wine grapes ripening in the vineard

Oregon winemakers test blending in the vineyard

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Some think all great wine is made in the cellar – processed, fermented, blended and bottled under the careful watch of the winemaker. But some of Oregon’s most innovative winemakers are learning to relinquish some control to create the complex, spontaneous and sometimes unexpected results known as field blends.

With field blends, different types of grapes are grown, picked and fermented together regardless of variety, clone or perceived ripeness. Nurtured along gently by the winemaker, the wine actually blends itself in the field weaving the different varieties, soil types, elevation and harvest conditions into a complex result, long before it reaches the winery’s crushpad. Read the whole story here on WinePress Northwest.

Tannat from Troon and Day Wines

Tannat or Not Tannat? Where to find the rich, tannic, unusual grapes is the question

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Oh, Oregon, you and your ever-tempting plethora of grapes. Between variations in climate, soil and geography and the experimental nature of the state’s winegrowers and winemakers, finding interesting Oregon wines is never a problem. Such is the case for Tannat.

Tannat, originally from southwestern France, ranks as the national grape of Uruguay — planted by Basque farmers in the 1800s — and is gaining popularity in Oregon. Traditionally used as a blending grape, Tannat is not only known, and named, for its high tannins — the Latin root is tannare, after all — but also for its thick skins, high acid and dark, inky color. Read more here on Oregon Wine Press.

Feast Portland chef Vitaly Paley

Trendsetting Portland: Seriously fly fare at Portland’s crazy-fun food and beverage event

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One day it’s hot; the next it’s not. And then, it’s hot again. It’s true for fashion, music and even food. But if anyone can turn the ‘not’ back into ‘hot’, it’s Feast Portland. Though some may call Feast Portland a food and drink festival, the description does not do the event justice. It’s more like a movement showcasing the energy, creativity and enthusiasm driving America’s food revolution. It’s the consummate in foodie celebrations, from spirited, one-of-a-kind large-scale experiences featuring trendsetting chefs from all over the country, to intimate hands-on classes, collaborative dinners and educational panels.
And while I wouldn’t count on avocado toast going away any time soon — because it’s just that good — this year brings exciting new and old food and drink trends to sink our teeth into and wrap our lips around. Read more here on Oregon Wine Press.

cover of oregon wine press

In the House: Restaurants win with winery collaborations

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Restaurant wine lists can be as lengthy as a novel, which makes ordering the right bottle a bit overwhelming. But what if the restaurant has teamed up with an area winery to produce a bottle specifically designed to pair with the food? An easy choice for the consumer and an even better decision for the restaurant. Here are few such partnerships that are doing it right. Read the whole story on Oregon Wine Press.

Seyval Blanc – Two Oregon wineries grow hybrid

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Much like the universe, opportunities for growing wine grapes in Oregon seem virtually limitless and ever-expanding. Where Oregon’s wine world has been seemingly constrained by its shining stars —Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and even Pinot Gris and Riesling — it is currently expanding to include a host of interesting and more unusual wine grapes. Enter Seyval Blanc.

Seyval Blanc is the belle of the ball all along the eastern seaboard, from the Carolinas deep in the south, all the way north to Nova Scotia. Try to find a winery in New York’s Finger Lakes region that doesn’t produce a Seyval. Its popularity also spreads to Missouri, Michigan, Wisconsin, Canada, England and, yes, even as far west as Oregon… >> Read more here on Oregon Wine Press.

David Hill Vineyard

History in the Making

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Every bottle tells a story. Some tell the tale of pure passion, romance, if you will. Others are thrillers, wines born from a plot-twisting vintage — known so well here in Oregon. Then, there is “History,” the first collection showcasing grapes from some of the Northwest’s oldest sites, offering an evolving story of past meets present, a saga like no other.

A special project for winemaker Melissa Burr of Stoller Family Estate, “History” is a partnership between her and owner Bill Stoller. For Burr, History not only allows an opportunity to focus on interesting wines, but also on a vineyard’s own story, connecting time, place and people. “You can see what’s happening through the lens of the wine,” Burr said. “You learn who the people are that planted the vineyards, because their stories become a part of that wine.”

After Burr’s mother-in-law, Kristie Gensler, purchased the historic Mont Elise Vineyard in 1999, Burr discovered she wanted to be a winemaker. She also knew one day… >> (read more here on Oregon Wine Press)

carbonic maceration wine bottles

Inside Out – Fermentation within the grape makes for fun, fruity wine

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The Oregon wine industry straddles a fine line, keeping one foot firmly planted in tradition and the other in innovation. Some avant-garde Oregon winemakers are experimenting with carbonic maceration, a style traditionally used for Beaujolais Nouveau — Gamay Noir known for its swift fall release — in Beaujolais, France, but adapting the technique to work best in their wine cellars and with Oregon fruit.

