Maggie Harrison will tell you that her decision to become a winemaker sort of came out of a nervous breakdown. She was on an island off the coast of Kenya, post-bout with malaria, contemplating her impending return to Chicago to begin a career in conflict resolution. This extreme path change led her to California’s Ventura County for an apprenticeship with renowned Sine Qua Non winery.
After nine years with the winery, Maggie knew enough to start her own Syrah side-project, called Lillian. Around the same time, three friends with a shared vision of starting a winery visited Oregon’s Antica Terra and immediately fell in love with the land. Scott Adelson, John Mavredakis and Michael Kramer bought the winery and asked Maggie to take the helm as lead winemaker. At first she refused – she had planned a future in Santa Barbara with her husband, and wanted to start a family. But once those three friends asked her to just take a look at the land, she was also immediately captivated by its potential. In 26 seconds, no less.
Back in 1989, 17 years before the current owners took over, the first vines at Antica Terra were planted in a clearing of oak trees. The original plantings struggle in a rocky mix of sandstone and fossilized oyster shells, thanks to the prehistoric seabed that once was there (dinosaurs – cool!). Above ground, the vines deal with boulders, steep inclines, constant wind. Though they look spindly and frail, and the fruit they bear is small in comparison to the typical wine grape, the vines survive to become an incredibly distinctive and expressive wine. We can appreciate the little guys’ struggle to become something huge, rising up out of the ancient land.