Working in the wine industry has its perks. We get paid to drink. And every once in a while, a ticket becomes available to Oregon’s premier wine auction Salud! 100% of its posh proceeds provide basic healthcare to the silent majority that make our ivory tower of fancy drinking possible: immigrant part-time field workers who can’t get it otherwise. Now, with a new baby, I am probably not a prime candidate to drop big coin on wine and travel lots (if that’s your thing, scroll to the video at the end). Instead, my goal is to get a better feel for Oregon’s wine industry.
Day one features nearly 50 Oregon wineries, who each create a 2016 Pinot Noir exclusively for Salud’s silent auction. Table after table pack bottles and winemakers shoulder to shoulder, pouring their release in hopes of garnering the highest bid. Ponzi Vineyard’s new facility gets crammed with suits and expensive jeans.
As the case bids rise on screens, I wiggle between perfume and cologne-laden well-to-dos, thrust my empty glass to a willing bottle, and then shuffle outside to take notes. Even though the basics are the same: Pinot Noir, 2016, Willamette Valley, a year plus in French barrels, et cetera, the range in style is immense. From Chapter 24’s ink black, tannic clutching, hot, big, black cherry-flavored Pinot to Résonance’s feathery and crisp cranberry-tinted high acid low alcohol Pinot, my palate works hard to keep up.
Bids favored the famed or new names. But my highlights dove blind into it, including wines with potential and power:
Adelsheim 2016 Salud Cuvée: What is it? A blend of Dijon clones from Calkins Lane Vineyard, Chehalem. How is it? Ruby red, intensely concentrated nose and palate of black raspberry, all spice, dried tobacco box: sexy, dense, viscous and well-balanced (4 of 5).
Archery Summit 2016 Salud Cuvée: What? Arcus and Red Hills vineyard lots, Dundee. How is it? Inky, dusky sandalwood, potpourri, black cherry, rosewater, dry, lush fat tannins, medium bodied, needs a decade (4 of 5).
Bergström: What? 100% Pommard clone Pinot. How? A tidy purple color, perfumed all spice, pomegranate juice, cedar finish, dry yet juicy, driven, well-synced acid and woody tannins, lengthy (4 of 5).
Dobbs: What? McMinnville Dupee and Momtazi vineyards. How good? A clear deep ruby. Toffee, red fruits, wood, forest floor. All edge and youthful aggression with dense tannic grip and reediness that will reward aging (4 of 5).
Domaine Serene: What? Côte Sud Vineyard, just Clone 667 on volcanic Jory soil. How goes it? Clear, ruby red. Flushed aromas of rhubarb pie, iron, tobacco. Showy, jangly flavors of candied red cherry, boysenberry, orange peel. Strutting stuff (4 of 5).
Hamacher Wines: What be you? Estate Paloma vineyard, Lauerlwood soil, 700 fasl, many Pinot clones. How do you roll? A dense, damask pattern on black velvet, feral fox, iron filings, boysenberry compote, black cherry, wild stuff (4 of 5).
Lange Estate: What ya working with? Freedom Hill Vineyard lots, sedimentary soils, Dijon 777 and 115. How go? Perfumed Indian spices. Dense, red cherry, black raspberry, grippy tannins, dried wood, give it a decade (4 of 5).
R. Stuart & Co.: Whatcha be? All Wädenswil clone Pinot from multiple vineyards. OK? Hazy, dusky spiced with cinnamon, raspberry, and light florals, lean with soft tannins and popping acidity. (4 of 5).
Raptor Ridge: Wassup? Meredith Mitchell Vineyard in McMinnville, own-rooted 100% Pommard, basalt, 76% new French oak. Howwit? Great, stoney, raspberry tobacco, well cut acidity and dry, (4 of 5).
Résonance: Another 100% Pommard, destemmed, French methods. As mentioned above, it is green, young, light, twangy, low alcohol with tart cranberry, and age-able (4 of 5).
Scott Paul: Maresh’s 1970 Vineyard is Oregon’s fifth oldest, 40% whole cluster. A high-toned, lean, action-packed, flicking licorice, blackberry, cardamom at you (4 of 5).
Trisaetum: barrels from three vineyards across the Willamette. Lean, taut, dusty woodworking shop, aggressive, tannic, tart cranberry, needs a decade (4 of 5).
All these 2016 Pinots need years to start strutting their stuff. The vintage shows power, tannic structure, color, good acid, and aging potential.
Next, because throwing money at fifty wines was not enough, we all stumble out of wine country to Argyle Winery’s new facility for dinner. Boom! Barrels:
Argyle’s bubbly making, bottle-rotating gyroscopes hang above us, waiting to turn.
Bottles ring the table and courses roll into us.
But honestly, if this felt excessive, sleep it off. The live auction comes tomorrow.
We shed our jeans and sweats for black ties and slick dresses. A dark, hilly drive finds the valet waiting for me at Domaine Serene. I check in, grab a glass of bubbly, and wander the halls and caves spotted by hightop wine tables with winemakers. Each brought cool wares. Favorites included Big Table’s Chardonnay, Lange’s Sparkling Brut Rosé, Domaine Serene’s 2010 Pinot, any Riesling, and Soter’s Mineral Spring’s Brut Rosé:
Texts and speakers send us to our chairs for the lux dinner and stewards pouring endless bottles.
But we came for the manic auction.