blog rank

I am taking a minute to thank all of you that have voted for the Umpqua Valley Wine News blog.  To me it’s a vote for the quality of our wine and winemakers!

As you can see from the list above we are at 183 in a long list of over 750 blogs!  Wow.  While it may take a while to reach the Top with 8,499 votes, I know we can reach the Top One Hundred if you keep on voting!

Surely, we don’t want to be stuck behind a blog on Sardines!  What that has to do with wine, you tell me.  And speaking of wine, get ready for some very fun and delightful releases for this spring.  Julianna, already known for their Rosé, has a new secret version to be released soon.  Becker just won runner up Peoples’ Choice in White for their Muller Thurgau.  And HillCrest  and Reustle Prayer Rock are also coming out with a Rosé.   Yum!



Under-Construction Typically, wines are released to the public on an 18 month schedule.  Meaning you should normally expect to see a lot of new releases in April. 

However, since when is the Umpqua Valley normal?  With most local wineries there is no corporate bottom-line deadline to meet.  The emphasis is not on a fixed time turn-a-round for wine but rather, a knowledgeable understanding of when the wine is ready.

Huge wineries such as Fetzer (who I used to pour for) make 4.5 million cases of wine a year!  It’s conveyor belt wine.  Exact formulas are followed to produce an undistinguishable wine from year to year.  This is the category for most all grocery store wines.

IN the Umpqua Valley it is not unusual to find wines release three and four years after harvest.  These wines where allowed to express themselves as unique to that vintage or harvest year.  You may pay a few dollars more but you are getting a carefully constructed product!

grapes I don’t know many subjects where you can get a newbie college student and a grey haired grandma to have a spirited debate about.  Wine is one of the few universal topics that doesn’t drive people apart but brings a smile to every discussion. 

As someone who has been serving wine tasters for years there have been only a handful of people that seemed grumpy to me.  Wine tasting is and should be fun.  And that’s why it attracts all kinds of people, from all walks of life, and all ages (legal 😉 ).

Case in Point:  Two weekends ago Diane and I took out a trio of 21 yr olds.  We love to get the “young ones” so as to shape their wine futures and turn them on to the local “goods”!  Then, yesterday we took out a mixed group that included a sweet grey haired grandma of 80. (Not our oldest client, mind you.)  Both tours enjoyed what our marvelous countryside had to offer. 

It’s comforting to know that unlike my days on the hockey rink, I have a lifetime of wine ahead of me!  Remember, wine is like riding a bike, you can always get back in the saddle.

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moonshiner Wine is big business.  On the other hand, it can be as personal as your neighbor making wine.  Both have virtues, both have faults.  But when it comes to knowing what exactly is in your wine, it helps to be able to talk directly with, face to face, the person that made it.

When you get to the level of E. & J. Gallo Winery, it’s unlikely you’ll ever even know who made it or where it came from.  Case in point is the recent scandal over Gallo’s Red Bicyclette Pinot Noir.  Turns out the wine isn’t so Pinot after all!

Back in the Languedoc region of France, where the wine was made, the winemakers weren’t adverse to adding a dash of Merlot or Syrah to cheapen the wine.  You can throw a lot of stuff into wine!

In their defense, the French winemakers said that the Americans with their gauche wine palettes didn’t even notice the difference. Not a single American consumer complained,” said one attorney. Another defense lawyer argued that the wine had delivered “Pinot Noir characteristics.”

So what is it?  Brew something up that reflects “characteristics” or offer an honest wine with all its faults?  I prefer to know what I am drinking.  And getting out to our local wineries I can find that info out first hand. 

When you stop by a friends house in France, out come the wine glasses!  It is polite etiquette to offer your guest a sip of wine.  Très gentil !

Back home in the USA, wine, like any alcohol was taboo growing up.  Somehow we would all burn in eternal fires if we had a sip of anything.  Unless, of course, if you were visiting your European grandparents!  Grandpa Kriston would give me a sip of his beer as I sat with him in his big green leather chair.

Point is, Americans have a completely different view of wine.  For most it’s something apart, for special occasions:  Brought out at Thanksgiving and the like.  It’s no wonder then when you have some newbie taster out on a tour that everything thing seems “foreign” to them.

What is absolutely everyday to Europeans is a mystery to our young adults.  Therefore, we old timers must be gentle with them.  Visiting a wine tasting room is not the same as ordering a slushy at the 7-11! 

In the next few blogs I will go over some tips for the beginner.  The basics.  First tip: Relax and have fun!  As I often told the fresh young taster: “This won’t hurt a bit”!

1967_pinot What prompted this outburst was this quote from an article highlighted on the front page of the OWB’s website.

Jancis Robinson, in talking of Pinot Noir (the only grape in Oregon!)

“The vine has spread south from the Willamette however to the drier Umpqua Valley and the much hotter Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon, a conveniently large AVA almost on the California border (though many miles from any California vineyards). “

My Letter to the OWB:

Greetings Fellow Oregon Wine Lovers,
I must admit that I am a little dismayed at some of the information you offer tourists and outsiders that continue to foster the "Willamette Myth" that there is only one wine region in Oregon and one grape.
You offer an article by Jancis Robinson, that besides focusing entirely on the Willamette Valley and Pinot Noir, states:
"The vine has spread south from the Willamette however to the drier Umpqua Valley and the much hotter Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon, a conveniently large AVA almost on the California border (though many miles from any California vineyards)."  
The problem here is that, the TRUTH is that the vine spread NORTH to Willamette from the Umpqua Valley at HillCrest Vineyards, where Richard Sommer planted the FIRST Pinot Noir grapes in Oregon. 
Compounding this misnomer is your write up on the Umpqua Valley:
"Richard Sommer established Hillcrest Vineyards near Roseburg in 1961. He planted Riesling and small amounts of other varieties despite being told by his California (Davis) cohorts that it was impossible to successfully grow wine grapes in Oregon." 
No mention that it was Richard that planted the first Pinot Noir and established the first post-prohibition winery in Oregon.  It all started HERE!
Let’s give credit where credit is due!  I suggest screening these articles for such obvious misinformation.  Perhaps a forum format that allows your readers to comment on the article you link to on your front page.

For every professional winemaker there’s appears to be a dozen garage vineophiles producing everything from a carboy of blueberry wine to several barrels of vinifera. 

Today, Diane and I, had the pleasure to sneak a peek into one of those garages and came away shaking our heads.  Here’s an old timer who’s “hobby” is winemaking and his wines are every bit as regal as the pros around here.  In a blind taste test his wines would surprise many a judge!

Making wine at home has been around for a long long time.  You may have forgotten that while this Nation endured its Constitutional Dry Spell, families could still produce 200 gallons a year for their use.  That law is still around.  And my guess is that there’s more than a few gallons of “homebrew” out there.  YUM!

As our wine region grows it is this underpinning that will keep us as humble as possible.  The culture of wine is rooted in these home winemakers, after all, we know of more than a few pros who started out in the garage!