Secret Somm: Sharing Pinot in Oregon
Probably the one varietal and region that has recently put Oregon on the wine map has been Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley. Oregon grown Pinot Noir has become a hot commodity and it is taking off. With every killer Pinot region, a Mediterranean climate is usually in the script. Some rain with not too much sun is the most desirable growing climate for this varietal and Oregon is well suited. The skins on this grape is so thin it makes its care a delicate business. You definitely have to be a good farmer to grow this grape and the farmers in Oregon are proving that they definitely know their business. Not only are the Oregonians proving to be complete wine growers but they are choosing to shun some of the typical wine business paradigms. One of the traits that has caused me to fall in love with this particular wine region is their idea of shared farming and even shared winemaking. Oregonians show great pride in their state and generally place that pride above the winery crest above their tasting rooms. Here’s a scenario that I witnessed on a recent trip.
Winemaker A calls Winemaker B. “Hey, I just checked my Pinot. I think I’m gonna pick in the next two days. I think you might wanna check your vines tomorrow.” In other wine regions, the mindset is completely different. Winemaker A would simply grow, pick, press, ferment and bottle without any consideration about anyone else’s vines or anything else. Their paradigm is typical of the business world and not even remotely considering anything communal. The folks I met in Oregon believe that sharing ideas, knowledge, etc. all lend to making a total regional product. They believe in Oregon rather than simply belonging to a winery. Their commitment to good farming and a spirit of communally crafting their wine illustrates great character and pride in what they do. I believe that pride in something “bigger.” I believe it is one reason they are crafting such great wines.
Stay tuned! Next week I will share some micro-regions within Willamette Valley.