James Brooks McDaniel 1928 - 2022

Our beloved James Brooks McDaniel, also known as Dad, Grandpa, Uncle Jim, bookworm, geezer, pianist, painter, grain-dealer, grape grower and friend, left us with the energy of the mighty Douglas Fir tree toppling majestically to the ground as the sunlight streamed through the trees.

He was the youngest son of Harry and Mabel (Brooks) McDaniel and had two brothers, John and Dick. He was also the beloved nephew of Carlton Nursery owners Essie and Kent McDaniel, founded by John Brooks in 1888, and cousin to countless relatives.

Jim's unfailingly loyal dedication to his wife, Donna Jean and four children, Michael, Molly, Claudia and Kerry was, as he always said, his greatest accomplishment and joy.

 He was Argyle’s loyal beloved gardener of 19 years, a first-generation commercial grape grower and founder of McDaniel Vineyards in the Dundee Hills--now Torii Mor Winery--but primarily the man known by his friends and colleagues simply as “Jim.”

The Yamhill County native, born in Carlton and raised on a farm later known as McDaniel Lane in McMinnville, is a fifth-generation descendant of Oregon Trail pioneer Francis McDaniel, a widow with eight children who crossed the Trail in 1844, successfully keeping all eight children alive. Likewise, Jim modestly but gloriously shepherded all those who crossed his path throughout his life with a magnificent kind heart.

He graduated from McMinnville High School in 1945, then enlisted in the Army during the last three months of World War II, shipping out to the Japanese Islands for a peacetime tour of duty before returning to attend the University of Oregon.

Having become good friends with the Japanese gardening crewmates as a cook while he was stationed in Yokohama, he’s drawn lifelong inspiration from the Asian culture, reflected in his vineyards, houses and gardens.

After World War II, he attended the University of Oregon in 1948 on the GI Bill, where he drank beer--Portland Brewery Blitz-Weinhard’s short-necked, brown glass “stubbies”--at the campus icon, Taylors, with other McMinnville native sons and lifelong friends, Pat Taylor, Malcolm Maresh and Joe Jensen.

On a dare, Jim and his fraternity brothers called jazz legend Dave Brubeck, who was at the beginning of his career. They invited him to play on campus at the newly constructed Erb Memorial Union and were shocked when he agreed.

While Jim listened to jazz on the record player, he drank Italian Zinfandel, his newest discovery, and studied Far Eastern literature from the legendary professor Dr. Paul Dull; during World War II, Dull was hired along with 12 Navajo Indians to develop the now-legendary code talkers language, which was never broken.

After graduating from the U.O. in 1952 with a degree in Far Eastern Studies, the young man joined the Air Force and was stationed in San Francisco for two years, then returned to McMinnville to run the family McDaniel Grain and Feed Mills, now known as the Granary District,

In the mid-1960s, Jim explored the burgeoning wine scene in California, visiting legendary wineries Ridge, Mondavi and Charles Krug, touring in his snappy Volvo sports car with his new wife, my mom, Donna Jean, whom he married in 1964.

In 1969, he met a man named David Lett, knocked on the door of the granary office who changed the course of his life forever.

Inspired by Lett and California’s success, Jim went to the Red Hills in 1971, bought three tracts of land, planted as many vineyards, and built, of course, an Asian-inspired house for his family.

In 1978, Jim endured three granary fires, set by an arsonist, destroying nearly his entire grain and fertilizer complex. It was a day he will never forget.

He also found peace and fellowship in the vineyard community. He mentored and made friends with many early growers, vineyard workers and winemakers, including Ken Wright, Allen Holstein and countless others. He sold Dick Ponzi his first wine press and loaned a wine press to the Campbells at Elk Cove. He sold grapes to Erath, Lett and Coury, as well as Doyle Hinman, David Adelsheim and Myron Redford of Amity Vineyards, currently owned by Union Wine Company.

He “collaborated,” a catch term frequently used to describe the tractor swapping, vine grafting and grape growing advice that bonded the entire fledgling industry for its survival and now great success.

He sold McDaniel Vineyards to Dr. Donald Olson in 1986, who created the Torii Mor brand in 1993 and remained a lifelong supporter of the vineyard's success and enjoyed celebrating the 50th year of grape growing.

He and his wife Donna Jean designed and created five houses and gardens throughout the county featuring unique designs and carefully chosen indigenous plants which he could name by their genus and species names, having studied Latin at Cook Grade School.

Without fanfare, Jim, known to many as a horticultural and viticultural mentor, having designed five estate gardens and planted three vineyards, quietly retired at age 56 with the sale of McDaniel Grain in order to design and manage a showpiece garden at Argyle Winery for his friend, Rollin Soles. He was happiest working in the garden and talking to patrons, who knew nothing about his background or would never suspect he had planted one of the first commercial vineyards in the state. He enjoyed 19 years on the Argyle team.

He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Donna Jean McDaniel; four children, including son, Michael McDaniel and wife Joan (Crocker) McDaniel of Ridgefield, Washington, daughter Molly McArthur and husband Steve McArthur of San Francisco, Claudia Chalk of Vancouver B.C., and Kerry Boenisch and husband Christian Boenisch of Dundee; grandchildren, Tristan McDaniel, Elizabeth Funk, Ian McDaniel, Claire Boenisch, Maxwell Boenisch and Jillian Boenisch; along with over 100 McDaniel and Brooks local relatives. He was preceded in death by a long and loved line of 14 Cairn Terriers.

Public service at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, September 18, at the Chapel of Macy & Son Funeral Home, followed by a reception at Dundee Crabtree Park at 4:00.

Donations in his name can be made to the Jim McDaniel Memorial at the McMinnville Public Library Community Outreach Program.





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