25-year-old Travis Cook plans to become Baker County’s first vintner despite early frosts, lack of irrigation water and high start up costs.
25-year-old OSU alumnus Travis Cook has grand plans to be Baker County’s first vintner.
Cook currently works as a vineyard manager at Advanced Vineyard Systems in McMinnville while traveling back to his home of Baker County four times a year to check on his crops.
Since 2004 he has planted about an acre, and plans to plant two more acres next year. Cook has planted five varieties: Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling and Conoice. He harvested his first crop in 2007 and is applying for state and federal government approval to market his wine to consumers.
But he faces challenges that his counterparts west of the Cascades don’t have to contend with. For starters, there’s a short growing season, which can lead to early frosts. He’s also not able to graft vines because they freeze. Grafting is done to make the vines resistant to phylloxera, a soil parasite that kills vines. When grafted vines freeze, they die all the way back to the ground, Clive Kaiser, extension horticulturist from Oregon State University, said.
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