Oregon Wine in the News
Recent News Artcile and Posts About Oregon Wine
Owen Roe's New Washington State Presence
March 25, 2008
After years of traversing rural Oregon and Washington, looking for vineyard sites, stopping to find out about just about any patch of grapes he comes across, Owen Roe's David O'Reilly speaks most highly of the potential of the Yakima Valley. "What?" you say - It's the part of Washington State that one famous wine critic described as only worth driving through, to either get to Woodinville in the west or Walla Walla in the eastern part of the state. Yes, David is not only enthusiastic about the Yakima Valley, he believes several of the vineyards are possibly the best in the state.
David O'Reilly's Owen Roe Winery, based near Newberg, Oregon, makes several wines from Yakima Valley fruit, most noteably, his much-awarded Dubrul Vineyard Cabernet and Merlot. David's collaboration with the owners of the Yakima Valley based Dubrul Vineyard shows his knack for picking a vineyard and making it thrive. He took a little known source of grapes and turned it into one of the hottest vineyards in Washington - producing a string of vintages under the Owen Roe label that receive 90+ reviews from top magazines and wine reviewers. He's done the same thing, more recently, with Yakima's Slide Mountain Vineyard. And now, with the purchase of Outlook Vineyard, he's bought into the area, moving part of his production to central Washington.
David has purchased both the Outlook Vineyard and a winery, formerly the facility for Apex Winery, and before that, a dairy. The vineyard and winery are located near the small town of Sunnyside. David has plans to make his new Sunnyside based facility into a destination winery, with a special, very limited line of wines packaged in recyclable milk bottles under development. He's focusing on local sales for the unique packaging, with the bottles possibly being recycled for reuse.
New Releases, Recent Reviews
Owen Roe's spring releases are out, and Paul Gregutt of the Seattle Times recently reviewed them, calling them "as good as anything he's ever done".
Owen Roe Dubrul Vineyard Riesling 07 $20.95/$18.86 Paul Gregutt describes this wine as "a nectar-like mix of honey, wildflower, peach and apricot". With less than 100 cases made, it's a collector's item.
About the Owen Roe Dubrul wines, Gregutt feels the prices are justified: "Yes, these are expensive wines, but in the context of comparable wines from California or France, they more than deliver good value."
Other recent releases include the 2007 Crawford Beck Vineyard Pinot gris, three 2006 Pinot noirs, the 2006 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2006 Slide Mountain Cabernet Franc, and the 2006 Ex Umbris Syrah.
March 4, 2008
Designer Denim meets Farmer Brown
A blind date over thirty years ago brought Bill and Cathy Redman together, but it is a lifetime of love that has created Redman Wines. Proprietors Bill and Cathy Redman, a lumber trader and former banker respectively, started Redman Wines from scratch after years of dreaming and planning.
Bill and Cathy are definitely a city meets country kind of couple (think designer denim meets Farmer Brown's overalls.) It is a city (Cathy) + country (Bill) + artist (Michael Beckley winemaker) equation that just seems to work at Redman Wines. The Redmans, familiar with Beckley's work at Domaine Drouhin and Coehlo, sought Beckley out for their venture as winemaker and have been progressing over the last two years towards their first commercial release in 2007.
Located in the north Willamette Valley, the Ribbon Ridge location, prominently located near Beaux Freres and Penner-Ash, is ideal for the estate pinot which is being planted in an on-going process. Until estate fruit if ready for harvest and integration into Redman pinot's, Beckely has sourced fruit from Momtazi and Bayliss for the 06 release of Redman Pinot. Beckely has plans to expand the Redman label to include a small production of rose which will release in spring 2007 and a Redman Estate Pinot noir that will release in 2009.
Wine & Spirits Magazine - Annual Syrah Issue Picks for Best NW Syrahs
Wine & Spirits Magazine sends out an annual "Syrah" issue, covering Syrahs from around the world. This year, Oregon wineries singled out for their Syrahs included RoxyAnn, Griffin Creek, and Dalla Vina. Washington wineries included Ash Hollow, Waterbrook, Betz, McCrea, Animale, and Coeur d'Alene. While two California Syrahs and two Australian Shirazes received higher scores than the higest scoring NW Syrahs (94 & 95 versus 93 points), the Northwest stood up remarkably well to an international selection including wines from CA, Australia, the Rhone, and Chile.
Price seemed to be a big factor in the ratings. Most of the highest rated wines were around $30, with few over $45. Perhaps this article would better be called "Best of the less expensive", since expert readers on the Rhone and Australia would surely single out hard to get, higher priced wines as superior to the wines listed. Whatever the bias of the article, the wines listed are well priced, refreshing to see as the dollar's weakness pushes prices up.
