Or, how a state that everyone laughed at when it first started making wine has turned into one of the best regions in the world for pinot noir. That’s the subject of a story I wrote for the Wine Business International trade magazine. Given Oregon’s success over the past 30 years, and how little too many consumers still know about the state, and it’s worth noting the story’s highlights about Oregon and pinot noir:
• Oregon’s lesson for other states that want to be something besides a winemaking curiosity? Don’t be afraid to zig when the rest of the wine world is zagging. In this case, it was growing pinot when everyone else said it couldn’t be done, and not accepting the conventional wisdom that said they should do what California did. “The people who came to Oregon in the first place were pioneers, not just because it was a new region, but because they had a different spirit,” says Thomas Houseman, the winemaker at the 15,000-case Anne Amie Vineyards, who worked for Ponzi Vineyards, one of the state’s first producers. “They really didn’t have an idea about what they wanted to do. They just figured it out as they went along. And that’s still part of Oregon.”
• Legend says that a group of growers smuggled the first pinot cuttings from Burgundy in France, home to the world’s greatest pinot noir, to get around federal regulations. Ask about the legend, and you get a lot of winks and grins.
• Pinot noir isn’t the only grape Oregon’s producers do well. Its pinot gris, fruit forward and crisp, puts most of the rest of the world to shame, and I have always enjoyed Oregon sparkling wine. Ironically, chardonnay has never fared well, despite the state’s favorable terroir, but producers are making another effort with the grape, and have enjoyed some success.
• Price is also an important part of Oregon and pinot noir. My pal Wayne Belding, MS, a wine educator and reformed retailer, says that “at $50 and $60 for the top-end wines, they provide value not seen with pinot noir anywhere else in the world. There’s a common style, delicacy and nuance. They aren’t trying to make powerhouse wines.”
Want Oregon wine suggestions? Use the search box on the right side of the page and type in Oregon.