In 1986, with family, belongings and 10 barrels in tow, Ken moved to McMinnville and started Panther Creek Cellars. His concept of focusing on vineyard-designate bottling began during those years at Panther Creek and was cemented as a core philosophy in 1994 when Ken Wright Cellars was founded in historic downtown Carlton. Ken now makes a single vineyard bottling from 13 vineyard sites in the Northern Willamette Valley.
Given his appreciation of sense of place, it was a given that Ken would contribute to the locations and industry near and dear to his heart. Instrumental in organizing the six new American Viticultural Area (AVA)’s in the Northern Willamette Valley that define in detail the distinct growing areas within the region, he wrote the proposition for the Yamhill-Carlton AVA and served as the association’s first President.
For Carlton, his work with the Visioning Committee helped develop a 20-year plan for the community. He has been active in downtown improvements as well, from selecting the trees and vintage street lamps lining Main Street to purchasing and restoring historic buildings in keeping with the town’s rich, agricultural heritage. In 2003 Ken and his wife, Karen, bought the town’s train station that was built in 1923; after two years of extensive restoration, this beautiful building now houses the tasting room for Ken Wright Cellars. Here at the tasting room, you can taste a selection of Ken’s single vineyard Pinot Noir. The staff provides an in-depth geological tour of the Willamette Valley and shares Ken’s 40 years of experience of making wine.