"It looks like you built yourself a venue, Tess!"
It’s a joke Tess Barr has heard more than once as her band finishes their regular Saturday afternoon set at Hood Crest Winery. A professional musician for 37 years, Tess is the band’s singer/songwriter and rhythm guitarist, and her husband Patrik provides the lead and slide guitar licks and harmonica solos.
Oh, and they also own the place.
Hood Crest is a strikingly beautiful, thriving new winery in Hood River, Oregon, built with woodwork from the property’s century-old pine trees that had fallen victim to pine beetles. They grow grapes and make award-winning wines on site; they prepare wood-fired pizzas from scratch; they host private events — often prioritizing community-based and nonprofit-focused gatherings… there really isn’t much this couple doesn’t do. But it all comes back to their two main passions: wine and music.
“We like to say that, at Hood Crest Winery, it’s all about the reds, the whites, and the blues,” Tess says. And they are building a reputation for all three, with locals increasingly seeing Hood Crest as their go-to spot to relax, eat and drink, and enjoy one another’s company.
For Patrik, another community joke has been how the winemaking business has displaced another passion of his. When he built a shop to restore classic cars (the Barrs have a soft spot for Chevelles), he left a 10x10 room for the couple’s longtime winemaking hobby. That hobby became much more serious, and their official licensing and launch came in 2011. Barrel by barrel, wine took over Patrik’s dream shop.
“We talked, and I told him, ‘Let's give this wine thing a good five years. If it’s a success and we still like it, we’ll expand and you get your shop back. If it doesn’t work out, well, then you get your shop back.’” Tess remembers with a laugh. “Less than five years later, we took the plunge and approached our bank about creating this new building: a real, full-service working winery, restaurant, and venue.”
In July 2016, the ribbon was cut and jaws dropped at the beauty of the space. The food and wines and the overall experience have gotten rave reviews in their first full year of operation. And yes, Patrik got his shop back. “People always ask him: do you have a car in there? Did you get your space back,” Tess says. He did, by the way: he’s currently restoring an old El Camino where all those barrels used to sit.
For anyone who visits and sees the joy with which Tess and Patrik pursue their passions, it’s easy to think they are simply having fun. Of course, a lot of hard work and planning and community partnership has gone into every step.
“The winery has taken on a life of its own, and it really has been amazing. But I have to say our bank has been with us every step of the way,” Tess says. “Everyone there is incredibly helpful and supportive; it’s like having another business partner. I know I couldn’t have done it with any other bank. And I’ve been with several other banks in my life.”
Like the songwriter she is, Tess paints a word-picture to describe what it feels like to see her business becoming such a positive part of people’s lives.
“It was at the company party we hosted for INB shortly after we opened the new space. That’s when I first felt what I now feel every weekend: over 100 people were here on a beautiful evening,” she recalls. “The big doors were open, so couples were walking through the vineyard. The kids were playing in the grass, and everyone was laughing and enjoying the food, the wine, and non-alcoholic offerings, too. The band started playing as it got a bit later, and everyone was just having a great time. On nights like that people actually come up to us and say, ‘thank you for building this for the community to enjoy together.’ I even get a bit choked up just thinking about it.”
This is what community feels like: families and friends gathering at a quality place owned by their neighbors, enjoying the bounty the region has to offer. For Tess and Patrik, it’s a joyful life, which perhaps creates a bit of a problem: how do you sing the blues when you’re living your dream?