Stephen James Cary PHOTO: Yamhill Valley Vinyards

Stephen James Cary

May 6, 1946 - April 28, 2018

A good friend of the Native Fish Society passed away recently and we wish to briefly celebrate his life and contributions. Stephen Cary was a native Oregonian and lived a most interesting life. He was a collegiate athlete, swimming for one of the nation’s premiere programs at Indiana University. He received his college degree in radio and television news and served in the U. S. Navy as a naval aviation officer during the Vietnam War. After his discharge and finding it difficult to make a living as a journalist, he returned to Oregon and hooked up with a wine distributor, spending 17 years selling wine in the Northwest and working other wine-related jobs including as sommelier at Sun River Resort.

His passion for wine grew as he began to appreciate the quality of the pinot noir wines produced in the nascent years of the modern Oregon wine industry. He was among the founders of The Steamboat Pinot Noir Conference in 1980, an annual meeting at the Steamboat Inn on the North Umpqua River where pinot noir producers gather to share information and fellowship. In 1985 he originated the Oregon Burgundy Challenge in New York, which established Oregon pinot noirs as the equal or better of the best French burgundies. By this time, he had formed his own company to promote a stable of the best early Oregon pinot noir producers to the nation and began teaching himself winemaking in his basement. This lead to his hiring in as the winemaker for Yamhill Valley Vineyards, where over the past 26 years his prowess as a producer of fine pinot noirs has been well-recognized by enthusiasts and judges alike.

As an Oregonian, Stephen naturally gravitated to fishing and became an accomplished fly angler focused on trout. He amassed a modest but impressive collection of cane fly rods made by the best of the western rod builders, mirroring his view that Oregon wines were the equal of any in the world. The winter down-time season in winemaking allowed him to meld his two passions, wine-making and fly fishing, in traveling to summertime in southern hemisphere wine-producing regions to fish and trade knowledge in wine craft.He spent much time in New Zealand, one of his favorite destinations for both wine and fishing.

Stephen, along with Yamhill Valley Vineyards, was an annual donor of his fabulous wine to the Native Fish Society Auction, where patrons were fortunate to quaff his products; and where the magic of pinot noir undoubtedly contributed to the festive atmosphere and further generous donations by these same patrons.

As we celebrate a life ended too soon, we say thank you Stephen, for your passion for wine and fish.

This tribute was authored by Mark Metzdorff, NFS River Steward for the Lower Deschutes and Stephen's good friend.

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