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CENTRAL POINT, Ore. — Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center on March 12 dedicated its first new wine grape planting in 30 years, naming it after Porter Lombard, the Oregon State University researcher who showed Oregon growers how to make vineyards pay off.
Lombard, 88 years old and long retired from his decades at the university, was on hand for the ceremony that drew colleagues and friends from the commercial fruit and wine industry.
Alex Levin, the current OSU viticulturalist assigned to the research center, noted the new grape block is adjacent to the oldest standing research pear plot on the station. Lombard came to Southern Oregon as a pomologist in 1963, working with a booming pear industry.
“All of this,” said Levin, pointing to the new trellis system and neat rows of alternating red and white wine cuttings, “would not have been possible without (the work of) Porter Lombard.”
There are about 160 vineyards and 80 wineries in Southern Oregon, including many established on ground which once supported pear orchards.
Will Brown, an historian specializing in the West Coast wine grape industry, said when Lombard arrived at the Southern Oregon station there were perhaps 100 wineries in California, a handful in Washington and only one in Oregon. Brown said Lombard knew of grape work underway at the time in Washington’s Yakima Valley.
Similar climates between Southern Oregon and Yakima led Lombard to experiment with grapes while doing pear research.
The first research plot, on ground owned by Valley View Winery, went in when that winery was established in 1972. Lombard followed up with an extensive trial at the station concentrating on cultivars from France’s Rhone River Valley. OSU later transferred him to the Corvallis campus as part of a team which advised the fledgling Willamette Valley grape growers.
When Lombard retired, he returned to Southern Oregon, and for many years was a much-sought-after consultant to local growers.