Living Columns & Blogs

Northwest Wines: Second generation takes Oregon’s Elk Cove to new heights

One of Oregon’s pioneering wine families is now into its second generation and producing some of the state’s finest wines.

Joe and Pat Campbell, both Oregon natives, moved to northern Yamhill County — less than an hour from downtown Portland — in 1973, when their son Adam was just 3 years old. A year later, they planted their first vineyard. In 1977, they launched Elk Cove Vineyard, with Pat tending the vines and Joe running the cellar. The winery’s name came from a herd of Roosevelt elk that lived in and around the bowl-shaped property.

As one would expect, dinner conversations through the years focused on the wine industry, but Adam was the only one of their five children to catch the winemaking bug.

“I loved growing up on the property, exploring the area and running through the woods,” he said. “It was a great way to grow up.”

After Lewis & Clark College in Portland, he spent three years in vineyard management and development.

He returned to the family business in the mid-1990s to take over for his parents, who were ready to step back from Elk Cove Vineyards’ day-to-day operations, including more than 300 acres of estate vineyards.

Today, Adam and his team produce about 15 different wines, including eight separate bottlings of Pinot Noir. He also makes wines from Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Riesling. His Pinot Gris is consistently one of the finest anywhere.

Perhaps surprisingly, Campbell makes not even one drop of Chardonnay, a white wine that is regaining its footing as a favorite in Oregon. Elk Cove stopped growing Chardonnay in 1998.

Here are four Elk Cove Vineyards wines we’ve tasted recently. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the winery directly.

Elk Cove Vineyards 2014 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, $19: Vintage after vintage, Adam Campbell consistently crafts one of the best Pinot Gris in the Pacific Northwest, and this is no exception. It opens with aromas of stone fruit, lemon, lychee and spearmint, followed by lively flavors of orchard fruit, including white peach. This is a perfect seafood wine, especially crab, scallops or grilled salmon.

Elk Cove Vineyards 2013 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $29: The Campbell family’s five estate vineyards form the base for this luscious Pinot Noir, which spent 10 months in a restrained barrel program of 20% new French oak. That explains the fruit-forward approach that opens with aromas of strawberry cream, black cherry, dried plum, pomegranate and moist earth. In the glass, it offers a full and heavy mouth feel surrounded by dark purple fruit tones of fresh-picked President plum and pomegranate, backed by pleasing earthiness and managed tannins. Suggested pairings start with flatbreads.

Elk Cove Vineyards 2013 Clay Court Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, $60: This 15-acre vineyard atop Parrett Mountain was established in 2001. Since 2009, it’s served as the home and home court for Elk Cove founders and tennis players Joe and Pat Campbell. This bottling tosses up aromas of black plum, black cherry and smoky blackberry with coffee and dark toast. That sets up a matching profile on the palate, backed by cherry skin tannin, boysenberry acidity and creamy cherries on the follow through.

Elk Cove Vineyards 2012 Roosevelt Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $85: This 4-acre site overlooking Williams Canyon north of Yamhill, Ore., was planted in a high-density fashion at 2,100 vines per acre. This bottling includes 70% new French oak barrels. Aromas of dusty oak, Marionberry, raspberry and bittersweet chocolate lead to juicy purple fruit flavors of blueberry and pomegranate, combining for a high-acid, food-friendly finish.

Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine. Learn more about wine at