Ring in 2014 with some of our favorite sparkling wines

1. Soter VineyardsBrut Rosé |
2. Domaine MeriwetherBrut |
3. J. Albin WineryBrut Rosé |

4. Rainsong VineyardOregon Sparkling Wine |
5. Wine by JoeJoe’s Secco |
6. Kramer VineyardsCelebrate! |


The Ultimate Oregon Holiday Gift Guide

Between the gal-who-has-it-all and the ever-changing tween trends, holiday giving is always a challenge. In the past, you’ve braved the mall and gone down the black hole of target-less online shopping. This year we’ve made it easy for you by focusing on local artisans and authors who can fulfill anyone’s wishes, from the epicure, to kids, or outdoorsman. Personal effects and items for the home round out the best of Oregon retail for the 2013 Gift Guide.


Road Reconsidered: Tracing Terroir and Local Culture on Highway 18

Highway 18 may be a utility corridor carrying motorists from the mid-Willamette Valley to the Oregon Coast and back, but there are lots of gems to discover, especially if you divert onto Old 18. If you take this less-traveled road, you’ll find, among other things, that the natural resource industry of the old order is holding its place alongside the next-gen resource based industry. Oregon’s agricultural transformation from timber to grape is nowhere more evident than here.


Wines That Surprise

“The only thing that should surprise me here is that some things still surprise me.” – Francois de La Rochefoucauld
Okay, so who doesn’t like a good surprise? There are few things in life more delicious than a pleasantly unexpected experience or one that exceeds your expectations. When I drink a glass of wine and discover it exists in this happy place that lies somewhere between my predictions, assumptions and reality—I realize how much I love surprises.
To be honest, not many wines surprise me these days. But when they do, it’s not something I keep to myself. The following wines are non-Pinot noir jaw-droppers that I must confess recently left me marveling at the wonder and brilliance of Oregon wine.


Wines That Go Bump in the Night

In October, scary stories are hard to resist. Oregon is known for haunted tales, including the famed Shanghai Tunnels and the Oregon Vortex (article here), but the spooky stories don’t stop there. Wineries are also a popular venue for the eerie. Ghost Hill Cellars, Argyle Winery, Owen Roe Winery and Nehalem Bay Winery all have legends that will bring goose bumps to your skin. Fortunately, their wines will soothe any nervous energy.


The Wine Road Less Traveled

In pursuit of Willamette Valley wine, wineries along the Highway 99 corridor tend to get lots of love. And what’s not to love? There is an amazing selection of conveniently located wineries along this stretch of road. Stray a bit off the beaten track, though, and you’ll discover an alternative wine route that steers you away from congestion and toward accessible, peaceful and lesser-known experiences instead.


Gruuner Veltliner: The New White Wine Darling

There is something afoot in Oregon’s wine country—a movement, a trend, a look toward something different. Producers known for their reds are starting to experiment with small batches of white wines to test both how the land and climate will accept the vines, and how their customers will respond.


To Cork or Not to Cork

In one corner, weighing in at five grams, the reigning champion of wine bottle enclosures, the queen of mean, the matriarch of winedom—it’s CORK (cue throngs of screaming fans). In the other corner, weighing in at almost nothing, the aluminum avenger, the whirling dervish of stoppers, it’s the one and only SCREW CAP (cue more screaming fans). The battle is on, and the victor is anyone’s guess.
Screw caps came into existence when people started speaking out against the number of “bad” bottles popping up. For the sake of this discussion, let’s define a “bad” bottle as one that has been infected with Trichloroanisole (TCA). A mouthful both literally and figuratively, TCA is a chemical compound that expresses itself as a flaw in the wine. Infected wines are sometimes referenced in terms such as corked, corkiness or cork taint. The resulting wine can smell and taste dirty, musty and/or dank. TCA commonly makes its way into wine through naturally porous corks. That susceptible membrane was the genesis for airtight, aluminum-based screw cap closures.
Fear not, wine lovers, TCA won’t hurt you; it just doesn’t taste very good. Proponents of cork argue that flaws still occur in wines with screw cap closures since wines can sometimes be affected by TCA before bottling, specifically in the barrel. Another flaw that is a possibility regardless of capping style is overrunning of the yeast Brettanomyces.
John Paul, winemaker and founder of Cameron winery in Dundee, incorporates only cork for his wine. He feels that the long-term ability of screw caps to both protect the wine and allow it to age gracefully have yet to be proven. “Early returns on the subject show wines that simply do not mature the same, or at the same rate as those in cork enclosed bottles,” says Paul. “There are lots of questions that I have, such as: What might be leaching into the wine from the enclosure?”
Harry Peterson-Nedry, founder and winemaker for Chehalem Winery in Newberg, has been using screw caps on a selection of his wines since 2003, and on all bottles since 2008. “The incidence of cork taint is very high and, although we’d like to use a naturally derived closure like cork, the tradeoff is not sustainable for our customers,” says Peterson-Nedry, who tracked the number of cork taint-affected bottles to around five to ten percent. “No other industry would put up with that rate of defective product,” he continues.
Dustin Mowe is president of Portocork America—a business that has been specializing in the sale of natural cork to wineries for over twenty-five years—feely admits that the cork business has been both difficult and exciting over the last several years. The introduction of synthetic closures into the market in 1992 gave winemakers options besides cork. An industry that once had exclusive hold on the market was suddenly faced with competition. “The cork industry had to react with scientific initiatives, says Mowe. “The producers who didn’t want to change and implement quality-first procurement methods fell by the wayside.” The change cut the cork industry from two thousand cork producers in Portugal (where most cork trees are grown) to one thousand, and from thirty to fifteen in the United States.
To increase the quality of cork products and find a way to be more competitive with their new rival, cork producers implemented changes, testing methods, and systematic cleansing methods to put cleaner cork on the market. “Since doing this, we have seen a continuous improvement in the cork quality,” says Mowe. (see graph)
For Mowe, the industry is about accountability and diligence. Portocork routinely checks the quality of their products, and it shows. “I am told time and time again by our customers that the occurrence of problems because of our cork is less than one-half of one percent,” says Mowe. He also took the opportunity to squash rumors that cork trees are now harder to come by, hinting that those rumors may have been started by “alternative closure” industry advocates attempting to increase the spotlight on their young product.
In reality, there is not a perfect wine closure. However, producers of corks, screw caps and other alternative cappings continue to investigate ways to improve the quality, durability, and reliability of their products. Until then…the fight goes on and the champion is yet to be crowned.


Biodynamic Wines in Oregon

Biodynamic farming is a mysterious beast, and many people in the agricultural world file it away as an old wives’ tale. However, there are a growing number of Oregon farmers—especially in the winegrowing community—who consider biodynamics to be the holistic path to healthy farms, a greener world and better products.
Though considered a recent movement inOregon, biodynamic viticulture is nothing new. For thousands of years, farmers have made farming decisions based on the phases of the moon, stars and planets. These farming practices have been passed down by generations and refined to what we now call biodynamic farming.