About the Vineyard

Welcome to one of the oldest, most historic vineyard sites in Southern Oregon. Our 40 acres of own-rooted vines have produced award-winning wines consistently over the past 2 decades and this special place has become a favorite hangout for good times and live music in the local community. Stewarding this land and sharing these lovely wines and this special place with you is our great privilege!

Our Mission

Cultivating tangible change through community-benefitted farming, decanting purpose from the fruit of our vines.

Our Vision

Building a multi-faceted, sustainable farm and vineyard operation that invests in the growth and future of our team, farms with respect for the land and the people who work it, and empowers wine drinkers to put their values behind their dollars.

Our Values

Excellence – Integrity – Generosity – Stewardship

The History

The story of Deer Creek Vineyards began in 1988 when Gary & Ann Garnett planted 40 acres of own-rooted Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Gris vines to our hillside and valley floor blocks along Deer Creek.  It was among the first vineyards to be planted in the Illinois Valley, the Rogue Valley’s cooler climate district. Very few own-rooted vineyards of this age exist to this day in America, let alone in Southern Oregon.

After the vineyard fell on hard times, John & Katherine Bryan purchased it in 2009 and oversaw a massive revitalization of the property. John designed an artesian well system to capture our Hillside springs which still irrigate the vines to this day. He and Katherine won multiple awards with the wines they produced and established a legacy of live music in the vineyard with the bandstand they built adjacent to the Wine Lounge.

Today, Kenan Hester and family continue to revitalize and build the legacy of this world-class vineyard site. After purchasing the property in 2019, we transitioned the farming to use 100% organic inputs and began incorporating regenerative agriculture and sustainable practices in the vineyard. Everything we do is built around respect for the land and the people who farm it. From our first vintage under the newly refreshed Deer Creek label, we are continuing the award winning legacy of this special place.

The Land

Known as the home of the Oregon Gold Rush, the Illinois Valley is one of the most ideally suited microclimates in the diverse Rogue Valley AVA, which is known primarily as a warm growing region. Our section of the valley with its closer proximity to the Pacific Ocean has a considerably cooler microclimate compared to the rest of the Rogue Valley, with several prominently established vineyards and wineries making distinctly different offerings compared to the rest of the Rogue Valley.

Our vineyard site features SW facing hillside blocks as well as valley floor plantings. Our spring/fall/winter seasons are cool and wet, and our growing season is warm and dry. This site regularly contends with late frosts in the Spring and wildfire threats each Summer and Fall. The vines benefit from near constant airflow, with morning and afternoon breezes cooling our grapes on even the warmest days.

This microclimate also boasts one of the most extreme diurnal shifts of any wine growing region in the world, with the swing in average daytime to nighttime temperatures often exceeding 50 degrees throughout the growing season. These unique conditions lead to rich flavor development at lower sugar levels with higher acids, creating wines that display tremendous balance, elegance, complexity and aging potential.

Site Specifics

Deer Creek’s vineyard blocks are currently planted to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. In 2023, we will be grafting some of our vines on the valley floor to add Pinot Meunier, Gamay Noir, Aligote, Riesling, and Melon de Bourgogne to the mix. Our soils are characterized by several different profiles which band across our hillside and valley floor plantings, all of which are characterized by varying degrees of slopes and very rocky, well-drained soils. 

Our Chardonnay consists of both E/W and N/S oriented rows that occupy the steepest slopes on our hillside, comprising a total of 8 acres. Our Pommard clone Pinot Noir also graces the hillside with N/S oriented vines totaling 7 acres. Slopes range from 3-10% and the panoramic view from the top of the hill is marked notably by the massive ‘Pistol Grip’ black oak tree which shades the inner rows of our most prized Chardonnay block. The valley floor plantings sit between Deer Creek and Thompson Creek, totaling 25 acres planted with the Jackson (Sierra Nevada), Wädenswil (Swiss), Dijon 115 and Dijon 113 clones of Pinot Noir in our Northern blocks, as well as two blocks of Pinot Gris to the south.

Our Fruit

These old vines ripen their fruit gradually, producing tight, compact clusters of tiny, intensely flavored berries each year.  Precise canopy management allows us to maximize the cooling power of the near constant breezes that our site enjoys, while reducing disease and pest pressure naturally. 

Even in warmer Southern Oregon years when temperatures can reach 100 degrees or more on occasion, our vines still enjoy one of the most extreme diurnal shifts of any wine growing region in the world. Our daytime to nighttime temperature swings can exceed 60 degrees on some days! This does two things for our fruit. It slows down the maturation and development process, allowing for a longer, more gradual ripening curve that packs complex flavor development alongside the sugars in the grapes, and it helps the fruit maintain high levels of natural acidity, which ensure elegance, balance and structure in the wines.

Farming Practices

Our farming practices can be described best as an amalgamation of different philosophies and practices that nurture and steward the land. Since 2019, our vineyard has transitioned to using 100% organic inputs, and we have begun incorporating regenerative agriculture and other sustainable practices on the farm. Many of our disease and pest-prevention sprays are produced on site from raw ingredients mixed with our own mountain spring water. 

Grape yields from our vineyards are naturally low without any fruit thinning, and our vines are deficit irrigated using a cycle soak method to conserve resources. This method allows alternating cycles of drip and soak instead of irrigating continuously for extended periods of time. Cycle soaking enables more lateral movement of the water in the soil, which increases the soil saturation potential, reduces water consumption and loss from evaporation, and reduces erosion from water runoff. 

We till under our vines to reduce vine competition for resources, and we build our soils using winter cover cropping in the vineyard rows with rye, crimson clover, pea and others to improve the nutrition and physical composition of our soils. We are also establishing an in-house composting and vermiculture program to make fertigation teas and mulches which further build soil quality.

The Wines from Deer Creek

We believe that great wines are made with careful attention to detail in the vineyard, so our winemaking philosophy begins with growing the best possible fruit that we can each year. Once the fruit is harvested, it’s all about taking a respectful and mindful approach to the fermentations, aging, and blending so that the fruit can shine front and center, showing the purest expression of time and place at this incredible vineyard site. 

We adopt a minimal intervention approach in the cellar, currently making our wines via custom crush at Barrel 42 and Naumes Crush & Fermentations in Medford. We have a winery license onsite at the vineyard and will eventually build a winemaking facility here. As the fruit matures each fall, we sample and analyze it regularly to determine harvest dates that will lead to balanced flavors, sugars, and acidity in the wines. 

Our fruit is hand-harvested and hand-sorted ensuring strict quality control in our small-lot stainless tank and barrel fermentations. Once the fermentations are complete, we host blending sessions with our winemaking team to put together single-varietal blends that reflect the unique conditions of each growing season. Our wines are characterized by pure expressions of fruit balanced by brilliant natural acidity with exceptional mouthfeel and texture. Balance and elegance are the benchmarks of the Deer Creek Vineyards winemaking style.