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Bend Newspaper Highlights WT of Oregon

August 3, 2010

Folks, I wish I could simply link the article that appeared in the August 1st Bend Bulletin newspaper but it's not that simple to do. Instead, here is the article in its entirety...

Guidebook author Steve Roberts isn’t just a wine aficionado. He also owns a Seattle-area insurance business. Before work on Wednesday, he e-mailed The Bulletin his answers to several questions about “WineTrails of Oregon: A Guide for Uncorking Your Memorable Wine Tour,” the follow-up to his earlier “WineTrails of Washington.” The Oregon book, published in 2009, features 24 distinct trails to 200 wineries and brings him to Paulina Springs Books on Friday in Redmond and Saturday in Sisters (see “If you go”).

As you might hope, there will be wine on hand at the events. Paulina Springs Books will partner with Avery’s Wine Bar in Redmond and Cork Cellars in Sisters, each offering free tastings of wines featured in Roberts’ book.

Q: You include Central and Eastern Oregon wineries in “WineTrails.” Generally speaking, do winery owners in the valley feel threatened by the two in Central Oregon?

A: No, not at all. Diversity rules in Oregon, at least in terms of grape variety. Pinot noir is the grape that put Oregon on the map, but once you get to know Oregon’s “WineTrails” you discover wonderful Bordeaux- and Rhone-style varietals outside of the Willamette Valley.

A lot of people are surprised to hear that many of the well-known vineyards of Walla Walla are on the Oregon side of the border. The juice inside the bottles of Cayuse and Seven Hills wines comes from Oregon grapes.

Q: Can you get good wine on this side of the state?

A: Absolutely! In fact, the beauty of having wineries in this part of Oregon is that you can source your fruit from major growers throughout the state. Many winemakers work with vineyards in the Rogue Valley to obtain cabernet, syrah, merlot and other varieties. Increasingly however, look to wineries such as Maragas Winery (located north of Bend) to rely on their own grapes for wine production. In time, we’ll see what varieties grow best in this area. It’s a function of soil, weather and viticultural practices that determine flavor profiles. The jury is still out, but I’m optimistic that we’ll see a wine-growing region emerge.

Q: How do you define good wine?

A: For me, it’s a combination of ingredients all coming together that strikes a harmonic chord. It’s balanced. It’s having the right fruit, tannin and acid combination with judicious use of oak that makes me go “ahhhhh.” I can’t explain it, but I get a mid-palate sensation that goes nicely with a lasting finish. It definitely has me reaching for another sip.

Q: Do people ask you all the time whether you get drunk doing research? If so, what answer do you give them, because I’m wondering that as well.

A: Yes, I do get that question a lot. The fact is, I am a fairly cheap date and to keep my wits about me, I will spit during the day. Those little ounces add up quickly, and if I swallowed, I would be brain-dead by mid-day. Let me tell you, however, by 5 o’clock (wine time) I am ready for a glass of wine!

Q: Is Oregon making a dent in the world of wine? Do wine aficionados think our state’s winemakers have merit?

A: Oregon must be doing something right as wine tourists from all over the world come to Oregon to sample its wines. They’re here for the pinot, but along the way they discover that Oregon produces a number of varietals from a diverse mix of viticulture areas. I have been to a couple hundred tasting rooms throughout Oregon, and I hear accents from folks all over the world.

Q: What was the most surprising thing you learned during your research for the book?

A: That it doesn’t matter if the winery is producing world-class pinot noir or blackberry wine, the winemakers all share a common zeal and passion for making wine. And whether they work out of a chateau-like winery or a double-wide, the tasting experience will be equally enjoyable. The smaller wineries offer a more intimate experience, where the person pouring the wine is often the winemaker, and that’s special.

Q: Which has the better wines, in your opinion: Oregon or Washington?

A: Well, it really depends upon the situation or what I am eating. My little cellar has just about an equal number of Washington and Oregon wines. Lately, I have been uncorking a lot of pinot gris, but that’s just a function of summer, I believe. Come winter, I tend to go with the big reds of Washington’s Columbia Valley. But if you really pinned me down where I had to choose just one, I would pick a cabernet sauvignon from a Walla Walla winery, and ironically, the fruit in the bottle might come from across the border in Oregon!

Q: What’s next for you? Are you really working on a “WineTrails of Idaho”?

A: The Idaho book is done, and, although fairly skinny relative to the Oregon book, I am thrilled to showcase Idaho’s emerging wine scene. The winemaking community in Idaho has unbridled joy, and it will be fun to watch how they grow. My newest book is on Walla Walla, and that will be on the shelves in late October. This book goes beyond the tasting rooms to highlight places to stay, where to eat and 30 things to do in Walla Walla, the city so nice they named it twice.

Q: Feel free to ask yourself a question here that you wish I or other interviewers would be thoughtful enough to ask.

A: “After WineTrails of Walla Walla, do you have another book that you wish to write?” I would really love to dive into British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley and discover what’s happening there. I keep hearing from people about the grand wineries in BC, not just in terms of wine production but the whole agri-tourism scene with stellar places to stay and fabulous restaurants that are connected to the wineries. Besides that, Canadian ice wine has a tendency to make my knees buckle. I love the stuff!

David Jasper can be reached at 541-383-0349 or at djasper@bendbulletin.com.


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