By Karl Klooster • Staff Writer • 

Oregon meets Manhattan

New York City was the most recent major target for that undertaking. Earlier this month, 20 wine writers were invited to join an Oregon contingent at the Peking Duck House in Manhattan’s Chinatown.

There’s no better way to showcase wine, particularly pinot noir, than with food. And this opportunity proved propitious for the contingent from Oregon.

Greeting the writers were Charles Humble, the Oregon Wine Board’s director of communications and interactive marketing, accompanied by winery owners Earl Jones of Abacela, Brian O’Donnell of Belle Pente and Jim Bernau of the Willamette Valley Vineyards.

Writers came from around the country to attend the 2nd annual Snooth People’s Voice Awards and Wine Writer Seminar Series, of which the Oregon tasting event was a featured part. The editors at Snooth, a New York-based social networking website centered on wine, had this to say about Oregon wines in addressing both wine professionals and avid amateurs:

“What Oregon, particularly the Willamette Valley, has achieved with pinot noir in such a short time is no easy feat. It’s a great American wine story of hard work, chance, sacrifice, hope, passion, risk and success.

“Oregon is not the one-trick pony it is sometimes portrayed as. That combination of soil and climate that makes it such a special place for pinot noir also allows Oregon’s producers to bottle some of the best white wines in the country.

“And there’s even more to the story than that. As Oregon matures as a wine-producing region, vintners are exploring regions that venture beyond the confines of the Willamette Valley, where tempranillo, syrah and other less familiar grape varieties are thriving.”

The following are some of the impressions noted wine writers in attendance:

“Living in the Midwest, I have to admit that I had pigeonholed Oregon a bit. However, sitting down to a tasting of 13 different wines, I realized that the breadth being produced there is almost startling.

“Everything from vermentino to pinot gris, albariño to chardonnay, syrah to tempranillo to riesling and many more. In other words, much, much more than pinot noir.

“Aside from their excellent wine, Jim, Brian and Earl are three of just about the nicest people you’ll ever meet. The stories they told that evening about being pioneers in Oregon winemaking were a highlight of the entire trip!” – Jon Thorsen, The Reverse Wine Snob, Minneapolis

“ A single blog post can’t contain everything that we experienced at this dinner. You’d really need to write a book to truly communicate all of the tasting notes, background details, and stories shared that evening.

“One I will mention is that Brian O’Donnell talked about winemaker Jimi Brooks, who died before harvest at the tender age of 38.

“Six other Oregon winemakers pitched in and devoted one day per week to make sure that all of the grapes got picked and processed properly, and a trust was set up for his young son.

“Oregon is unique in America for being mostly comprised of this particular ‘communitarian’ group of small family wineries that help each other out.”– Ben Carter, Benito’s Wine Reviews, Memphis

“The spirit of collaboration seems to be alive and well among Oregon wineries and this shone through during our dinner at the Peking Duck House accompanied by Oregon wines.

“Earl Jones, Jim Bernau and Brian O’Donnell each shared about their own wineries throughout dinner, but each also shared much more about the state’s wine production as a whole.

“They talked about the variety in weather, topography and soil type, among other things in the different areas of Oregon. They shared different philosophies in winemaking.

“And they all talked about a respect for the earth and its resources, and farming in sustainable ways.”— Amy Gross, Vine Sleuth Uncorked, Houston

“Sure, there were pinot noirs, and they were very nice, but the real eye openers for me were the white wines, with several varietals represented.

“At the risk of over-generalizing, I must say there was a consistent level of quality and freshness to the various whites we tasted, each having the good level of acidity required to balance out the fruit and structure, and tie the components together.” — Bob Fyke, Brunello Bob, New York City

“Just 12 hours after arriving home from a trip to Croatia and Italy, I jumped on a train en route to NYC for the Snooth People’s Voice Awards.

“After two weeks of intensive wine, food, and traveling I was admittedly jet-lagged, full, and tired, but I wouldn’t have passed this opportunity up for anything.

“My jet lag quickly changed to a rush of adrenaline at the realization I was back home — so to speak.  

“The first dinner, held at Peking Duck House, was sponsored by the Oregon Wine Board with a lineup of wines that included many of my favorite Oregon producers, including Soter, Stoller, Abacela and Argyle, among others.

“One of the wineries leading the charge into other varietals is Abacela, and we were fortunate to have owner Earl Jones with us at the dinner.

“Having previously reviewed the excellent tempranillo, I correctly deduced that we were in for a treat.” — Mary Cressler, Vindulge, Connecticut

Although I feel like more of an editor than a writer in presenting this story through the comments of others, the message comes through loud and clear.

It can be said without equivocation that Oregon wines have gained the attention and admiration of industry online media as well as print media. And that will translate into greater public awareness.

The other message is that, as Frank Sinatra famously sang, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere, It’s up to you, New York, New York.”

Karl Klooster can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 503-687-1227.

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