Best of the Northwest Syrahs (per Wine & Spirits)
The RoxyAnn Rogue Valley Syrah 05 $29.95 received 92 points: "All pepper and plums when first poured, this wine has the seductive rich texture of a plump Crozes-Hermitage, with blackberry flavors giving way to a deep. smoky length. Its meaty succulence would match grilled lamb chops".
The Dalla Vina 2005 Columbia Valley Syrah $25.95/$23.36 received 91 points: "From a new Oregon winery, this Syrah comes from Slide Mountain Vineyard, on the cool western end of the Yakima Valley. It has bright black cherry scent with leafy, earthy accents and plenty of yourthful energy in its flavors. With its cool, limpid texture, it leaves a lasting impression of balance and restraint. For roast chicken (250 cases). This wine received 90 points from Wine Spectator, making it one of the highest rated under $30 Syrahs in the Northwest. Dalla Vina operates out of the Owen Roe facility and uses Owen Roe's vineyard as its fruit source for this wine.
The Griffin Creek Rogue Valley Southern Oregon Syrah 05 $29.95/$26.95 received 90 points from Wine & Spirits Magazine: "Aromas of pine resin and blown sugar support a dark, black cherry palate, with a chewy firm texture, marked by fresh acidity and a mildly ferrous tannic grip -- the sort that would pair nicely with braised beef".
The Ash Hollow Walla Walla Syrah 05 $29.95/$26.95 received 93 points: "Built on concentrated, intense fruit, this estate wine is a melange of savory spices, mince pie and pink peppercorn lined with smoke. The flavors aren't shy; its inky blackberry fruit gains depth from a foresty, wild mushroom scent, leading to a gripping, peppery finish. Serve with roast leg of lamb".
Wine Industry "Hottest Small Brands" #1 Pick is from Oregon for Second Year
Oregon's "Homegrown" Winery Gains National Recognition
Willamette Valley Vineyards (WVV) is the "#1 Hottest Small Brand" for 2007, according to Wine Business Monthly's February 2008 issue. For a second year in a row, editor Cyril Penn places an Oregon winery at the top of his ten picks. The #1 2006 pick was Oregon's A to Z Winery, owned by the Hatcher and Francis-Tannahill families. 2006 marked the first year that an Oregon wineries appeared on the list.
Among Oregon wineries, Willamette Valley Vineyards stands out for its unique business strategies. Founder Jim Bernau, after taking the winery public in 1994, recruited its stockholders, creating a grassroots fan club for the winery. For years, enthusiastic WVV stockholders made weekly sales calls to Avalon Wine, selling us on the brand.
Many retired and self employed Oregonians promoted and sold the Willamette Valley Vineyards brand throughout the 1990's and contributed greatly to its success. Truly a home grown phenomenon, the winery's stockholders not only sold the wine to restaurants and wine shops, they offered it in booths at county fairs and farmers markets, and conducted tastings in their local communities. Willamette Valley Vineyards was built on a strong Oregon following that continues today.
Wine Business Monthly's Penn singled out Willamette Valley Vineyards' 2006 Pinot noir for special attention. He describes it as "very young yet approachable". Penn comments on its quality, saying: "during a recent gathering, our staff slurped down the 2006 Willamette Valley Pinot noir first".
Today, Willamette Valley Vineyards makes over 100,000 cases of wine a year, half of which is Pinot noir.
Bryan Wilson Appointed Winemaker at Foris- Cuckoo's Nest Continues
Cuckoo's Nest, one of our favorite sources for Pinot gris and Fizze, its delicate semi-sparkling muscat, is owned by Bryan Wilson, whose day job is as a winemaker for larger wineries. His recent appointment as winemaker at Foris Vineyards in Cave Junction will not effect the production of Cuckoo's Nest wines, according to Bryan.
Bryan worked at Benziger in Sonoma and at Napa Valley's famed Stags Leap Wine Cellars before working at Silvan Ridge and Del Rio Vineyards.
In related news, Ted Gerber, a true pioneer in the Oregon wine industry, has bought out his co-owners in Foris Vineyards and has big plans for expanding the winery to national recognition. Ted manages several vineyards in Southern Oregon's illinois Valley and wines made from those vineyards are some of Oregon's best. Foris currently makes about 50,000 cases of wine a year.
Northwest Wineries Continue to Grow in Numbers
According to Wine Business Monthly, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho wineries continue to grow in number. Oregon wineries total 320, up from 214 in 2004. Washington has 479 wineries, compared to 298 in 2004. Idaho, 22nd state in number of wineries, had 24 in 2004 and has 34 today.
