This is a love story that began one summer in Grand Haven, Michigan, when a hobbyist’s garden produced too many berries. Kevin Taylor was a biochemist with an incredible green thumb. He worked with Michigan’s sandy soil to cultivate a crop of cane berries, until a bumper crop pushed Kevin and his garden into a new realm: fermenting.
“It was just a hobby,” Kate Taylor says with a laugh, remembering her father’s beginnings in fermenting. “Maybe a hobby that got a little bit out of control and then eventually turned into this obsession that brought us across the country.”
Armed with a scientist’s view of the world, Kevin created a laboratory in his basement where he could explore the fermenting process. The delicious results soon became a personal passion. Kevin recorded his recipes, experimenting with different processes and expanding his ingredients to include watermelon, pear, peaches, and almost anything he could grow. The tipping point came one summer evening when Kevin nervously shared a few bottles of his wine with friends visiting from California wine country. They urged him to consider taking this hobby seriously.
At the time, Kevin’s daughter Kate was leading horseback trips into the backcountry of Yellowstone National Park. She packed red wine and whiskey on a big, black pack mule named Bert, getting to know the winemaker, who donated the wine for the trips in exchange for the experience of heading out into the backcountry. For Kate, this led to a swift education in wine. “It was the 2009 Shooting StarBarberathat opened up my world to red wine,” she says. It was then she knew that she needed to join her dad and become a winemaker. So in 2010, at the age of 55, Kevin moved his family across the country to do what he loved, and Kate joined him there. Together, they began to build One Love Cellars.
The family purchased the perfect plot of land, nestled in the South Salem hills, and began the process of clearing fields, building fence lines, and planting blocks of grapes. By 2012, they had their first block of pinot noir planted. There was one little corner of the block with rocky, slim topsoil that challenged the pinot’s growth. The curious scientist took over, researching small-batch varietals until deciding to experiment with Alvarinho vines. The Alvarinho took off, making One Love one of only three vineyards in the Willamette Valley to grow and produce Alvarinho.
Kate jumped in with both feet, getting her viticulture degree at Chemeketa Community College, building connections within the wine community, and working with local vineyards to build her expertise. Kevin worked on vineyard management and winemaking at Chemeketa. They farmed the more than 16 acres of grapes together. The work is hard, but the reward is incredible.
“What I really love the most about it is being outside, working with the soil, and having this science that you literally have your hands in,” Kate says. “If you can do that really well and then bring the grapes into the winery and showcase the fruit itself with everything else as a little side accent, you can share something really special with people.”
Kate has taken up the reins of One Love Cellars after her father’s death earlier this year. From her father, she inherited a sense of curiosity and a love of science that keep her pushing boundaries in the process of growing and making wine. However, her love for creating an experience that is approachable, light, and vibrant is all her own. She’s built up a community excited to collaborate, explore ideas, and share successes. This community supports Kate as she carries on her father’s legacy.
Standing next to Kate on a hillside overlooking slopes with perfectly plotted rows of vines just awakening in the sunshine, it’s easy to envision the father-and-daughter team thoughtfully working the land together. Kate talks about the process of clearing trees, building the new fence line to not to disturb the migratory corridor of elk and deer on the back of the property, and finding spots for the different varieties of grapes to thrive. Her connection to this land and the grapes growing on it is strong, but humble. She speaks about it with great love, the kind of love that is sure to build a legacy.
One Love Cellars, Available at many local retailers, 4736 Marion Hill Rd. SE, Turner, 616/402-7812, onelovecellars.com