When I got the call from Laura Gordon of Apolloni Vineyards that they were throwing my name into the hat of potential Oregon Pinot Camp Campers, I got hopeful but tried to stay humble. Only 270 of the world’s most important retailers, restaurateurs, and geeky wine snooty pants get to go each year. Then the package came, congratulating me. I had no idea what a whirlwind I was in for!
“Camp” didn’t technically start until Sunday morning, but there was a reception at the beautiful Sokol Blosser estate Saturday evening. There, we were greeted by siblings and Co-Presidents of Sokol Blosser, Alison and Alex Sokol Blosser. This is when it really hits me how different Oregon is from California. Yes, I’ve met winemakers whose parents started their wineries and still have a hand in the winemaking. However, Oregon is so young, only about 45 years old, that the winemakers and founders I am meeting are the men and women who literally made Oregon wines what they are today.
The next morning, we boarded our bus and were off to the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinville for breakfast and orientation. We were welcomed by second-generation winemaker and OPC President, Jesse Lange of Lange Estates, and treated to a history of Oregon Pinot Noir by David Adelshime (that’s pronounced Adels-Hime) and Maria Ponzi. The entire time we were there, the atmosphere was casual with an air of relevance–have fun, but remember why you are here.
The Down and Dirty
The real down and dirty learning started in the vineyards at Bethel Heights. They were not only picturesque but also educational, as they are among the few Willamette Valley Vineyards that have two different soil types on it: volcanic and marine sedimentary. They dug out 6-foot pits to show the structure of the soils, and we were able to walk down into them, feeling the disparity of each level. Volcanic (or basalts), marine sedimentary, and wind-blown loess are not the only types of soils found in Willamette, but they are the most predominant.
We trekked back into the winery, where we able to blind taste through six different wines from the three soil types. The volcanic soil wines were fruity and lush, with soft tannins. Marine sedimentary wines were structured and robust, with black fruit flavors and earth tones. Finally, the wind-blown loess wines had notes of exotic spices, floral character and medium acidity. Each blind tasting we attended had two different vintages of each wine to show how the weather can manipulate each soil type. We found that the soil types were consistent in each case, even in dramatically different vintages, such as 2009 (very warm) and 2010 (long and cool.)