California continues to have many more wineries than any other state, with 2,098 today. Washington, Oregon and New York follow in number of wineries, with Virginia (147) and Texas (145) numbers five and six.
Smelling Nail Polish and Vinegar in Your Wine? It's Called "Volatile Acidity"
When there's too much acetic and other acids in a finished wine, volatile acidity can be a problem. Caused by incorrect winemaking methods, it increases in intensity with time. While a new bottle of wine may have just a touch of the scent, the smell intensifies with age.
How to avoid wine that smells like nail polish and vinegar? Purchase from reputable wineries. The flaw occurs when the wine is made, so cellaring correctly really won't do much to avoid it. The possibility of VA in a wine makes it sensible to try a bottle of the next unknown bargain before buying a case. And buying from a wine shop with knowledgeable staff and a generous return policy is a good idea as well. (Yes, we consider Avalon to fall into that category.)
Anam Cara "Rising Star" says Decanter Magazine
Here's a new, small winery that's breaking into the national press with some exceptionally ni| wines.
Anam Cara, a small winery in the Chehalem Mountains, grows grapes on about 30 acres of land. Most of the grapes are sold to wineries including Soter, Owen Roe, Et Fille, Domaine Drouhin, and Le Cadeau. Initially focusing on selling grapes to other wineries, the owners are now moving to increase production of their own "Anam Cara" wines.
Anam Cara's 30 acre Nicholas Estate Vineyard is located in the heart of the Chehalem Mountain appellation of Oregon's Willamette Valley. Although the vineyard, planted in 2001, is realtively young, Anam Cara's new 2005 Pinot noirs stand out as some of the best of the new wineries.
In December 2007, in an article titled "Oregon Pinot noir Grows Up", Decanter Magazine called Anam Cara a "rising star" and gave a coveted four star rating to the Anam Cara Estate Pinot noir 05, saying: "meaty, spicy aromas, blackberry flavours, and a hint of liquorice". The wine was singled out as one of only five "Fine Values" in Oregon Pinot noir.
Oregon Pinot gris in New York Times - Underappreciated?
In the December 26th New York Times, Eric Asimov said:
"Oregon pinot gris is one of the least-talked-about, best-value wines on the market today."
He concludes his article by summing up that "you would be hard-pressed to find other American white wines with as much character in this price range."
Asimov's article presses the point that Oregon Pinot gris is underappreaciated: "Certainly you won't hear much about it from Oregon wine producers, who don't want to talk about anything but their precious pinot noir, which they can sell for much more money and which brings much more luster."
He continues: "You also won't hear much about it from consumer magazines, which tend to focus on connoisseurs' wines. "
Asimov points out what is well recognized within the Oregon wine world- while Pinot gris is an easy sell in winery tasting rooms, the money (and reputation) come from Pinot noir.
Oregon Pinot noir sells for $20 up to $95 today. Most of the popular Pinots sell for at least $30. And they generate major buzz mong wine lovers when Wine Advocate, or Burghound, or Wine Spectator rated the wine at 92+ points.
In contrast, Pinot gris sells for under $20, for the most part. High scores for a particular Pinot gris may give that wine's sales a boost. But a high score for a Pinot gris generates only a fraction of the increased sales seen from a high rating for a Pinot noir.
Oregon Pinot noir is the wine Oregon's reputation rides on. But Pinot gris deserves its advocates.
Asimov states: "But Oregon pinot gris can be a wine of character and interest. The good ones have aromas and flavors of flowers, almonds and minerals. They have grace and texture, and are lively enough to go well with food. Best of all, they almost always cost less than $20."
Asimov singles out the Capitello Pinot gris 06, "...the '06 Capitello, was also Alsace-style, with flavors of apricots, nuts and flowers. Its slight sweetness was balanced by a lively acidity. " Of the 30-plus Pinot gris Asimov's panel tasted, Capitello was one of their top five choices.
Ponzis Among Neighbors Trying to Clean up Dump
The Lakeside Reclamation Landfill, smack in the heart of Oregon's wine country, has grown to the point of being an eyesore, and "smell-sore" as well. Maria Ponzi Fogelstrom, in a recent open letter to Willamette Valley wineries, said: "our historic vineyard and winery sit adjacent to an illegal, unlined landfill which has grown from 1/4 of an acre to over 40 acres and has been leaching toxins into the nearby Tualatin River. This river eventually flows into other local waterways and passes right by the newly constructed National Wildlife Refuge in Sherwood off Hwy 99. We've dealt with the odors, the noise, the traffic and overall frustration for many years. Only recently has it garnered interest due to its rapid growth - now blocking our valley view and those of several neighbors. At last it's getting pressure from governmental agencies that have ignored its issues for literally decades."
