John Zelko was born in Montreal, Quebec but grew up in Florida, Panama, and Hawaii, the eldest of three sons of an adventurous mother and a father who was tired of being cold. He attended medical school in Honolulu and completed his surgical residency in Denver in 1983. Then, he and his wife Katherine moved to Portland, Oregon, and soon discovered that Oregon also had a young but growing viticultural industry that was producing wines that rivaled the best of Europe. John began apprenticing himself as a “cellar rat” to experienced vintners, and purchased a ton or so of grapes every year to make into wine, with most of the work being done in the late evening after rounds at the hospital. In 1995, the Zelkos purchased a hilly, 40-acre parcel in the Willamette Valley in what is now the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, and began planting Pinot Noir grapes. Twenty years later, the vineyard is LIVE (low impact viticulture and enology)-certified and farmed using organic and biodynamic practices. It produces the gutsy, earthy backbone and intense black fruit flavors that are typical of that AVA, with complexity aided by a mix of four Dijon clones and the original Pommard. John is still a full-time surgeon and the wine is made under his supervision by two exceptionally talented local vintners, Patrick Reuter for the Pinot Noir and Drew Voit for the Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay.
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