Those of you who know me personally are aware that I, like my fictional heroine Emma Golden, lived in Yamhill County for 20 years. Harry, Ian, Wynne, and I moved out there in 1986 after I found a ruin of a house in downtown Newberg and decided that it needed the kind of help only we could give it, and that moving out of Portland was a really good idea.
That latter premise proved false, but at the time it made sense. We were developing vineyard property, and Harry spent most of his waking hours out there–those times when he wasn’t at work. It just seemed right to place ourselves out there in the middle of things.
There was a learning curve to finding good vineyard help. First we tried to do it. Then, when we began planting in earnest, there were a couple of itinerant crews. One of them happened to be a bunch of bikers, who not only didn’t know squat about planting a vineyard and didn’t give a rip, but also managed to terrorize our neighbors up on Chehalem Mountain.
Harry doesn’t remember exactly how we found Salvador Ordaz, but that’s when our luck changed. Salvador knew how to put together a crew, plant a vineyard, find harvest crews, and manage a vineyard. Our original vineyard, Ridgecrest, up on Ribbon Ridge Road, and several that followed, are thanks to his oversight. Salvador, his brother Miti, and the entire crew worked their magic for us for many years. But off-stage Salvador struggled. After years and years with Chehalem, Salvador and Harry parted ways.
Salvador died last week, just two weeks after the death of his wife, Mary. He’s shown, in this 1990 photo by Andy Whipple, with the crew up at Ridgecrest. He’s the guy in the middle with the smile that lights up a room.
When Harry forwarded me this photo, I choked up. There are so many stories linked to those times. I especially remember the vineyard party where Salvador and his friends showed up and made carnitas for 100 or so guests. A tequila bottle circulated among the crew at the bonfire, and between organizing food and tending to guests, I checked in there several times to have a snort! We all were bullet-proof back then.
I no longer am a part of the world that is the Oregon wine industry. But like Emma, it got into my blood very early on. At times like this, remembering Salvador, and particularly at harvest time, I feel it still is a part of me. Perhaps that is why Emma can’t stay away, why she always lets Melody–her sidekick and siren–lure her back to solve mysteries.
I offer a toast to Salvador. And peace.