Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Walla Walla to Portlandia: Will the Dream of the 90s Survive?


If you haven't heard by now, the Dream of the 90s Is Alive in Portland. Young people retire there, you can sleep until 11:00am and all the hot girls wear glasses. Besides its earnest hipness, Portland also plays the role of urban guardian to the Willamette Valley wine country just to the south. They know their wine in Portlandia, and they’re particularly fond of the world class Pinot Noir that grows just to the south. But Pinot Noir is grown elsewhere, and Walla Walla’s wine association is hopeful that Portland will give some of the world class wine from Walla Walla a try for a change.

Taste Walla Walla in Portland, on February 28th, gives those Portland Pinotphiles an opportunity to sample world class Washington wine from more than 50 of Walla Walla's 120 wineries. The event, at Venue Pearl, is a great way for Washington's neighbors to the south to be neighborly and check out what's going on in the Walla Walla Valley, a part of which is in Oregon. Tickets are available at the door for $65, and the event will feature Walla Walla food and wine and an opportunity for Portlandia to open its mind.

They say in Portland that world class Pinot Noir flows out of faucets and falls from the sky. They also say you can go to clown college. As much as I love Portlandia, I am still an outsider amidst its city streets. That's partially because I'm living in Seattle and partially because I'm a bit on the masculine side for Portland. So I had to get an insider's view. I wanted to know how Portlandia would deal with these world class iterations of Rhone and Bordeaux style varietals? Could these wines, nuanced and elegant compared to their New World counterparts, but big by Willamette Valley standards fit in; in this Mecca of skinny jeans? Could they play nice together? Was the Dream of the 90s prepared for one of the finest AVAs in the country coming to town?

All the hot girls wear glasses

Jenny M is my Portland insider and she wears glasses. In case there was any question about her credentials, Jenny pours world class Pinot by day, but her day doesn't really get started until around 11:00am. When I told her that Walla Walla was coming to Portlandia she was beside herself. "Walla Walla in Portland?! What do you think they're trying to do? "In Your Face," I think that says it all, doesn't it? It’s obviously just another facet of the Cabernet industrial-patriarchy takeover. It just sounds so violent, right? Why does it have to be in my face? Have you even seen what most of those bottles look like?! Those "big" Washington wines are just part of varietal-phallocentrist oppression."

Jenny continued, “Think about it: How many women winemakers are even IN Washington? There are like, a lot in Oregon. I think that says something about how progressive Pinot Noir production is here, comparably. I mean, it's like really progressive."

Free Range Lifestyle
Jenny was concerned that in addition to the lack of feminism there was a lack of in touch with naturism, and I tried to assure her that we had both amazing woman winemakers in Walla Walla like Marie Eve Gilla of Forgeron Cellars and Anna Schafer aMaurice Cellars and really nature-y type people too. She wasn't hearing it.
"Pinot Noir is soooo superior to those big masculine, hot-climate wines. It's feminine, nuanced, and in-touch with mother nature. Walking in the vineyard, I can put my hands in the soil and hear what the wine is trying to say. It CAN do that, I read about it in a Native American History class I once took. I might try it eventually.”

We Put Birds on Things
What I did find was that despite her initial reaction, Jenny had a weak spot for Portlandia-centered marketing, which basically amounts to the artful use of bird imagery. "I was in Whole Foods today, buying this really yummy spelt bread, when I happened to see some Washington Cabernet with a pretty bird on the label. Like, do they think that's all it takes?! I mean, yeah, I bought it! But that's not the point! The point is, "Bordeaux-style"? More like "Bour-don't style to me"!

While the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance has work to do to convince this particular Portlandia die-hard, I do believe there’s a good chance that they’ll make a serious impression on the hipster Pinot guzzlers. If nothing else, Walla Walla is going to throw one heck of a party in the fashionable Pearl District and hell, Portlandia likes parties.

A big thanks to Jenny for bringing the humor and the hip to this post.


  1. This sounds like a killer event. I hope you share updates.

  2. Please keep hipster politics out of oregon wine. Oregon isnt all about pinot. What about cliff creek, tyrus evans syrah, arcane cellars, andrew rich etc.?