The SOMM Journal

June / July 2018

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108 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } JUNE/JULY 2018 FOR SOMMELIERS, IT'S sometimes easy to forget about Oregon in Southern California given our proximity to Santa Barbara, where local Pinot Noir is so fa- mous that some say "it's like bringing sand to the beach." So when the Oregon Wine Board brought a master class and trade tasting to Los Angeles' The LINE Hotel in April, some members of the wine community were surely wondering, "What's the point?" Bree Boskov, MW and Education Manager of the Oregon Wine Board, was quick to address this unspoken question for the 50 producers in attendance: "The point is, we don't just do Pinot," she said. "Oregon is Pinot Noir and it's great Pinot Noir, but there's so many other varieties developing as well as regions." Oregon is known for its "pioneer spirit." When the state's first family winemak - ers began planting in the 1960s, they did so with scarce resources, capital, and knowhow. Yet through their commitment to quality, they created the Willamette Valley, a name now synonymous with extraordinary Pinot Noir around the world. Decades later, that pioneer spirit is still alive: New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov recently said "nowhere else is ex - perimentation so fierce as it is in Oregon right now." Par t of the area's evolution relies on an emphasis on nested AVAs within Wil- lamette that are noted for their distinct terroir. The master class offered stunning examples of terroir-driven Pinots from Ribbon Ridge AVA by Goodfellow Fam- ily Cellars, as well as a Gamay by Brick House Vineyard. There was an excellent Riesling from Eola-Amity by Weinbau Pae- tra, as well as stunners from the Dundee Hills, Yamhill-Carlton, and Chehalem Mountains AVAs. Stellar winemaking has spread beyond the confines of Willamette, however. Throughout southern Oregon, the AVAs of Rogue Valley, Elkton, and Red Hill Doug - las County are producing excellent Pinot that's more savory and ripe than their es- teemed neighbor to the north. And while Pinot Noir is still king, the Umpqua Valley, Rogue Valley, and Applegate Valley AVAs do amazing things with Rhône varieties, Grüner Veltliner, Gewürtztraminer, Malbec, and, recently, Tempranillo, as exemplified by Abacela's Fiesta Tempranillo from Umpqua. The Columbia Gorge, a cooler-climate AVA with a high elevation that runs along the state's northern border, is experiment - ing with Iberian plantings, most notably a Mencía by Analemma Wines. Meanwhile, further east along the Columbia River, The Rocks of Milton-Freewater and Walla Walla AVAs enjoy a warm, dry growing season with cool nights. The climate has made the area well-known for Cabernet and Merlot on both sides of the Oregon/ Washington border, but more recently winemakers there are producing Rhône varietals like Cayuse Vineyards' God Only Knows, a full-bodied, powerful Grenache. As attention mounts upon Oregon, some of the family-owned farms and pro - ducers fear gentrification. "It is concerning to us that 'big viticulture' might come into the area as our wines get greater scores and do well internationally," Boskov says. "Large domestic and international growers are suddenly interested in Oregon and we know how powerful some of these corporations are." Let's hope Oregon's pioneer spirit can pivot to conservation, as they have a frag - ile and famously beautiful ecosystem to protect. { enological education } The Pioneer Spirit PHOTO COURTESY OF THE OREGON WINE BOARD THE OREGON WINE BOARD BRINGS ITS MASTER CLASS TO LOS ANGELES by Albert Letizia Bree Boskov, MW and Education Manager of the Oregon Wine Board, presents an Oregon wine master class in Los Angeles.

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