With so many incredible wines in the Willamette Valley, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. If you’re hoping to learn more about the region’s wines before your next trip to the Valley, look no further. We at The Independence love to connect you with the passionate professionals who grow, produce and share their world-class wines! Today’s interview comes to you via Karen Saul, the owner of Andante Vineyard, located in the Van Duzer Corridor AVA.
Founder and owner Karen Saul
Karen with husband and co-founder, Joe Allan
1. What is your role at Andante Vineyard? Your bio (adorably) calls you a “Jill of all trades,” what would you say is your favorite trade?
KS: My husband Joe Allan and I are the founders of Andante. My full-time job is best described as General Manager. I work closely with our winemaking team, sales team, and vineyard manager. I’m also the bookkeeper, compliance officer, construction coordinator, janitor, gardener, and in-house legal counsel. The list goes on, which is why “Jill of all trades” fits! My favorite role is getting stuff done!
2. What influenced you to switch from practicing law to growing wine?
KS: I wanted to be outdoors, wearing jeans and boots, getting dirty and growing things. Andante is a perfect place to grow winegrapes! I wanted to operate a small family-owned business like my parents did when I was a kid growing up in the mid-Willamette Valley. I love learning about plants, soil, and winemaking. And I love meeting people and drinking wine!
Andante, a musical term, reflects Joe and Karen’s connection to music. Joe, in addition to being an owner and Chief Tractor Operator, is a talented pianist.
Outdoor tastings at Andante’s stunning vineyard with sweeping views and surrounded by nature.
3. “Andante” is a musical term, meaning a moderate tempo. What would you say is the relationship between music and wine?
KS: I would say that music and wine both originate from a primordial human urge to enjoy and express ourselves. They require thoughtful effort and time to produce, and yet they can foster such spontaneous delight. They enhance our experiences, inspire and comfort us, and many people consider them essential to celebrating life.
4. What do you think is Andante’s signature wine? And if you could describe it with a piece of music, what would it be?
KS: Our signature wine must be the Sauvignon blanc, although I love all of them! I’m lucky to be married to a very talented pianist who plays for me nearly every day. Among my favorite pieces that Joe plays is Scott Joplin’s “Solace,” which is set to a sexy, slow Tango rhythm. I highly recommend pouring a glass and listening to the music to see if you agree!
5. How has Covid19 changed the wine business in the PNW, and are there any practices you’ve adopted that you think you’ll keep afterwards?
KS: In addition to all of the required measures for spacing, sanitation, and face coverings, we adopted a “by appointment” system for wine tasting. We plan to keep it that way after COVID. We believe our guests come here to relax and unwind, which is only possible if they’re confident we’ll provide a safe and enjoyable experience each time they visit. We want our staff to feel safe and enjoy their work at Andante. The appointment system ensures we won’t be overrun by an unexpected surge and each guest will receive the right amount of time and attention on every visit.
6. What is the process of promoting a wine?
KS: At the most fundamental level, we start with good farming practices that produce high-quality fruit and we carefully turn it into premium wine. At the next level, we provide a unique and enjoyable experience for guests who visit Andante. We offer beautiful wines in a relaxed environment in the place where everything is grown and made. We don’t do much advertising, other than some social media posts, so most of our guests come to us on word-of-mouth referrals from their friends and family. Every guest can become an ambassador for the business if they’ve had a great experience here.
7. What is your relationship with the winemakers?
KS: Our winemaking team is near and dear to me. They’re almost like mid-wives bringing our fruit to the glasses we pour for our guests and at our own table. I particularly love the way in which our farming and our winemaking operations are so closely integrated at Andante. We have regular meetings to discuss the vine-to-wine continuum (and we even have an employee whose job title is “vine-to-wine principal”). I personally participate in every aspect of the process, under their guidance of course. I’m there with them when the fruit arrives from our vines to the winery scale, through the three months of crush in the fall, winter barrel maintenance and springtime bottling, summer monitoring of growth and fruit sampling as harvest approaches. They are trusted colleagues and true professionals, as well as friends.
8. What do you think makes the wine in the PNW special?
KS: Most PNW wines express the place where they originate and many PNW wineries are comparatively small, so the wines are not intended to follow a formula to taste the same every vintage. Our farming is still mostly done by hand. We use tractors of course, but Andante’s fruit is hand-tended and picked like in most small PNW vineyards. We’re fortunate to live in an area conducive to wine-growing and work in an industry that has a strong sense of community, as well as a healthy sense of competition that fosters the pursuit of excellence.
9. What sets Andante apart from the other wineries in the area?
KS: No other place can be Andante, any more than we can be anyone but ourselves. We embrace that truth. We chose our site, planted all of our vines, designed our own buildings to suit their surroundings, and consider ourselves the hosts of every guest who comes to visit. We grow all the fruit that goes into our wine and participate in every aspect of our operations, from farming, through winemaking, through tasting and sales. It’s personal from start to finish.
10. What would you say is your funniest, strangest, or favorite memory of working in the wine industry?
KS: Oh, there are so many! But a memory that immediately springs to mind is being in our vineyard during a pick at the end of harvest season. It had finally started raining after a dry fall. Our Chehulpum soil (marine sedimentary) immediately went from firm to slippery mud. We were throwing tarps over picking bins and dealing with a slow leak in a tractor tire. I was soaking wet and reveling in the sense of life-lived-large. I knew then that I had found my nirvana and I’d never return to working indoors in high-heeled shoes!
11. What do you think is the biggest wine faux pas?
KS: Pretending to be an “expert” (although a few people really are experts) and missing the chance to just relax and experience something wonderful while learning something new.
12. If you could name your own wine, what would it be?
KS: I want to name one of our future wines after my mother. Her name was Celesta and she passed away before we founded Andante. It will have to be a very, very special wine and probably a white varietal, because that is what she liked best.
Experience Andante while staying with us!
Planning your trip to The Independence? Book one of our packages featuring Andante for a unique experience, or add a visit to your itinerary, and be sure to say hi to Karen.
The Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge is located next to Andante. Visitors will often see majestic great egrets (featured on Andente’s bottles) at the Vineyard.
Andante Vineyard is LIVE-certified Salmon-Safe, meeting strict international standards for environmentally and socially responsible winegrowing and winemaking.