For the past 15 years, Secret House Vineyards has made no secret out of its annual Wine and Blues Festival, held each year at the winery in Veneta, Oregon. Its success has prompted the addition of a Summer Solstice Event, and of highly successful events held in conjunction with the huge Oregon Country Fair.
The newest venture is FAERIEWORLDS, a gathering that draws thousands to the property.
But the real secret of Secret House is the great value, high quality wines produced by owners Ron and Patti Chappel. These aren’t pricey wines, and you get a good bottle of Pinot Noir or Pinot Gris for your money. And the sparklers have a local cult following. Dozens, if not hundreds, of local weddings have been toasted with Secret House Red Silk and Northern Silk.
“Our mission is to produce high quality wines at a reasonable price,” said Patti. “My Pinot Noir at $22 can stand up to the $40 and $50 Pinots sold in this state. We’re in the business to stay in business.”
The Chappels bought the vineyard as an investment in the late 1980s. When the Oriental rug business the couple owned was robbed, they found themselves moving to Veneta to seek out a living making wine.
“We knew the difference between good wine and crappy wine, and we wanted to make the good kind,” Patti recalled. “So, we hired good people to get us started.”
Secret House has about 27 acres of producing vines on their 100-acre estate. Grapes are purchased from other areas in Oregon and Washington to make the Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gris and the Muller-Thurgau. The Chappels grow Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Music and Wine - Go Together
Right after the couple began making wine, Patti, who describes herself as an “old hippie,” decided there had to be a way to combine wine with music. She and some of her friends in the entertainment industry conceived an outdoor blues festival at the winery.
“I don’t know why, exactly the blues, but I love the music,” Patti said. “The blues is truly American and it has always spoke to my inner self. When Etta James starts telling me about love, she’s speaking my language.”
Both Ron and Patti believe that people need to be exposed to the blues in a beautiful setting, as opposed to smoky bars.
“Folks who normally would not want to go to a funky club feel safe and happy to enjoy the blues here,” Patti added.
Although wine and beer are sold at the festival, along with food, arts and crafts, the Chappels promote responsible consumption. The Chappels say it is critical that wineries grow as venues for family entertainment, and many wineries host festivals and events, such as Chateau Ste. Michelle’s summer music series.
“There are no demons in a wine bottle. It’s OK to have fun, enjoy some of the finer things in life and still get home safely with the kids,” Ron said. “Wine is part and parcel of a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Nothing inherent in the enjoyment of fine wines is detrimental to the well-being of responsible people.”
In a recent tasting, the standout wine for the Chappels is the 1999 Umpqua Valley Pinot Noir. The wine has flavors of cherries, blackberries and a hint of plum, with a tinge of oak on the finish. This Pinot is a light ruby color, medium-bodied, dry with soft tannins.
I also thought the 2003 Riesling was bright and lively, with notes of citrus, honeysuckle and peaches. For $10, this wine embraces food very well.
The Chappels also make sparkling wines with Pinot Noir grapes. The three sparklers include Red Silk, Northern Silk and Celebration. Red Silk is medium bodied with slightly sweet red fruit flavors; Northern Silk is a dry and more complex flavor, blending Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier grapes; The Celebration is a basic sparkling wine with good flavor for the price.
“Our mission here is to have everyone
have a great time, great wine, a healthy dose of the blues and a safe
journey home,” said Patti.