A native of Washington State, Jeff Gordon was born in St. John near Spokane, Washington. The son of a farmer, Jeff worked the family dry-land farm where the Gordons grew wheat, barley and peas. Adept behind the wheel of a tractor by the age of ten, Jeff never got the soil out from under his fingernails.As a student in the 1960s, Jeff understood that his legacy – the life of the American farmer – was at a crossroads. Love for the land and the pride in the work were no longer enough. Modern farming required business acumen and scientific know-how. Jeff graduated from Washington State University in 1971 with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture.
That same year, Jeff married Vicki Durham, whom he had known since his early teens. Vicki grew up in Colfax, Washington where her parents owned and operated the service station in town. You could say Vicki was considered a “city girl.” That is, until she married Jeff.
In 1973, Jeff began working for a major Washington State agricultural corporation. Though instructive, Jeff’s time in corporate agriculture left him unfulfilled. He was unhappy with the corporate obsession with the bottom line that sacrificed quality for quantity.
So, in 1977 Jeff and Vicki, along with Jeff’s brother Bill, struck out on their own renting 130 acres of potato land in the Columbia Basin. With diligent care and sustainable goals, the Gordon family grew their potato enterprise to 1,500 acres over the next 25 years.
While still farming potatoes, Jeff took stock of the rich Columbia Valley and began to have a vision for its untapped potential. Inspired by the growing buzz surrounding the Washington wine industry, Jeff became one of a handful of pioneers forging a new direction for Washington agriculture. In 1980, Jeff began planting wine grapes, sweet cherries and apples on a sagebrush covered slope overlooking the Snake River in Southeastern Washington’s Columbia Valley. The small, tightly knit Washington wine-making community who readily shared knowledge, experience and even equipment with one another, quickly embraced the Gordon family.
Much to the bemusement of local and fellow farmers, Jeff made a bold decision to plant red grape varietals. “As far as everyone was concerned the Columbia Valley was Riesling country. That was all there was to it. We thought red grapes would work. We took a chance. It was the right thing to do.”
Over the last twenty years, Jeff and Vicki have reaped the rewards of his maverick decision and found fulfillment in their work at Gordon Estate. Jeff’s artisan approach to farming, coupled with Vicki’s business savvy has allowed them to cultivate a property they take genuine pride in.
In addition to founding and operating Gordon Estate, Jeff was the first President of the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers. He was also instrumental in the development of Washington State University’s Enology and Viticulture program, and he proudly served from 2005-2007 as Chairman on the Washington Wine Commission.