Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Exodus...Willamette Valley Block Party in Seattle

I believe it's impossible for Al Gore to have known what a powerful tool he created when he created the internets. On March 10th I tweeted that the Oregon Wine Blog had more Washington readers than Oregon readers. And like that, the next day about 52 Willamette Valley wineries came to Seattle. Can you blame them really, when during the month of March Oregon readers turned their backs on our blog?

I was happy to meet the wineries in Sodo Park at Herban Feast, where the staff from the Willamette Valley Wineries welcomed me with a media guide and credentials (I attended the trade event prior to the public ticketed event). Included was a booklet that listed the wineries present and gave me a little space for notes as well as the wines they were pouring, and the retail prices of each. I took this handy booklet, my credentials and made my way into Sodo Park. This was the first such block party by the Willamette Valley Wineries, and it was a successful one, with 350 trade members and 425 folks from the general public coming out to the event.

The 52 wineries were laid out alphabetically which made it easy to find wineries I had my eye on. Stumptown, a Portland institution, provided some coffee in cased you needed some help getting out the door at the end of the event.

Oregon's bread and butter is, of course, what I would argue is the best Pinot Noir on the planet. Some wineries were also pouring blends, such as those on hand at the Sokol Blosser table. The Meditrina, and Evolution are some of the state's most interesting and most approachable blends. Though there was Oregon Chardonnay and Pinot Gris available at many of the tables as well, I was really there for the Pinot Noir.

I sampled several, but I've honed in on a few standouts for our purposes. I made my way to the table at Cooper Mountain Vineyards, where their Mountain Terroir caught my eye with it's slick all-black label. The Mountain Terroir Pinot is a blend of three vineyard sites that blend together to accentuate the terroir that is Cooper Mountain. The winemaker at Cooper Mountain is "very French" and doesn't believe in single vineyard efforts. The Mountain Terroir ($45) is very good, and there were only 300 cases made.

There were somehow some Oregon wineries on hand which I had never before sampled. Among them were Thistle, Retour and Patricia Green Cellars, where winemaker Patty was the original winemaker at Torii Mor.

I also found some old favorites - Jim Bernau from Willamette Valley Vineyards welcomed me to the table. WVV and TOWB are great friends. Jim told me he had a couple special wines on hand and asked if I'd be interested in giving those a whirl. He poured the 07 Signature Cuvee and the 06 Griffin Creek Syrah from Southern Oregon. While I was tasting, I told Jim that one of my seminal wine experiences came five or six years ago at WVV with their Bourdeaux style blend from Southern Oregon, The Griffin.

My favorite wine of the event was the Anam Cara, 2007 Nicholas Estate Pinot Noir. This wine was DYNAMITE! Anam Cara is a sentimental favorite of mine from one of my earliest trips to the Willamette Valley. While I hate to play favorites, this wine left me little choice in the matter. The 2007 Nicholas Estate is the product of five different Pinot clones. I feel like the Pinots that they're making at Anam Cara are a bit more earthy, that they're capturing what makes Oregon Pinot so special and just turning the volume up a little bit. This wine certainly did that for me.

This event was a lot of fun, and there were a few wineries that I hope to bring you more on in a separate post. The folks pouring did a great job telling us about their wine and the WVW staff were brilliant hosts. (If Oregon ever does decide to move here permanently I'd be happy to help carry a few of the boxes.) If you're heading down Willamette way, make sure you check out the Willamette Valley website, or go ahead and give them a call to help you figure out your itinerary. While they're not in a position to recommend one winery over another (they represent all of them), they can help you figure out which wineries are close to where you're staying or eating on your visit. Be sure to give them a call (503) 646 2985.


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