Oregon’s booming wine industry

by Russell Yost MBA'05,

  • Jim Bernau

The Oregon wine industry is booming, and former Willamette MBA student and current Atkinson Advisory Board member Jim Bernau has been a part of it from the beginning.

Driven by affordable acreage and migration from California, the Willamette Valley is now home to hundreds of wineries and tasting rooms. Oregon now ranks third – behind California and Washington – for wine production in the United States.

Bernau, who founded of Willamette Valley Vineyards in 1983, was one of the industry’s pioneers. Encouraged early on by mentors and friends – including the late Earl Littrell, a long-time Atkinson accounting professor – he established his winery in the hills south of Salem.

From the beginning, his focus has been on quality and sustainability. And others have noticed.

Successfully nurturing nature’s fragile balance while exciting wine enthusiasts' appreciation has reaped Willamette Valley Vineyards broad support – including awards from Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and Wine Advocate.

“One of the benefits of doing the right thing: it always seem like we’re rewarded for better outcomes,” Bernau said in an interview with the Willamette MBA’s ‘Directions’ magazine in 2011. “Customers base choice not only on value, but also on values. We are rapidly approaching a global tipping point, and customers hold the power to change the world.”

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal profiles Bernau and his new home, adjacent to the original Willamette Valley Vineyards winery. Read the complete article online.

-Mike Russell, of Pivotal Writing, wrote the 2011 profile of Bernau, which contributed to this story.