Mission Mountain Winery began as a vineyard in the beautiful Dayton Valley, at the mouth of Dayton Creek where it enters Flathead Lake's west shore. First planted in 1979 by Dr. Thomas Campbell and his son Tom Jr., the vineyard continues to be a grand experiment in finding suitable grape varieties for this northern banana belt of Western Montana. Many varieties have been exposed to the harsh reality of our short growing season that starts in May and ends in early October. The cold winters, occasionally -20 F, eliminates those that are not cold-hardy, and among those varieties that survive we eliminate what doesn't ripen in our short season. We have found Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer to fit our criteria for commercial success in our vineyard site. We also recently planted Marequette, and look forward to our first harvest in 2016.
Mission Mountain Winery is not alone in the quest to grow grapes in Montana. Over the years, other pioneers have started vineyards around Flathead Lake and in the Flathead & Mission Valleys, and banded together to form the Montana Winegrowers Institute.
Dr. Dudley & Annie Page (kindred souls to Johnny Appleseed) have been growing Pinot Noir and other varieties on Finley Point. Dudley sold part of his vineyard to the Pitt family, and passed away in 2012. Dudley will be sorely missed, but Ken Pitt will keep his legacy alive and add his own chapter to Montana vineyard history.
Ken and Eileen Pitt have been busy replanting some of the frosty parts of their Pinot Noir vineyard on Finley Point with cold-hardy Hybrid Marquette and Leon Milot. They take great pride in their manicured vineyard and are nurturing these new varieties.
Gregor Tavenner has taken over the old Walker experimental vineyard and added some exciting new plantings of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris above the eastern shores of Flathead Lake north of Finley Point.
Hartman Vineyard has a beautiful planting of Pinot Noir next to his old apricot orchard near Yellow Bay on the east shore. This site has shown real potential and we look forward to seeing it grow.
European and Hybrid varieties of wine grapes are also grown in small vineyards near Plains, Thompson Falls, Eureka, Missoula, Billings, Miles City and in the Bitterroot Valley.