Why did the Pontes buy the winery? What's the Story?

The Ponte family is originally from the Friuli region in Italy, prior to emigrating to Venezuela, and ultimately to San Diego, CA. Since 2004, Claudio Ponte and his family have co-owned and managed two other wineries, and a hotel in California. They have farmed their 300 acre vineyard in California since 1984. Claudio, the current managing partner, has always loved Oregon and had been looking for a winery and vineyard here for several years. This is the story, in his own words:

Claudio at the Bumble Bee Cannery

(Claudio in front of the cannery in Astoria - 2017)

It all started in a salmon cannery in 1972. It was my first job. I was a junior in high school and my recurring misbehavior at the time gave my parents the idea to "fix" things by sending me to work in rainy Astoria, Oregon. My prison for that summer was to be the Bumble Bee Salmon Cannery. Located on the waterfront at the end of a pier, it is now a nice museum with a brewery, a coffee shop, and upscale condos nearby. The cannery motto was "Work is our Joy", which worried me tremendously, being a typically lazy teenager then.  (For more info on my forced labor camp, visit CanneryWorker.org)

Despite my initial misgivings, I spent a great three months there, working in the cold and slimy cannery from 7am to 3pm, but enjoying the long afternoons and weekends cruising up and down the coast with a group of older boys and girls, also seasonal workers at the cannery. From the deserted beaches, to the mountains, and all along the immense river, there was a vast expanse of stately evergreens. Having grown up in the tropics the scenery was amazing to me. We'd drive east along the Columbia River (after crossing the bridge to the Washington side) and then cross back to Portland, the “big city”. Some other times we'd go fishing, and we'd sneak a beer or two. Nothing too exotic but incredible to me at the time. And that was that -- I fell in love with Oregon.

Before I knew it, my "sentence" was up and I got a telegram from home asking me to pack up and return home as school was about to start. I sold the jalopy I'd bought on arrival for the same $200 bucks I paid for it, and said goodbye to the ladies at the gutting line, thinking I'd never see any of them again. I did promise my new young friends I would return some day. I kept my promise but have been unable to reach any of them.

Fast forward 45 years. After graduating from college in the US, and a busy business career including vineyard and winery work, I looked for an opportunity to buy something in Oregon, maybe a small ranch or a vacation cottage, so as to have an excuse to visit. But after running a winery in California for 14 years and a lifetime of drinking all sort of wines, I experienced a fairly common phenomenon: As we get into our forties and fifties, many of us become devotees of Burgundian-style wines. My solution to the dilemma? Buy a small winery in the Willamette Valley. I looked for two years, and finally the "right one" came along: Hawks View Winery. Like Oregon, Hawks View was love at first sight. 

I always laugh when I see the look on our friends' faces when they first see Hawks View with Mt. Hood towering in the eastern horizon. Jaw dropping amazement is an understatement. All of us still pinch ourselves when we drive the loop down to Amity (via Yamhill and Carlton) and then back to Sherwood, always stopping to taste our friends’ wines here and there, of course. Wow. 

However, after talking to many of our new neighbors and guests I realize that many take for granted what we have in the Willamette Valley, and underestimate the incredible quality of these wines. Most Oregonians in the wine industry know and appreciate this of course, but they have spent their lives making wine and selling it in Dallas, Chicago and New York. As a result, the average "cork dork" in Minneapolis knows more about the viticultural areas of the Willamette than a waiter in Portland. The French? They know. That's why they are paying big bucks for wineries like Beaux Freres. 

Part of my mission here is to share our growing understanding of the Chehalem Mountains appellation with our neighboring communities in Oregon, and with our wine club members here and in California. This hill of dirt, Laurelwood over volcanic basalt, was formed in the last fifty thousand years from the windblown silty loams of the Missoula flood. The wines grown here have bright red fruit, with an earthiness and nice acidity, making them perfect to go with high end food. They are very different from Dundee or other areas to the south and west. But they are exactly what I was looking for. The Chehalem Mountains AVA makes wines as elegant as a string of pearls. No chin scratcher wines for us, no ma’am. 

I am lucky that Jack Kemp had the vision, the passion, and the financial means to buy this amazing vineyard and build this gorgeous winery. It was also luck that his wife Willie and his son AJ continued his efforts after Jack's untimely passing. It is now up to us, with your help, to continue this love story.

Winery History

Founded by Jack Kemp, his wife Willie and their son A.J. in 2007, Hawks View Winery produces Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir from our sustainably-farmed vineyards located in the Chehalem Mountains AVA in the northern Willamette Valley, Oregon. The Chehalem Mountains AVA produces wines of extraordinary character and quality. 

Our Founder

In 2003, Jack Kemp realized a dream to farm the land and grow the grapes that would eventually produce some of the finest wine in the Pacific Northwest. Along with crafting exceptional Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, the Kemps created a brand and a tasting room that members and guests have grown to love.

Originally planted by the Benzigers from Glen Ellen fame in 1989, the Hawks View Vineyard provided high quality fruit to many prominent Oregon Vintners for 20 years. After Jack's purchase of the property, the acreage under vine doubled, and currently supplies all of the Winery's needs.

The late Jack Kemp, a lifelong Oregonian, was driven by a vision that combined a world-class winemaking facility with a warm, inviting place to bring friends and family together. Hawks View Cellars became one of the great loves of Jack's life. After Jack's passing, his wife Willie and son A.J. carried on his vision. Always a believer in excellence above all else, Jack relished every opportunity to share the property's beauty and the romance of winemaking. It is our great pleasure to share his legacy with you.

The Family Tradition Continues

In the summer of 2017, we became the new owner of Hawks View! As operators of a fellow family-owned winery, the Ponte family have maintained Hawks View’s focus on crafting exceptional wine and providing an authentic guest experience.

Proudly following in the Kemp family’s footsteps, the Ponte family continues to uphold the Hawks View Winery traditions of not only sustainably farming the land and making world-class Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, but also supporting the local community and the efforts of Oregon’s wine pioneers.