The pilgrims come by private jet, stretch limos and even on horseback, but most arrive in the family car via Highway 99W or head off the beaten path in Southern Oregon and the Gorge. It’s Thanksgiving weekend in wine country, a tradition started in 1974 at The Eyrie Vineyards in the Willamette Valley.
One of the most entrancing and simultaneously perplexing things about wine is how every year it can be entirely different, depending on what Mother Nature delivers. A very hot growing season will result in a wine with higher sugar levels, while a cold year will produce unripe fruit. A rainy season could bring about undesirable mold mildew. A dry season (in a vineyard with no irrigation) could result in shriveled and undeveloped grapes. As knowledgeable consumers come to expect certain flavors from their favorite wineries, one of the winemaker’s many challenges is to bring a level of consistency to each vintage, no matter what the weather brings.
There are those of us who have indulged in the fantasy of having a personal wine cellar. One that’s full to the rafters of dusty old wine bottles. Next comes the anxiety of how long we would age each one until it’s coaxed into perfection, and the fantasy becomes overwhelming and drifts away. While not all wines are made for aging, the ones that are made to age likely don’t need the years of storage or the precise conditions we fret over to reach their full and delicious potential.
The post-Prohibition pioneers of Oregon’s now burgeoning wine industry were armed with one audacious idea—wine grapes could grow in Oregon. It was the 1960s, and California was the dominant American winemaking region. Oregon’s soil was considered too wet, the climate too cold. Beginning in 1961, a small group of entrepreneurs started trekking north across the border with vine clippings in hand. They came from various backgrounds but had one shared passion. They were unwittingly at the forefront of the New World of wine.