On a mid-July afternoon last summer, Barbara Smith Randall sat on the front porch of Myron Redford's Amity Hills home, listening to story after story of the triumphs and hardships endured by winemaking pioneers in the Willamette Valley.
Randall has a passion for wine, but she also has a passion for telling the stories of those who, in just 50 short years, have turned the Willamette Valley into an internationally recognized viticulture region against all odds.
"There's no grandeur," Randall says. "These people are farmers who want to produce the best grapes they can to produce the best wine they can."
That is, in essence, the crux of Randall's new book, "Willamette Valley Wineries," which lays out the history of the region's first winemakers.
Randall uses the expertise and relationships she has built during the past 12 years as an award-winning food columnist for the Lake Oswego Review and West Linn Tidings to compile the stories and photos that capture the spirit of those early pioneers.
Although wine has been produced in Oregon since the 1800s, Randall says, it didn't begin in earnest until people like Redford, David Lett, Charles Coury, Dick Erath and Bill Fuller arrived. They are the planters of what are now some of Oregon's oldest pinot noir vines and a staple of the Willamette Valley's wine industry.
"Everyone I spoke with had a genuine respect for the land and recognized that they had no way of controlling what Mother Nature might give them," Randall says. "They could share best methods and advice, but each vineyard would produce fruit that would make wine unique to the site. So in the end, the winemakers were working solo."
Using the Oregon Wine History Archive at Linfield College, as well as a wealth of family photos and information provided by the winemakers themselves, Randall's text is brimming with images and lore that define the uphill battle to put the Willamette Valley on the map.
"It's a small book, but it's designed like an old family photo album with stories about each photo. It's a great way to capture the essence of the people," she says.
Devoting many evenings and weekends to her work, Randall compiled the book in just one year. It is set to release under the banner of Arcadia Publishing on Monday, July 10.
A release party will be held Tuesday, July 11, at the Lake Theater & Cafe, 106 N. State St., Lake Oswego. The free event begins at 6 p.m. to give guests time to order food and beverages. Randall's presentation, including photos that didn't make it into the book, begins at 7 p.m. There will also be books available for purchase that Randall says she'll be happy to sign.
A second event is planned for Wednesday, July 12, from 4-6 p.m. at Chuckie Pies, 430 Fifth St., Lake Oswego. Priced at $40, it will include a blind wine tasting, gourmet pizza and a signed copy of the book. To reserve a seat, call 503-342-6207.
A third release event is planned for Monday, July 17, at Southeast Wine Collective, 2425 S.E. 35th Place, Portland. This event will feature a discussion of Division Street Wines by winemakers Tom Monroe and Kate Norris, who have been honored with a spot on Wine Enthusiast's 40 Under 40 List of people influencing what we drink, and a discussion and sharing of stories from photos in Randall's book and some that didn't make it in. This event runs from 6-8 p.m. and admission is $38. Reserve a seat on Eventbrite.