In 2006, 18 years after St. Innocent was founded, we designed and constructed our winery at Zenith Vineyard.
Our Winemaker, Mark Vlossak, began his apprenticeship with Fred Arterberry in McMinnville, Oregon in the summer of 1987 and continued through the summer of 1989. In 1988, our first vintage was produced at Arterberry, Ltd. across the street from Oregon's original Pinot noir producer, David Lett of Eyrie Vineyards. Fred was David Lett's first cellar master and he was also the first Oregon winemaker to produce sparkling wine and multiple vineyard-designated Pinot noirs from non-estate fruit.
In 1988, we produced 233 cases of Chardonnay from Seven Springs Vineyard, 176 cases of Pinot noir Willamette Valley (mostly Seven Springs Vineyard fruit), and 160 cases of sparkling wine. The barreled wines were moved to St. Innocent's first winery location: a 36 square foot leased warehouse located in an industrial park in south Salem. In 1989 our first Chardonnay was bottled and released and we produced our first vineyard designated Pinot noir from O'Connor Vineyard, located in the Eola-Amity Hills.
Production increased over the next five years to 2,500 cases. In 1994, Mark designed and built his "dream winery" on a property he purchased in Salem off of Salem Parkway. Production grew again to 6,000 cases and the balance of wines shifted. We went from producing primarily white wines (8 different selections) to mostly Pinot noir. We also expanded our vineyard sources from two sites to seven. Thirteen years later, Mark's dream evolved further and St. Innocent began searching for an estate vineyard. After serveral years of looking, St. Innocent Winery purchased a membership interest in Zenith Vineyard, LLC (formerly O'Connor Vineyard) and we decided to move from our industrial park location to wine country in the Eola-Amity Hills.
Partnering with Tim and Kari Ramey, Zenith Vineyard and St. Innocent Winery agreed to build a joint facility at the vineyard. Zenith would build an event facility and St. Innocent Winery would contruct a new, multi-level winery. The winery concept was to build a place to make great wine. We would achieve this by designing a structure that would optimize each step in the winemaking process for both our staff and our wines. Grapes begin their transformation as they are sorted inside under temperature-controlled conditions with perfect lighting to ensure only the best fruit is used. By gravity, they move into the fermenters and presses. The fermented wines rest underground in our naturally humidified and cooled barrel room; they are left undisturbed throughout the aging process. All of our wines are racked without pumping and bottled by gravity.