Let’s all drink (and think) locally!

I’m tired of hearing about the economy, everyday there seems to be dire news and morbid projections. We’ll get thru all this negativity eventually, but first I think we need to look around and make damn sure our local communities are the ones that survive first and foremost. For instance, on an outing yesterday in our local community, I noticed that three restaurants have folded in the last few weeks. Now granted, these are not the type of places I frequent anyway, being a wine guy and all, but I hate to see local people put out of work.

As a matter of fact, we went out to dinner last night in the Pearl District in downtown Portland. Things were pretty much their usual vibrant self, though I did get a parking spot out in front (hope this is not a bad omen). Anyway, we did our best to stimulate the economy – even went to yet another establishment for a lavish dessert course (complete with a 10 year old Tawny port).

Back at home, I was contemplating my navel after dinner (over a bottle of Ponzi’s Dolcetto from Oregon no less) and I was thinking “what can I do about all this?” – remembering back to my gastronomic excursion of earlier, I flashed on the wine lists! Both of the establishments had a plethora of imported and North American wines but almost no regional wines save for the obligatory large wine company, nationally distributed Pinot Noir.

I live in a region that produces luscious, wonderful red and white wines not only from the Willamette Valley and southern Oregon but also from Eastern Washington. Literally hundreds of small producers make some of the most concentrated, consistent and food friendly wines on the market today and these producers provide a huge boost to their local economies in terms of labor as well as goods and services that are required for the production of these wines. (In the interest of full disclosure, I am one of those producers making kick-ass cult wines!).

Now if you are like me, I am still going to go out to dinner and will spend money (perhaps less frequently but still going out none the less). And when I do go out, I’ll more likely choose a local establishment as opposed to a national chain. BTW, here’s a little quirk about me, I cannot eat dinner without a glass of wine to enjoy with it. Furthermore, I won’t eat my dinner if that glass is empty, preferring to wait until a fresh glass has arrived at my table.

But I digress. So here’s what I was thinking – let’s form an coalition to support our l9cal producers. This is true whether you are in the Niagara region, BC, Portland, Seattle, Idaho – whatever. When you go out to dinner, only order (if possible) wine that is produced locally (let’s say within 300 miles or so – (this will also, in some small way, reduce our carbon footprint as well!). “My restaurant does not offer any local wines you say” – Eureka! – that’s my point! If they do not, drag the wine steward’s butt over to the table and explain to him (or her) that you expect the establishment to carry locally produced wines. If enough of us insist upon it, we can make it happen! And whenever you travel, do the same thing – if you go to Montreal, seek out locally produced wines to enjoy while there – Seattle, only Washington State wines – you get my point.

Next – we need to track and communicate about all this. I suggest forming a local blog, or use your own blog and encourage other people to write about the restaurants that have great wine lists, highly populated by local wines. This will drive business to them thus encouraging more places to do the same and publicize the whole movement. Maybe we should come up with a rating system, what do you think?

Lastly, what shall we call it? I’ve toyed with the idea of “Local First”, a name already in play but not well used. Maybe it should be called “Local Vino”? Drop me a line, comment on this or email me your suggestions for a fitting moniker.

Until then – a toast to health and economic revitalization for the New Year!
Karl Dinger

Oh, what a winter we are having (and it’s only just begun!)

Well, we’ve had quite the winter so far and it’s only January 4! We’ve seen an interesting snowfall just before Christmas – enough to make the going near impossible (poor retail merchants), followed by an and ice storm and then more snow. A total of 24″ was received here at the vineyard, the most snow in 40 years!

A few photos will give you a sense of what it was like. Here’s the South Block, looking east over the floor of the Willamette Valley – something that’s rarely seen, snow on the floor of the valley.

south-block1

The Silo, the inspiration for our Silo Vino label, was particulary beautiful in the snow, the syrah block in the foreground.

silo-in-winter3-large

Ice on the vines…

ice-vine

And more snow – here you see the end posts along the “Grande Allee” and the bluebird house at the Riesling block.

blurbird-house2All in all, the snow contributed to a festive mood, just in time for Christmas. Even the vineyard dogs like the snow.

snow-dogs-large-2

Hang, Baby Hang

The weather here in Oregon is spectacular right now and all forecasts are for more of the same i.e., unseasonably warm and dry weather for the next 10 days (one long range forecaster interviewed recently, predicts an unseasonably dry November even). If that’s the case, I’m going to “hang, baby hang” to paraphrase one of the more comical slogans of the current political theatre.

