CHO Wines, founded by Dave and Lois Cho in 2020, is in the process of constructing a winery in Willamette Valley’s Chehalem Mountains appellation. The winery and tasting room will be completed early in 2024.
“This has been a 10-year dream for us to have our own place,” says Lois Cho, chief executive officer and co-founder of CHO Wines. “It’s exciting to see it happening.”
The building was designed by Open Concept Architecture and is being built by O’Brien Design + Build. It is being constructed on the winery’s 77-acre estate property in the Hillsboro area. The winery will include a 4800-square-foot production facility and 1200-square-foot tasting room.
“It will have a great, panoramic view of the valley,” Cho says. The Chos are Korean American, and the building will draw inspiration from elements of hanok architecture.
Dave Cho, co-founder and winemaker, was studying to be a pastor when he met Lois in a church concert rehearsal. He ultimately found his interests lay elsewhere: in music.
A singer-songwriter, Dave started busking with Lois on the streets of Santa Monica, California. Fatefully, a winery person heard the couple play and gave them a business card, suggesting they come to the winery in Temecula to play music.
Dave Cho subsequently worked harvest and was bit by the wine bug. He got a job as a laboratory technician at Temecula Valley Winery Management in 2012.
From 2015 to 2018, Cho earned a Bachelor’s degree in viticulture and enology from Oregon State University. After interning at Benton-Lane in 2016 and Stoller Family in 2017, he was hired as a cellar technician at Argyle Winery. A year and five months later, he became enologist at Integrated Beverage Group in Dundee, Oregon.
Throughout this time, Lois was working as a nurse practitioner. The couple has three young children, which made juggling family and work life all the more challenging.
“Every night we’d put them to sleep, and we would dream about what we wanted to name our winery and where we wanted to buy land. We’d just keep brainstorming,” Cho says.
When the pandemic started, the couple decided the time had come to launch their wine brand. Shortly after their inaugural release in 2021, they found what became the winery’s estate property.
The property had been in a single family’s hands for 150 years. It’s on a southwest facing slope between 650 to 1,150 feet above sea level. Soil pits showed the area to be prime land for viticulture. There was one catch, however. They would need to start the vineyard from scratch.
“We made the risk and bought it,” Cho says.
Thirty-five acres of the site are plantable. The Chos planted four acres in 2022 and another four and a half in 2023. The land is currently planted to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris for both still and sparkling wine.
At present, the couple has been watering the vineyard by hand, a laborious task. The goal is to ultimately dry farm the site and practice sustainable, and eventually, regenerative farming.
One feature of the property is a grove of 200-year old oak trees. The Chos built a deck amongst the trees and have a tent where they have been conducting outdoor tastings. However, at present, all of the glassware needs to be brought back to their home for washing and then back to the vineyard.
“It’s a commitment,” says Cho. The new tasting room at the site will make accommodating tastings considerably easier.
CHO Wines currently sources fruit from 10 different vineyards and one apple orchard. The hope is to eventually transition to an estate winery.
With Dave Cho the first Korean American winemaker in Oregon and the couple now the first Korean Americans to build a ground-up winery in the state, the Chos are embracing their heritage. Earlier this year, the couple also spearheaded Willamette Valley’s first Asian American Pacific Islander Food and Wine Festival.
While the winery is only a few years old, the Chos are all in. Lois quit her job, and the couple focuses on the winery full-time.
“It’s just us and scrounging up every penny and every ounce of energy to get this going,” Cho says.
Images courtesy of CHO Wines.
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