, Kira was born).
David’s passion for French wine and wine making techniques found a wonderful home inside the winery as his first vintage included Pinot Noir, and méthode champenoise sparkling wine. In 2006, David’s convictions about his Willakenzie Loam vineyard site were borne out. The Yamhill-Carlton AVA was approved as a sub-appellation of the Willamette Valley AVA and the wines from it began to distinguish Willakenzie Loam as a soil that consistently produces premier, award-winning, and distinctively unique Pinot Noir.
Since 1986, Laurel Ridge Winery has made a name for producing wines of distinction and, to this day, Laurel Ridge truly is a family-run business. Driven by David’s vision and passion for wine and the Teppola family’s commitment to creating a sustainable future for their land and winery. Laurel Ridge is now owned and operated by David’s wife Susan, with their two daughters, Kira and Maija poised to carry the winery to the second generation of ownership.