Every year, winemakers from Oregon descend on Birmingham with folding tables to stand behind so that the city’s wine buyers can badger them about soil content, weather, and farming conditions. You have to be impressed by the patience they display considering that this is a trade show for a product that people want to know or pretend they know a lot about. The questions are repetitive and sometimes technical. I don’t know if I could recite the three vineyards my pinot gris is sourced from for the tenth time in the last two hours to the tenth person who takes no notes despite the fact that I know they have asked the other twenty or so winemakers in the room the exact same question and couldn’t tell you what any of them said. Not everyone uses the spit buckets either.
Me: “What page [of the helpful product price list provided the local wine distributors] are you on?”
Interupting Wine Buyer #1: “What percentage undergoes malolactic fermentation?”
Winemaker: “I don’t know what page I’m on. [The distributor] put that together.”
Me: “I don’t see you.”
Winemaker to Interupting Wine Buyer #1: “Which wine?”
Interupting Wine Buyer #1 holding up half filled glass: “This one.”
Winemaker: “I don’t know which one you are drinking.”
Me: “How much does this cost?”
Interupting Wine Buyer #1: “I think it was the second one.”
Winemaker to me: “Which one is that?”
Interupting Wine Buyer #2: “What percentage malolactic do you do?”
For those in attendance, events like this are fantastic. It’s a chance to talk with people that share your enthusiasm. It’s one part industry gossip, one part reunion, and one part cocktail party. Established clicks meet in the center of the room to tell each other about various can’t miss wines. This is very helpful because with over a hundred wines open it’s easy to miss a good one.
There were quite a few highlights. The Argyle sparklings were a welcome surprise, as was Argyle’s austere pinot noir. I had never heard of Ponzi before, but enjoyed their “Tavolo” pinot noir. WillaKenzie as always was delicious, particularly the “Pierre Leon.” The star of the show for me was 2010 Solena Estate Pinot Gris. I got a big peachy nose and some pear and lemon up front. It stood out from the other pinot gris at the show because of some chalkiness in the middle and end. That chalkiness caused me to badger the poor guy about soil content and vineyard sites. I don’t remember the vineyard sites but I was amazingly impressed with his wines.
In all it was a good show. Not all, obviously, but many Oregonian winemakers work together on promotions under the assumption that they are less in competition with each other than they are with California, France, Italy, etc. Oregon has become a brand. I hear people talk about Oregon style pinot noir and I know what they mean, but it’s a mistake to assume that are all alike. It’s great to get to taste so many of the variations in one place. I’m looking forward to next year already.