As of this writing, I have approximately 3-1/2 acres of Syrah on the vine as well as ¾ acres of Riesling. Exciting as this extended period of warm, dry weather may be – and believe me, I am excited, several other mitigating factors are causing me sleepless nights and great anxiety. You see, this extended hang time is really “Risky Business” to a grape grower. The longer it hangs, the less crop I get, of course. Theoretically, this risk should be compensated for by a corresponding increase in grape, and therefore wine, quality. But that’s only true if I actually get to harvest something – therein lies the rub.

The weather is beautiful – visibility is extraordinary (at the top of the hill above us we could see 5 mountains the other day – Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Jefferson – incredible, considering Mt. Rainer is something like 300 miles North of here). But, I digress – this wonderful clear, warm weather is also great if you’re a bird, or a yellow jacket!

Most of the syrah is looking pretty darn good. The clusters are gorgeous, the berries big and full but they are not quite ripe. Over the past week, the fruit has changed dramatically in taste. Rather than green and vegetative flavors, the delicious fruit has become much more prominent. The seeds are about 80% brown now, a sure sign of approaching physiological maturity.

The Riesling looks pretty good  too!

This Riesling fruit is much more ripe than the Syrah – upper 20′s sugar wise but still with acidity that is quite high. Since we have a cooperative weather pattern, I’m thinking we’ll let her hang some more and do a late harvest.

Now for the downside of hang time. First, there are the birds, they’re hungry too and the blackberries are all dried up!

In the photo above, you can see a hole pecked in a ripe grape. Once a hole has been pecked thru the skins, the yellow jackets devour the flesh inside.

And those yellows love ripe grapes, they can get downright mean if you mess with them (and I happen to be alergic to the little monsters). I wonder if they had yellowjackets on The Arc – that was a huge mistake!

Fortunately, the damage from the yellowjackets is relatively insignificant.

At least they don’t seem to pick it clean like the birds do. A sight like this is enough to make an environmentalist like me cringe! OK, OK – take it easy, don’t call Audubon on me.

While I’ve got my back turned, sometimes Bob helps himself to the bottom of some clusters. My vineyard manager Evan asked me if I had coyotes – I explained that Bob likes to think he’s a wild dog( except for when he’s riding shotgun in the Gator).

I guess you could say that we all must share – with the birds, the bees (yellowjackets anyway) and the wild animals (that would be Bob). There’s only one problem with this seemingly symbiotic relationship – I hate to share!

Another Day in Paradise

Dawn starts overcast but soon clears as another beautiful fall day begins in the Northern Willamette Valley – it’s time, again, to harvest more fruit from our estate vineyard on Parrett Mountain. Today, Saturday October 11, we are picking Chardonnay and a small “Mother Block” of Pinot Noir.

The Chardonnay, Dijon 76 clone, looks beautiful in the morning light.

Evan and Paco load almost perfect fruit into the bins. Very little sorting will be required for this fruit.

Next, we turn our attention to the “Mother Block”. This is a small block of Dijon 115 Pinot Noir originally planted in 1996. These vines are own rooted and non-irrigated.

An absolutely perfect day, warm and sunny.

We all smile as we see how gorgeous the Pinot looks – not much sorting needed on this fruit either!

We’ve still got lot’s more fruit to harvest, let’s hope the weather continues to cooperate. More to follow.

New website launched!

We’ve launched a new website. You can now find information on our wines, upcoming events and special club functions at our new website at www.TerraVinaWines.com

“When the train left the station, it had 2 lights on behind” – Rolling Stones

Just watched the vice presidential debate.

I guess the “straight talk express” left the station – and Sarah was fashionably late.

Pinot Noir Harvest – October 1, 2008

The crews arrive around 11AM and commence the pick.

Pinot Noir grapes ar hand picked.

Pinot Noir grapes are hand picked.

The buckets are staged at the ends of the rows.

Picked fruit

Picked fruit

The fruit is then loaded into harvest bins for transport to the winery.

Loading the harvest bins

Loading the harvest bins

The harvest bins are ready for loading up.

Harvest bins, fully loaded

Beautiful, ripe Pinot Noir, Pommard clone

And finally, off to the winery they go.

Staged bins

Staged bins

All in all, Tucker (Director of Homeland Security) thinks the day went rather well!

Tucker, the dog

Tucker, the dog

Alfresco dining in the vineyard

Sometimes, when the weather is warm, and the warmth of the day lingers well into the evening hours, it’s time for a little Alfresco dining in the vineyard.

Setting up in the vineyard for an impromtu dinner

Setting up in the vineyard for an impromtu dinner

Our friends John and Marya join us for a harvest supper of watermelon/tomato salad and fresh grilled salmon.

2007 Cabernet Franc

2007 Cabernet Franc