Russ Raney

Attendees of OLCV’s Annual Dinner for the Environment have for the last few years been able to pair their meal (and conversation with local sustainability-minded enviros) with local, sustainable wine from, among other wineries, Evesham Wood Vineyard. 

That’s in part thanks to the generosity of Evesham Wood’s owner, Russ Raney.

Raney has donated wine from his small vineyard outside Salem to the Annual Dinner for the last several years. He says he gets lots of wine donation requests, but giving to OLCV offers the highest environmental return on his oenological investment, so to speak. Of the groups that ask for wine, “you guys are one of the most widespread and influential,” Raney says of OLCV. “We feel you can make a big impact on reversing…environmental degradation.”

Reversing environmental degradation—and preventing it in the first place—matter to Raney, and it shows in how he runs his business. Evesham Wood has been organic—both Oregon Tilth and Salmon Safe-certified—for 15 years. Raney says he stopped using pesticide on his vines for many reasons (not least of which was protecting the health of the workers growing, and consumers drinking, his product) but that ultimately, he was “trying to protect the habitat here for birds and animals who [eat] off the ground” and salmon who swim in the Willamette River, just down a hill from the vineyard. Seeing bluebirds nesting among the vines again convinced Raney he had made the right decision. “In the end,” he says, “we felt it was just the right thing to do.”

Raney’s environmental credentials don’t end with organic certification, though. He is also a member of the Deep Roots Coalition, a local, loose-knit group of winegrowers who don’t irrigate their vineyards (once the vines are established, after two or three years). Non-irrigation forces vines to naturally find water in the subsoil, where they acquire distinctive local characteristics, Raney says—and besides, it conserves water.

Originally from Louisiana, Raney became enamored with winegrowing in college, while studying abroad in Germany. He and his wife Mary moved to Oregon in 1983, when the state was beginning to get attention for its wine industry, and started Evesham Wood in 1986. Today, the 12-acre vineyard produces 5,000 cases of wine annually, for sale both here in Oregon and around the world.

It makes sense that Raney supports OLCV’s efforts to protect Oregon’s environment. As a winegrower, he’s more mindful than most of the fragility and interrelatedness of our world. “It has had a big impact over the years in helping me understand how precious soil and water resources are and how they have to be managed properly if we want future generations to be able to enjoy them,” Raney says. “[Winegrowers] see the impact of our decisions, the way we manage the vineyard and what not, every day.”

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