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Del Rio orchard sold; to be vineyard

GOLD HILL -- The historic Del Rio pear and apple orchard has been sold andthe new owners plan to replace the trees with a vineyard.Barbara and H.S. Hob Deuel Jr., descendant of the Deuel familythat founded the 800-acre orchard in 1906, sold it to Lee Traynham of Arbuckle,Calif., and Clay Shannon of Colusa, Calif. The sale was completed last week;the price was not disclosed.The orchard is west of Gold Hill, north of Highway 99. The duo intends torestore and preserve the buildings on the property, including an 1863 stagestop comparable to the state's inn in Wolf Creek.The setting is beautiful, Traynham said. When we get donewith it, it will look like the Napa Valley.The buyers said they'll start bulldozing the 155 acres of pear trees assoon as possible to prepare the ground for vineyards. Pear growers havecomplained in recent years of a poor market for their fruit.I came to this conclusion some time ago, Hob Deuel said, addingthat the decision to sell the family ranch didn't come easily.It took a whole lot of soul searching, he said. We haven'tcome to any definite short- or long-term plans. We anticipate simplifyingour life and becoming a whole lot more flexible.The buyers might retain the 10 acres of apple trees at the orchard. Another5 acres are in peaches.Traynham said they plan to plant 70 to 100 acres of vineyards each yearfor the next four years.We have 200 acres on the flat and it's feasible to put grapes on therolling hills, Traynham said.We hope to do some different varieties that can't be grown other placesin Oregon, Shannon said. We'll be concentrating on the Bordeauxvarieties.He said varieties may include Cabernet, Merlot, Zinfandel, Grenache andChardonnay. Some Chardonnay grapes are already growing at the orchard.Shannon, who owns Shannon Ranches Inc., grows wine grapes in five Californiacounties and almonds in Colusa.I have quite a bit of viticulture background in California, but notin Oregon, he said.The Del Rio Orchard is more suitable for grapes than other orchards wherethere are heavy clay soils, he said.This site has lighter, sandy, cobbley soil with the potential forquality vineyards, Shannon said.While the growing season is shorter than in California, the site's slopeand exposure will help minimize problems with spring and fall frosts, hesaid.Traynham said the orchard has wind machines and sprinklers that can be usedto combat frost damage on cold mornings.Traynham, who has a cattle ranch in Eagle Point, operates a trucking businessthat does all the hauling for Sutter Home Wineries and worked with Shannonto develop his 1,100-acre Arbuckle vineyard adjacent to Sutter Home vineyards.We're not tearing anything down, he said. We're just switchingcrops.