Place – A Short Tale of the Saffron Wood
How old is the Saffron Fields tasting room? That’s a matter of perspective. The straightforward answer is that the Richard Sugar-designed tasting room is a bit over 10 years old. A closer look reveals a story of recycling, sustainability and Oregon heritage tracing back half a millennia.
Five hundred years ago, somewhere along what we now know as the Wilson River, a squirrel dropped a cone that became a sapling that became a tree. That tree grew, nourished by the winter snows and spring rains. Native Americans rested beneath its boughs until pioneering Europeans pushed them out. The forests were harvested, but there were vast and large stands of old growth which survived. The area west of Forest Grove was one of the largest unlogged tracts in Oregon.
Then came the Tillamook burn. Over a number of years in the mid-20th century catastrophic fires devastated much of the northwestern Oregon forests. The beautiful river valleys of the Wilson, the Nehalem, the Trask and other coastal tributaries were ravished by fire.
Into this brutalized landscape came men eager to salvage the valuable remaining timber. In the early 1950s the Laughlin Logging Company, still memorialized by the name of the road fronting the vineyard, moved in, harvesting timber. Some was subsequently recycled into structures for the nearby dairy farm. A portion of the original dairy barn can still be seen in the form of the “trellis” structure running along the northern border of the tasting room lawn.
Eventually, the dairy barn was deconstructed and the timber stored in an adjoining building. When Angela Summers and Sanjeev Lahoti conceived a tasting room structure for their Oregon winery, they knew that that they wanted to make broad use of this unique regional resource. Working with Richard, they planned to make extensive use of the wood in both the interior and exterior portions of the building. Reclaiming it wasn’t easy. Most of the wood still had paint and whitewash. Some beams had extensive damage or required removal of nails and bolts.
The results, though, are a stunning tribute to Oregon heritage. When you next visit the tasting room, stop to observe the wood elements of both the interior and exterior, all of which are recycled from the original dairy barn wood. Also take a moment to contemplate the art. Art on display by both Colorado sculptor James Surls and Oregon artist Phil Seder make use of the Laughlin wood.
So the tree that may have shaded a passing family two hundred years before the founding of the United States has been thrice recycled.
Elsewhere in these writings, we have introduced a unique view of terroir, one that embraces both the people who harvest our grapes and even the glass from which you drink. Perhaps too, an expanded vision of terroir should encompass the beautiful wood that surrounds you, and its origins many hundreds of years ago.