By Jan Jackson
MONMOUTH, OR – Mary Olson, owner and operator of Airlie Vineyards, loves to see customers relaxing on the banks of her vineyard’s picture-perfect pond. She encourages customers to bring picnic lunches, buy a glass (or a bottle) of Airlie’s award-winning wine and spend the day.
“We’re dog friendly too, which adds to the fun,” Mary said. “We had one couple who hadn’t been here before and when they realized they could have brought their dog; the husband drove the 24-miles back to Corvallis and got him.”
Mary Olson fell in love with Oregon when she was stationed here with the telephone company for two years. Born and raised in Wisconsin, she graduated in Political Science from Augsburg University in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her long-term goal was to own a winery and get a dog. Twenty-two years ago when she retired from NW Bell/US West, she satisfied both of those goals.
“The realtor, working in my behalf, found this couple who were wanting to retire and I bought the winery from them in 1997,” Olson said. “Planted in 1983, it was large enough to have a winemaker but not so large as to require hiring a lot of other people. Elizabeth Clark is my winemaker, Susan Simons takes care of sales and marketing and I have two full time vineyard employees. The vineyard was pretty isolated at the time but as vineyards and wineries continue to grow up in the area, it is actually good for us. Oregon’s wine industry is growing and through our associations, we are supporting each other.”
In addition to wine tastings, winery tours, wine clubs and special events, more and more venues are providing food and live music.
“People are very particular about what they want to spend their time on and I believe they are looking for personal experiences,” Olson said. “I love the tasting room and the customers are great, but it is also rewarding to see them enjoying a laid- back time by the lake.
What entertains people we have to pay for, and I think musicians and artists are going to be a big part of our future. We are becoming a true Oregon wine industry and as we each do better, we all do better.”
Ask about her long list of awards for her wine, Olson credited the rich soils of the Willamette Valley and her winemaker Elizabeth Clark. She also sings the praises of Heart of Willamette Wineries Association for the support she gets from her fellow wine industry people.
“Once they taste, they know why we’ve been around so long,” she said.
For more information visit https://www.airliewinery.com