World wine lovers are finding us
By Lance Sparks
I chewed the end of a pencil, note pad open, pages blank. Only patches of the scarred desk-top showed, nearly every surface strewn with stacks of papers, tasting notes, clips of articles, menus, bills — debris and detritus built up like middens of oyster shells.
An old problem nagged me: Ever since EW gave us a monthly column, more than 10 years ago, we’ve struggled with the calendar. See, it might still be news to some Oregonians, but our region really has become a vital part of the world wine scene. Of course, it’s not always noticeable just from reading the world wine press, but wine-lovers globally are snapping up Oregon vinos, especially those from the fine 2008 vintage, driving Oregon’s wine economy into the billion-dollar range annually. As a result, wine producers are playing ever-greater roles in social and business activities that affect local citizens and wine tourists. In fact, so much is going on at almost any given time, it’s almost impossible for us here at Wine Investigations to keep up.
Take my sidekick Mole. Sweet little guy, our main snoop, we’ve always called him the Round Mound of Merlot. Now, he’s been running so hard, one wine event to the next, that he’s become positively svelt. Just this (soggy) morning, he rolled into the office, twisting some sheaf of papers into a tight tube. “Sleut’,” he said — he calls me Sleuth — “we’s missed da Memorial Day stuff fer the peeps. By da time dey read dis report, t’ings’ll be over.”
True dat. Of course, we were there, as were hundreds of others, as Oregon wineries all over the state opened the wine-touring season with special events. In case you missed the action, the wineries kick it hard again on Labor Day. Thanksgiving weekend will be full-blown hoopla. If you’re packin’ a spare thousand bux, you might still be able to grab a ticket for the full weekend events at next month’s International Pinot Noir Celebration July 23-25 in McMinnville, a chance to join global visitors in taste-testing pinot noirs from 60 international producers and the food creations of 50 chefs. The world will be coming, as they have for over 20 years.
Back to Memorial Day: One of our stops was Meriwether’s new winery, a mile or so beyond the Veneta/Elmira junction on Hwy. 126. We sipped brilliant sparkling wines — Meriwether 2000 Prestige Cuveé Brut can stand with America’s best sparklers, just flat delish — plus some fine still wines, including Meriwether 2005 Pinot Noir, rich and deep.
Dude came up, introduced himself. Michael, a wine pro, let me know that he had a bone to pick about last month’s column, viz. the $100 Oregon chardonnay — “just not worth the ticket.” Agreed. Mole had tried to talk me out of it — “Sleut’, a C-note? Really?” I told both: “You’re right. But our job is to report, let readers decide.”
Our June report:
Another fine sparkler, a bargain, is RainSong Sparkling Wine ($14), nice blend of grapes, flavor from the pinot noir, lightness and delicacy from chardonnay, hard to beat at this price.
King Estate is producing a line of affordable wines under their Acrobat label, and the Acrobat 2008 Pinot Gris ($12) is good value, with pretty pear/apple flavors, nicely balanced for alcohol/acidity, good company for seafood, chicken, white pastas.
Might be weeks finding its way to store shelves, but when it does, Broadley 2009 Rosé of Pinot Noir ($15) will disappear quickly. Production was tiny, but quality is superb, one of the best rosés we’ve tasted; pale but with flavor echoes of strawberries, pie cherries, hints of pink roses, delicate and delish.
Gotta get out, get around, see sights, sip a bit? Mouse-walk the Web through travellanecounty.org, wineriesoflanecounty.com, or oregonwine.org. For sun-seekers, try the wines of the Umpqua/Rogue Valleys at sorwa.org. The bulk of Oregon’s wineries are in the north end of the Willamette Valley; look for events and activities at willamettewines.com. Mighty fun, education for the senses, and there might be some sun. Someday. Bound to be.