A lump of coal from The Oregonian
I was frankly less than thrilled. Or should I say frustrated, or just plain chapped? On the day before Christmas Eve Portland’s (and Oregon’s) major daily newspaper, The Oregonian, saw fit to splash across the top of their front page the teaser headline “Oregon winemakers struggle to sell their 2007 vintage due to poor reviews.” Then on the cover of the business section, a multi-page article with several full color photos appeared under the headline “Oregon winesellers struggle with uneven popularity”. The article was written by the Oregonian’s business reporter Dana Tims. I actually spoke to Dana at length on this subject a couple of months back, and he seemed to be in agreement that the wines were quite possibly much better than reported, which he alludes to in his article.
The article was actually quite fair and accurate. It included quotes from two Wine Spectator journalists, Harvey Steiman and Matt Kramer, who have been on record as not exactly being fans of many wines from 2007 In Oregon. I fully grant them that it was a challenging vintage. I give Dana Tims full credit for clearly stating that their negative assessment of the vintage may indeed be unfair. But my bone to pick, however, is with The Oregonian for using their front page to reinforce the perception that 2007 is a vintage to pass up. All that most people probably saw that day was the headline linking 2007 to “poor reviews” and “winemakers struggling”. The meat of the article was somewhat more encouraging, but on a day of frenzied holiday shopping and travel, the bright red headline visible from every newspaper box around the state was likely the impression that reached the most eyeballs. As I often find with the Oregonian, the headline sensationalized an aspect of the story that wasn’t really supported very well by the article.
I don’t have unrealistic expectations that The Oregonian should be a cheerleader for Oregon wineries. But is it too much to ask of them to not fan the flames of negativity? In just 40 years the Willamette Valley has developed into a world-class wine region that is contributing over a billion dollars per year to the local economy. Maybe we should at least expect from them a greater level of knowledge and understanding of this large local industry?
As to the 2007 vintage, it was certainly a mixed bag. Like anywhere that great Pinot Noir is produced, every year is different and takes on its own character. “That’s just the way it should be” as veteran vintner Andrew Rich points out in the article. There were many excellent wines produced here in 2007. I’ve recently enjoyed superb bottles from Domaine Drouhin, Evesham Wood and Belle Pente that I thought were simply outstanding regardless of vintage, and those are surely just the tip of the iceberg. Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate recently stated that there were more good wines here from 2007 than 2006. Other journalists are also on the same track, including Cole Danehower at Northwest Palate. Kelley Fox and I have been hugely happy with our Scott Paul 2007s from day one. We could probably sell three times more of the 2007 Audrey if we had it, but it sold out as futures a year ago. As the article states, many of the better 2007s have just been released – none of which were around when the negative blanket was thrown over the vintage. We’ve just released our 2007 La Paulée bottling, and it is off to a quicker start than either of the previous two vintages. The fact remains that times are indeed tough. Few in the Oregon wine industry are setting new sales records these days, to be sure. We’re fortunate to be holding our own, and are thankful to our customers for their continued passionate support.
The bottom line is, now more than ever, it’s time to trust your own palate. Get out and taste, and buy and drink what YOU like. With the proliferation of independent wine blogs, Facebook, Twitter and a plethora of social media devoted solely to wine – more information is available now from the ground up, meaning that more real people are writing about more real wines, and you can get great information everywhere. The wine world has been radically democratized, and the days of a few national publications beaming down their pronouncements from the mountaintop are thankfully coming to an end. Vive la révolution…