Albert Ravenholt was a visionary. In 1968, he and founding Sagemoor Farms partner Alec Bayless shared a belief that tree fruit and wine grapes would thrive in Washington’s Columbia Basin, an area then still mainly scrub brush and tumbleweeds. Ravenholt of Seattle, Washington, died on April 25 at the age of 90.
Though Ravenholt traveled extensively in his life as a foreign correspondent-analyst and was well connected—photos of foreign diplomats, U.S. presidents, and military generals he met lined his wall—grape and tree fruit production were one of his passions, said Seattle’s Winslow Winslet, Sagemoor Farms partner who invested in the partnership in 1971.
John Pringle of Kennewick, Washington, an early Sagemoor employee, said that Ravenholt had tremendous energy, a brilliant and photographic mind, and was interested in new fruit varieties and more efficient ways of farming. He was an expert on world food supply, and had a farm in the Philippines as well as Washington State. Sagemoor Farms initially started with a couple hundred acres of tree fruit, mostly cherries, with Granny Smith apples added early on, he said.
Pringle was involved in planting about 600 acres of Sagemoor’s pioneering wine grapes that are now credited with helping establish the state’s wine industry. According to Ronald Irvine’s book The Wine Project—Washington’s Winemaking History, Sagemoor Vineyards became important because it had no captive winery and was a crucial supplier to small wineries throughout the Pacific Northwest. “It can be said that Sagemoor Farms and its companion vineyards