Sterling … of Holden Wines says, “I like bright, fresh wines and love Beajuolais, where this process is intrinsic to the style. I keep it in my brain as a way to make a more vin de soif style, an approachable wine, as well as something that can mitigate potential problems.” Whitted describes how this technique worked to his advantage in 2017…>> (read more in Oregon Wine Press)

 

For other articles on winemaking techniques:

Lambic – The Wine Minded Beer

Barrel of Possibilities – oak programs a matter of taste

Treasure of Trousseau – Red Jura could be Oregon gold

 

Pinot Noir Auction Slam Dunk

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Two days to taste 81 lots of the Willamette Valley’s best 2016 Pinot noir is a big job for anyone, but buyers (and writers) rose to the challenge. April 6-7, 2018 marked the third annual Pinot Noir Auction at the Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg, OR. Producers brought their A-game, generating over $800,000 in revenue to benefit the marketing and educational initiatives of the Willamette Valley Wineries Association.

The auction presented 78 lots of one-of-a-kind Pinot noir wines and three collaborative lots of Chardonnay from the 2016 vintage. Each wine was produced in quantities of five, 10 or 20 cases, and will only be available to the public through resale by the winning bidder.

Veteran wine auctioneer Fritz Hatton ran the show. Opening bids throughout the auction were greeted by a flurry of raised paddles, resulting in frequent bidding wars and rapid price escalation.

Not surprising, the top selling Pinot noir came from winemaker Maggie Harrison of Antica Terra (watch the video of the action below). The five-case lot produced entirely from the Antica Terra Vineyard, sold for a whopping $33,000.

Reflecting what is clearly a stellar vintage, the top five auction lots were:

• Lot 26: Five cases of Antica Terra “Alder Creek” Pinot noir: $33,000
• Lot 82: Five cases of Zena Crown Vineyard “Barrel and Foot” Pinot noir: $24,000
• Lot 11:Five cases of Alexana Estate Winery “By A Landslide” Pinot noir: $20,000
• Lot 83: 10 cases of Hyland Estates “The Perfect Pair” Pinot noir: $20,000
• Lot 75: Five cases of Bethel Heights “Vesper Bell” Pinot noir: $19,000

According to 2018 auction chair Laurent Montelieu (owner/winemaker for Solena Estate and Hyand Estate), “The 2018 auction exceeded our highest expectations. There was tremendous enthusiasm among the trade for the Willamette Valley region, as well as for the 2016 vintage, which we expect to go down in history as a benchmark year for Oregon.”

Laurent Montelieu and David Lett

Dick Erath and Laurent Montelieu

lambic beer

Lambic – The wine-minded beer

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Lambic, thought to be the oldest beer in the western world, may also be the most unusual and most polarizing: Some see it as the ultimate expression in the art of brewing; others don’t think of it as beer at all.
True Lambic is produced in a specific part of Belgium, where the style originated. If made here, the beer is “Lambic-inspired.”  Because of its fermentation style, it’s one of the closest beers to wine, expressing a sense of place, or terroir.

Exposed to wild yeasts and bacteria — as opposed to cultivated strains of brewer’s yeast — the beer develops distinctively dry, vinous and cider-like flavors with high acidity and a sour aftertaste. Brettanomyces (Brett), a volatile yeast strain typically unwelcome in both breweries and wineries, dominates Lambic’s fermentation, delivering the funky, earthy, tart flavors people either love or hate. Click here to Read the full article with reviews of Oregon lambic-inspired beers.

barrel being fired

Barrel of possibilities – oak programs a matter of taste

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It’s no secret: Winemakers take their barrels very seriously, which makes the following true story sound almost comical. When asked which is his most important tool in barrel selection? Steve Girard, owner of Benton-Lane Winery, replies: “My cheese grater.”

The longtime winemaker told the story about how his cooperage, the company that makes barrels, started sending him different barrels from what he’d selected. On his next barrel trip to Burgundy, he brought a cheese grater with him. Walking among the impressively tall stacks of drying staves, he rubbed them with his grater. He noted the aromatics, which he later compared to the barrels he was shipped. If they didn’t match his descriptions, he returned the barrels.

Much like an artist’s palette adds vibrancy and dimension to a canvas, a winemaker’s choice of barrel has a significant impact on wine. And like the painter’s range of color, there’s a multitude of options in a cooperage. From the type of wood (oak, acacia, chestnut…) to the wood’s origin (Oregon, France, Hungary, Russia…), to the grain, the toast, the size of vessel and whether the barrel is new, used or neutral, all these elements impart specific aromas, flavors and textures to a wine.

(Read the full story here on Oregon Wine Press.)