April 23rd, 2021

Rooted in McMinnville: Jacques Rendu of Coeur de Terre Vineyard

Head south from McMinnville along Highway 18 and follow Masonville Road toward the western hills. The pavement turns to gravel and a driveway eventually leads you up to Coeur de Terre Vineyard and tasting room. Stepping from the car, slowly turn 360 degrees to absorb the surroundings. Sloping vineyards abut stands of trees and a pond. Sounds of the birds and a soft breeze break the silence.

Jacques Rendu is quick to greet and say hello. That’s not his job anymore but perhaps old habits are hard to break. Jacques recently retired after 8 years serving a variety of roles with Coeur de Terre, most recently as wine club manager. His French accent is an instant indication he was not born and raised in the McMinnville area. His passion for the region, however, makes it clear he’s at home.

Jacques’s careers in journalism and the movie industry seem like preambles to his life today. He and his wife, Carolyn, relocated from Los Angeles to Oregon in 2007. Jacques wanted to try something new and he turned to wine.

He returned to the winery recently to talk about his journey.

What is your connection to wine making in France?

I grew up in the the Beaujolais region. My great-grandfather had a vineyard. My cousins still have their vineyard. My grandfather was a (wine) blender.

I understand your wife’s parents retired to McMinnville years ago. How did you end up here as well?

I had seen the Dundee Hills and a little bit of the Chehalem (area) the year before and that reminded me of where I grew up. All of that (family wine history) resonated and we thought Portland would be the right move. We had done San Francisco, we had done L.A. We had done other cities and we started by wanting to stay closer to Portland. We ended up right here.

You attended classes at Chemeketa Community College’s Northwest Wine Studies Center in Salem. What did you discover there?

I wanted to do marketing. That was what I was interested in, but their program was not quite ready then. So, I said let’s delve more into the wine making and the vineyard management. I took the wine making program and I’m no winemaker by any means, but I liked that it really connected me with the history of Oregon wine.

And it brought me back to some of my roots which through my journey I had kind of lost and I realized as a Frenchman, roots are important. So even though I’m now an American citizen, there is something deeper there and that’s what basically brought me to wine. I was incredibly lucky. That changed my life.

You worked at different wineries in the area before spending the past 8 years here. What did you hope to convey in the Coeur de Terre tasting room?

Here we are a predominantly small family and there is that family imprint carrying through the expression of the wine. There is a good casualness, a good normal-ness here without pretention. Scott (Neal), the winemaker owner with (his wife) Lisa, says they are farmers first. You farm the vine and you make the wine out of that, and I love that. We want to show the product of the land.

And now you’ve lived here for nearly 15 years. What keeps you rooted in McMinnville?

The community. I can walk down Third Street and I forget I’m a foreigner. I am part of the community. This brings me back to my roots, growing up in a small town, a small village. I like that connection. I like the fact that I can create friendships here that last.

Dan Shryock

Dan Shryock regularly writes about McMinnville and Yamhill County.