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Local author releases book tracking industry history and memoirs of the growers who shaped it

When Kerry McDaniel Boenisch moved to the Dundee hills in 1972, it was on an inspiration felt by her parents to get into winemaking. Her 8-year-old self was decidedly less motivated by the change of scenery.GARY ALLEN - Looking back – Local author Kerry McDaniel Boenisch displays her new release, ‘Dirt + Vine = Wine,' as well as a framed collection of her family's original labels for its winery, ‘McDaniel of Dundee.'

“Most adults would think, ‘Oh my gosh, a vineyard, that’s going to be an amazing experience!’ But I was 8 — I wanted sidewalks, I wanted to roller-skate,” Boenisch said. “I didn’t want to go live in the dirt.”

Her family was moving from the granary district in McMinnville to the Dundee hills to plant some vineyards and start a winery (which became McDaniel Vineyards and later turned into Torii Mor Winery). Like many of the wine pioneers of the 1960s and 1970s, they roughed it in the beginning, living out of travel trailers on their acreage.

But while she may not have felt the original vineyard-pioneer calling in her youth, a different kind of inspiration took hold later in life as Boenisch was moved to record the history of those early growers and the community they formed.

Now, more than 20 years of researching and compiling has produced her latest work, “Dirt + Vine = Wine,” subtitled, “How grape growers transformed three miles of terroir and shaped a pinot noir revolution.”

In 2004 Boenisch, who holds English and journalism degrees from the University of Oregon, published her first book on the wine industry, “Vineyard Memoirs.” Her new book represents a revised and updated version. It is divided into sections, with the first focusing on the history and details of the Oregon wine industry from its modern inception around 1965 through 1990.

That history, Boenisch explained, began in the 1960s at the University of California-Davis, when recent graduates including Charles Coury, David Lett and Dick Erath became interested in growing grapes in a cooler climate. Vineyards were big in California and New York at the time, but the students looked elsewhere.

“They searched and searched and ended up here,” Boenisch said.

The history traces the industry rise over the next 20 years, but for a more detailed look at the growers themselves readers can look to section two, titled “The Grower’s Stories.”

This is where some of the true inspiration for Boenisch’s project came from — which all started during her senior year at the University of Oregon when Loie Maresh, a teacher who along with Jim Maresh had been an early winegrower in the Red Hills, mentioned the idea of recording the local history.

“Men and women in the neighborhood would sit around at these potlucks and would be telling me stories,” Boenisch said. “We’d get to laughing about the stories and Loie said, ‘Someone’s got to write these down. These are funny if nothing else. They’re entertaining — they’re community history.’”

There was a sense that the early winemaking community would not exist as it had in the past, a sense that turned out to be correct, Boenisch said.

“I … wrote it in honor of these other growers,” she said. “Many of whom are not here, many of the people I wrote about are deceased, although … they laid the groundwork for future wineries.”

Some of those future wineries are also featured in the book in one of its additions not found in the former printing. At the end of the book is a sort of tour guide feature, offering a list of local wineries, vineyards, places to stay, restaurants, local tour routes and organizations dedicated to the wine industry.

The guide came partially in response to the explosive growth of the industry, especially in the decade since Boenisch published her first book.

“What has happened in the last 10 years is a quantum leap in the industry,” she explained,

But in the end, its focus goes back to the industry’s roots in the pioneering days of travel trailers and day jobs away from the vineyard, humble beginnings that modern aficionados may be unaware of.

“It was a different era,” Boenisch said. “That’s why I wrote it — we all like to read something new about a story we might not have heard. People enjoy reading a good story and being entertained, and some of these things are pretty entertaining.”

Boenisch will talk about “Dirt + Vine = Wine” at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 6 at Third Street Books in McMinnville and during First Friday Art Walk Aug. 7 at Chapters Books & Coffee. The book is available at both locations as well as a number of local wineries. For more information, visit

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