The Oregon Wine Press recently asked for local wine industry people to tell them what Oregon wine means to them so I had to think about that for a moment. It’s not the fact that our climate is ideally suited to growing the best pinot noir in the US (obviously I’m biased here :), or that the diversity of the climate can support so many different varieties of grapes. It’s not about the wine at all for me, it’s about the people that work with it.
There’s an amazing and beautiful spirit of support and collaboration in the Oregon wine industry. Sure, everyone wants to do well, and sell what they make, but they want everyone else to do well with them. Winemakers and growers are more than happy to share information to help each other. Last harvest’s incident with a California wine company that ditched southern Oregon grape contracts the day before picking shows how the industry will rally to support their peers. Several wineries scrambled and pooled resources to make the wine and save the growers’ harvest.
I’ve been lucky enough to benefit personally from this spirit of support, especially at some critical moments of transition in my life. When I took over the winemaking in 2011, I was definitely in over my head. Aron was enormously helpful, but so were many others. Chris Berg at Laurel Ridge was an indispensable, and patient, guide as I took over the reins in the cellar. Ben Casteel at Bethel Heights Winery very graciously always answered my texts quickly when I had a questions about what I was doing. I interviewed other winemakers and asked them how they created their wines, and they were wonderfully forthcoming with their responses. When Aron passed away in 2013, I was overwhelmed by the loving responses from people throughout the valley.
Our industry is evolving of course. It’s growing up. But it seems to be holding steady to spirit that I’ve always enjoyed so much about it, and I hope will continue being part of the growth as we move forward. So, sally forth Oregon Wine, and hold true to your roots!