Monday, November 24, 2008

You can't pour Oregon Wine into wood barrels

Bob McRitchie, Ph.D., recalls the early years of the 70s and 80s:

"While I was winemaker at Sokol Blosser, the Oregon Department of Agriculure had this dairy mentality, the idea of cleanliness being next to godliness. We had one inspector who vowed he would get barrels out of the cellar because you can't pour wine in wood. It's just not clean."

I wonder if the inspector had ever tried French wine?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Exactly how did Oregon Wine become World Class?

Jim Maresh still remembers the exact day in 1968, when Dick Erath came up the driveway and convinced him to pull out some of his orchard to plant Pinot noir.

Jim Maresh then recalls a conversation with Dick at a celebration for Erath's twenty-fifth crush:
There were about two hundred people and we're drinking this great Oregon Pinot. Dick and I were sitting under a tree, and he said to me, "Jim, did you ever think it would be this big?"

I said, "No."

He said, "Back in 1970, we sure didn't know what we were doing."

I said, "You told me right in front of your crusher you knew what you were doing; now twenty-five years later, after I had pulled out all my orchard, you tell me different?"

And he said, "I didn't have a clue."

So, exactly how did Oregon Wine become world class?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Will Oregon Wine Country become a Theme Park in the Future?

For the Oregon: The Taste of Wine book, I asked winemakers, winery owners and vineyard managers what they thought the Oregon Wine Industry would look like 50 years from now.

Ed King from King Estate Winery replied:

"We see Portland growing rapidly. It's under great pressure to accommodate a huge influx of people who recognize it as a wonderful city. It's maybe the top American city today, at least in the top three or five, in terms of livability and quality of life. While we have a significant number of land use restrictions, if we were to add a half a million or a million people to the current Portland urban growth boundary–I don't know that anything is sufficient to withstand the influx of that many people. Many of those people are going to explore every nook and cranny to find a place to live out of the city.

"The wine industry is going to have to fight all along the way. Economics won't protect the vineyards. We've seen valuable vineyard land in Napa that is still more valuable for houses. The same is gong to be true around Portland, if we let economics run the game. You could see the vineyards of McMinnville, Dundee, Carlton, Eola Hills all overwhelmed by the demand for housing.

"You could end up with this kind of vineyard in a terrarium, with a little glass dome over the cute little winemaker's old pickup truck and his dog. You drive out and pay your fee to see them. It's like a visit to the zoo."

What do you see in the future?

Winemaker Doug Tunnell with his red
pick up at Brickhouse Vineyards

Winery in the Willamette Valley,

Monday, November 17, 2008

Why start an Oregon winery?

After spending hours hearing about all the trials that Oregon wine pioneer Myron Redford had through the years to establish his winery, I wondered why would a person possibly want to do a winery?

For Myron, it was obviously an incurable passion.

He told me about another motive:
"There was an ad in Sue Horstmann and Willamette Valley Wineries Association's bulletin from a guy who wanted to buy a winery. So just out of curiousity, I called him up. He was very honest, 'Oh, this is an ego winery.' The guy wanted to buy a winery. He didn't care whether the brand was established, all he wanted was a small facility with a small vineyard so that he could hire a winemaker and make wine. He just wanted to be part of the wine scene."

And he probably couldn't afford Napa.

Friday, November 14, 2008

My new book is out; but how do I know it's any good?

Finally, after driving all over Oregon to interview and photograph wine/vineyard people, editing 3000 photographs down to the 150 that ended up in the book, choosing quotes from 200 hours of conversations, weaving those into a narrative text and then struggling with the designer, Oregon: The Taste of Wine book finally hit the bookshelves today.

It's out there for all to see. The Graphic Arts Publishing staff hopes it will turn a profit so that they can feed their kids, get married or take vacations. For me, as the creator, it's much more personal. It's a little like a son or daughter growing up and going out on their own. I did the very best I could as a parent. Then he/she/it takes on a life of its own.

But how do I know my book child is any good?

After the dust of initial excitement settled, something inside says that it reached the mark I set for myself.

The photography: After years of self doubting myself, I'm finally confident with my photography. After all, my early boot-camp training came with organizations like National Geographic. While I didn't have time to do all of the creative things I imagined, I'm absolutely confident the photography in this book is strong.

The text: I knew my limitations. I wasn't an Oregon wine expert. And I didn't want it to be a history of Oregon wine. So I went to the experts, the Oregon winemakers, winery owners and vineyard managers. I also know how to be real with people. I wanted the book to be about people and be very personal. So, when about 3/4 of the way through my very first interview, Dick Ponzi said, "You know I telling you things I haven't shared before," I knew we were on the right track. David Lett had a honest conversation with his son Jason they never had before while I was recording. Jason asked for a copy of the interview as a memory after his father recently died. Even thought I had to leave lots of great quotes on the table, the narrative is strong.

It also helps when people like Brian Bushlach, co-host of KXL's Vine Time radio show wrote: "My friend, it is a spectacular work of art, both visually and in the literary sense! You captured the soul of the Oregon wine industry, like I’ve never seen it, nor experienced it. I’ve never been so in love with book about wine."

So on a personal level, I feel very good about this book child. For that I need to thank the One who created all the light and owns my every thought and breath. I hope the book can bring joy, adventure and maybe a bit of inspiration to readers.