There are two things “you never forget” about Sweet Cheeks Winery. One being the name, and second being our Founder, Dan. Those who visited the winery from opening day to December 2018 had a likely chance encounter with Dan. He had an unmistakable deep voice, the best for storytelling. Guests would swap fond memories with Dan as his beloved black lab would trot around the patio, saying hello to each table. 

Dan’s story is one of grit and determination. There were plenty of years he had to be crafty – but two things are certain, he loved creating a family and never turned down an adventure. Dan was born in a small town located on a reservation that was nestled in the scenic foothills of the Allegheny River. He would tell stories about his father’s store – lined with jars of candies and goodies, racks of men’s clothing sewn with care. The customers coming and going, their stories, their satisfaction with quality items. Dan would say he had a talent for getting out of the store and finding himself in trouble – jumping in the river and coming home covered in mud. One of his most memorable adventures as a child was watching a large cider press making fresh pressed juice. He was mesmerized by the machinery and the product it was producing. 

In his early elementary years, Dan was in boarding school in Germany and afterwards lived on a military base in Germany with his mother and step-father. He then decided to join the Navy and explore the world. Post-Navy, he found himself in the Los Angeles area. Still fascinated with machinery, he took an apprenticeship with refrigeration. He thoroughly enjoyed this world – it allowed him to tinker with machinery and meet new people. One story he told was about fixing a deli case in Watts, California when the riots broke out. 

In the 1960s, Dan was ready for his next adventure. One of Dan’s hobbies was driving around and exploring roads. When he made his way up to Oregon, he took a few turns and found himself on a winding gravel road. Coming out of the tall Douglas Fir trees, he discovered a valley. Nestled away, just minutes from Eugene – he had found himself in the community of Crow. He knew this would be his home. 

Over the years, he built friendships that would feel like family – and continued his tinkering with machinery. With a partner, he invented a Fire & Ice Machine – it would help tanks heat and cool with precise temperatures. This machine is ideal for breweries, wineries, or other fermentation or refrigeration needs. This same partner had planted a block of Clone 23 Pinot Noir on a hillside previously used to graze cattle. 

Dan’s father-in-law, Charlie, lived with him at the time. The two of them would sit on their porch, overlooking the valley, and dream of adding on to the vineyard that was started. In the early 1980s, Dan purchased the property and began to plan the vineyard. The plans of planting a vineyard to sell grapes to other wineries quickly turned into a dream to open a tasting room and share this place with others. You will find a continuation of Dan’s story and how the winery got its start in other blog posts under the ‘Ramblings’ category.