With a new winery facility and tasting room, O’Reilly’s transformation is complete. He owns wineries in Washington and Oregon — both under the name Owen Roe — and he has relocated his family to the cradle of the Washington wine industry.
HERE IN THE wide-open spaces and blue skies of the Yakima Valley, David O’Reilly has come home.
O’Reilly spent his first 14 years on a farm in Ireland. When his family moved to rural British Columbia, he helped raise vegetables, fished every day and learned to live off the land.
By the time he graduated from high school, O’Reilly knew he wanted to pursue some form of agriculture. He narrowed it to making cheese or wine, and given the choice between the idyllic life amid vineyards or cleaning up after animals, he chose wine.
Three to try
Owen Roe 2013 Abbot’s Table, Columbia Valley, $24: This eclectic blend of zinfandel, sangiovese, malbec, lemberger and merlot helps to show just how diverse and delicious the Columbia Valley can be. It’s expressive with suave and supple aromas and flavors, from hints of violets and baking spices to rich flavors of pomegranate and ripe blueberry.
Owen Roe 2013 Sinister Hand, Columbia Valley, $25: Using grenache as its base, this Rhône-style blend also includes cinsault, syrah and mourvèdre to create a wine that is smooth on the entry and complex on the palate.
Owen Roe 2012 cabernet sauvignon, Yakima Valley, $42: We think of the Yakima Valley as being on the cool side, and with a variety such as cabernet sauvignon, that means a gifted winemaker can coax something complex and fascinating. Such is the result here, with a wine that shows both strength and style.
O’Reilly began his winemaking career in California’s Santa Barbara County before moving to Oregon in 1992 to be closer to his parents and to make pinot noir. He spent six years working at Elk Cove Vineyards in Yamhill County, where he met Peter Rosback. Together, they started a winery called Sineann, then O’Reilly launched Owen Roe. Both wineries quickly gained cultlike followings.
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Though he loves the Willamette Valley, O’Reilly felt a little claustrophobic. In 1999, he began working with Washington grapes in addition to Oregon pinot noir and started to bring in fruit from classic vineyards such as Champoux in the Horse Heaven Hills and Red Willow in the western Yakima Valley.
With a new winery facility and tasting room completed last year in the Yakima Valley, O’Reilly’s transformation is complete. He owns wineries in both states — both under the name Owen Roe — and he has relocated his family to the cradle of the Washington wine industry. At his estate, he has 35 acres of vines, along with another 80 acres at the nearby community of Outlook.
“It feels like I’ve come home,” he says. “I feel free.”
In addition to Owen Roe, O’Reilly also crafts wines under labels such as Sharecropper’s, Corvidae and O’Reilly. In all, he produces in the neighborhood of 40,000 cases per year.
Whether you visit him during Washington’s Yakima Valley Spring Barrel Tasting (April 24-26) or Oregon’s Memorial Weekend in Wine Country (May 23-25), you can taste O’Reilly’s wines from both sides of the Columbia River.