Originally having nothing to do with viticulture or enology, Dick and Nancy Ponzi were just working class citizens of Southern California. After meeting, getting married, and having children, Dick decided he wanted to revive his family tradition of home wine making. He and Nancy become obsessed with the knowledge of wine, working at California vineyards and studying at home, all the while raising their three young children. After a number of years of learning, traveling, and researching, the Ponzis discovered Pinot noir, and in 1969 they set out along the West Coast to find a suitable location to begin growing grapes. Eventually, they found the Willamette Valley, which was perfect for growing Pinot noir and inexpensive enough to start up a new business.
The original Estate Vineyard was established in 1970. By 1974, the Ponzis produced their first vintage, which came with the celebration and merriment that an Italian family is sure to bring to any event. From 1979 to the present day, Ponzi Pinot noir began accumulating notoriety, beginning with a feature in the New York Times. After a number of years of successful sales, the Ponzi family began planting the Abetina Vineyard (a 2-acre plot of Pinot noir clones) in 1975. They purchased the Abetina and Madrona Vineyards (also used for Pinot noir) in 1981 and planted the Madrona Vineyard in 1985. These two vineyards would become the stars of the Ponzi Pinot noir. Expanding the Ponzi business to even greater heights, the 1991 purchase of the Aurora Vineyard included numerous plantings to study stocks, varieties, and clones on the 65-acre south-southeast-facing slope.
The Ponzis were also active in many other areas. They opened one of Oregon’s first microbreweries in 1984, the Bridgeport Brewing Company, inspired by the world-acclaimed Willamette Valley hops. (They later sold the brewery in 1995.) In 1998, the Ponzis began a project to advertise and educate people about the wealth of agricultural and culinary prospects in the Willamette Valley. The Ponzis’ strong belief in the support of local foods and goods led to the opening of The Dundee Bistro and Ponzi Wine Bar, along with a regional gift shop, all located in downtown Dundee.
The Ponzis’ children have since returned to Ponzi Vineyards to work, expand, and research new innovations and continue the family-owned- and operated business. Even the third generation now participates in wine making. Ponzi Vineyards is now an international company that maintains its dedication to public and private events, as well as to community outreach. Working with Tuality Healthcare, the family established ¡Salud!, a nonprofit program to provide seasonal farm workers with adequate health care services.
This image gallery features two sections of the Ponzi Vineyards Collection: photographs and wine labels. Photographs highlight members of the Ponzi family, friends, and Ponzi Vineyards. In addition to portrait shots, photographs in this collection also capture wine making and tasting activities. Wine labels include early to recent examples from Ponzi Vineyards.
For additional historical background and collection inventory, please see the Guide to the Ponzi Vineyards Collection 1970-2009.
This interview is with Luisa Ponzi, winemaker and second generation owner at Ponzi Vineyards. Luisa discusses growing up in the family business, leaving then finding her way back to wine and eventually taking on the role as winemaker from her father. She also talks about the rapid growth of the winery and advice for someone wanting to join the industry.
In this interview, Dick Ponzi goes deeper into his origins in the wine industry and expounds upon the history of the early wine industry organizations: the Oregon Winegrowers Association and the Winegrowers Council of Oregon. Ponzi shares his recollection of the early winegrower’s dynamics, and speaks about the struggles and success the organizations faced when trying to pass legislation and market Oregon wine.
In this interview, the Ponzis share about some of their early days in the Oregon Wine industry and what brought them to the Pacific Northwest on their agricultural journey. They go into detail on some of the processes and highlights over the years and more.
This interview is with Dick Ponzi, co-founder of Ponzi Vineyards, and Luisa Ponzi (Dick’s daughter), head winemaker at Ponzi Vineyards. They discuss what it was like growing up in the winery, memorable moments through the years, and challenges they had to overcome.
Interview (Oregon Pinot Camp)
In this interview, Nancy talks about the ¡Salud! health care program for vineyard workers, as well as the development of the wine industry. She also touches on what it was like raising a family with the business and how their children continue to be involved. Dick explains why he and Nancy ventured up to Oregon to start a winery and how his background as an engineer helped him along the way. He also discusses various mechanical and enological practices regarding winemaking.