On January 9, irate neighbors had their chance to speak at a hearing with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), and over 100 opponents voiced their concerns. Hopefully the accompanying press and media coverage will result in the DEQ and other regulatory agencies taking a hard look at the landfill and its impact on the environment.
For a comprehensive article on the landfill and the controversy, try this article in Willamette Week: "Grapes of Trash" (7-18-07).
Also worth looking at: Stop Lakeside Dump Website, Opponents of Lakeside landfill urge shutdown - Oregonian, 1-9-08
Proposed Natural Gas Pipelines Might Travel Through Oregon Wine Country
An upcoming rally, scheduled for February 8, 2008 on the capital steps in Salem, brings home the immediate concern of some residents at the possibility of an LNG pipeline going through the state. One proposal might even run the line through some of Oregon's famed vineyards.
Currently, there are no west coast terminals allowing liquified natural gas (LNG) to be offloaded from tankers originating in Russia, Peru, Indonesia, and other countries. Proposals for offloading faciities and resulting pipelines to move the LNG to its destination (mostly So CA) are under consideration for Oregon and British Columbia, among other locales.
How does this relate to Oregon wine? In the summer of 2007, Rudy Marchesi noticed a man walking near his Montinore Winery's vineyard. Turns out, the man was looking at the area for a company planning a proposal to install an NGL pipeline in the area. One possibility for the pipeline would be to run through vineyards, with the owners compensated for the construction and ongoing loss of the use of teh land. The possibilities of leakage and other environmental effects have generated attention and concern in Oregon wine country.
Several groups have moved to thwart the pipeline. The Clean Energy Commision sent a letter to landowners in the possibly effected area, announcing a meeting in McMinnville. Here are the contents of that letter:
*Columbia River Clean Energy Coalition *
*RE: Meeting Notice. 7:00 p.m. Thursday, December 6th .
* *McMinnville Senior Center. **2250 NE McDaniel Ln*.
* For Property Owners affected by plans for Oregon LNG and Palomar Pipeline proposals*
Dear property owner,
I am writing on behalf of a coalition of groups concerned about plans for two large scale Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) port facilities along the lower Columbia River which would include building a major gas pipeline through your area. Your property is in an area where a natural gas pipeline could be sited if an LNG terminal is approved in Warrenton or Bradwood, Oregon. The pipeline routes are changing, and hundreds of landowners in Molalla and the Willamette Valley have received letters from Oregon LNG and Palomar gas pipeline representatives.
While many details of the pipeline are uncertain, what is clear is that the pipeline would likely be three feet in diameter and capable of carrying over one billion cubic feet a day of gas which would be largely destined for California. A pipeline of this size would have a high impact hazard zone of over 700 feet on both sides of the pipeline. Because of the threats the pipeline would pose to public safety, private property, and natural resources, there have been significant concerns and questions about what landowners can do to protect their safety and avoid a federal condemnation of your land within the pipeline right of way.
In order to provide landowners with more information about the proposed pipeline and discuss some of your options, we are holding a meeting for affected property owners on Tuesday, December 6th , at 7 p.m. at the McMinnville Senior Center located at 2250 NEMcDaniel Ln. McMinnville, Oregon. At this meeting there will be:
1. Information about the proposed pipeline route and the safety and economic risks associated with a high pressure gas pipeline like the one being proposed; 2. Attorneys that can discuss the legal rights that you as a landowner have and discuss the condemnation process that is used by the federal government 3. A discussion of how installation of the planned pipeline could affect your ability to use your land; and 4. First-hand accounts of people who have been fighting similar proposals in Cowlitz Co, Washington, and more.
Our coalition includes a diversity of interests including fisherman, conservationists, small business owners, doctors, landowners, teachers and Native American tribes. We believe that there is a real opportunity for us to work together to help stop the proposed LNG project and the associated pipeline and we hope to see you at the meeting on December 6th . If you cannot make the meeting but are still interested in getting more information or being involved in our coalition, please contact me at (503) 890-2441 or send me an email. If you have questions please contact me at this number as well.
Daniel Serres, /on behalf of Columbia Riverkeeper and Columbia River
Clean Energy Coalition/
In addition to the Clean Energy Coalition, the website LNGPOLLUTES.org has information about LNG and pipeline proposals for the west coast.