When wine drinkers think of Oregon, Pinot Noir is often the first varietal that comes to mind — and it had been that way for decades. But when Hilda and Earl Jones began to explore the terroir of Southern Oregon’s Umpqua Valley, they realized they could bring new varietals to the state. Abacela, now celebrating its 25th year, was the first winery to plant and introduce Tempranillo in the U.S. and one of the first to plant Albariño.
A lot has changed since it all began. From the story behind the winery’s name and its label to the evolution of the Oregon wine industry, we sat down with Hilda to learn a bit more.
1. Where did the name Abacela come from?
“Abacelar” is an archaic Spanish verb that pre-dates modern Castilian Spanish and means “to plant a grape vine.” Its third-person conjugation “Abacela” means “he/she/they plant a vine.” Being a Spanish word, and we were growing Spanish grapes, it meant what we were doing — it was destined to be the name of our winery.
2. You brought varietals such as Tempranillo and Tinta Amarela to the American market. What drew you to these varietals and why did you have such a passion for sharing them with others?
It started with the Tempranillo. We loved the richness and complexity of the Tempranillos from Spain but couldn’t understand why it wasn’t grown in the U.S. Hence the challenge was on to do that in the states, which ultimately led us to southern Oregon. Then in our travels to Spain’s west coast of Galicia, we fell in love with the crisp, high acid wine Albariño; again, another wine to be introduced into the Oregon wine lexicon. And last but not least, we discovered Tinta Amarela, a Portuguese grape which has lovely acidity with soft tannins and a great fruity nose, and like the others, a terrific food wine.
It is easy to share such great wines and other wineries are wanting to explore and expand the Oregon palate beyond Pinot Noir. In fact, there are now over 100 producers of Tempranillo in Oregon alone, plus many do Albariño as well.
3. Abacela celebrated its first planting in 1995 and now the winery is celebrating 25 years. What has been the biggest change you’ve seen in the winemaking industry since then?
For the winemaking industry as a whole, probably the advent of the screw-cap. For the industry in Oregon and the PNW, it would be the introduction of new, high-quality, esoteric and exciting wines such as Tempranillo, Albariño, Tinta Amarela, Malbec and Tannat.
4. What is the story behind your label?
The illustration of the vineyard, which became the label, was drawn by our daughter Hanna when she was 13 years old. Although the label itself has been modified a bit over the years, her iconic drawing of our hills has remained the focus. She is now an interior designer and was instrumental in the design of our Vine and Wine Center.