Un’Wined and Kickoff Oregon Wine Month

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As reported in January, Governor Kitzhaber signed a proclamation designating May as Oregon Wine Month. To kick off the month’s festivities, the Oregon Wine Board will be hosting a grand tasting, Unwine’d: Celebrate Oregon Wine, on April 29th from 3-6 pm at the Left Bank Annex in Portland.

The event will feature:

  • 100 Oregon wineries (14 from Southern Oregon)
  • Superior Cellar restaurants
  • Wine education stations
  • Souvenir wine glass
  • Wine store – taste what you like and easily purchase it!
Tickets are $50 and available now.

Bud Break, An Annual Milestone

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There are significant milestones that define one’s life and our evolutionary path toward the future. These range from our first steps as an infant to welcoming children into the world.

For a grower of winegrapes, peak moments begin with bud break.

Each year, in late April, or in the case of a La Nina weather pattern, early May, the average daily temperature reaches 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the Applegate Valley, which signals a wake up call from the vine’s winter dormancy.

Bud break begins when the tiny buds on the vine start to swell then burst open projecting a green, leafy shoot that will soon set, flower and produce a grape cluster that will be harvested the following fall.

Not all is smooth sailing once bud break has occurred; there is a chance of frost damage until the last full moon of the month, typically around Memorial Day Weekend. These fragile buds could be killed, resulting in reduction or loss of crop.

But, as we near the start of the growing cycle, growers are optimistic of the season to come, the wines that will be made from the fruit, and sharing those wines with enthusiasts.

Let’s toast to the annual bud break and wish the growers a happy, healthy growing season. Cheers!

Down in the Valley

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From the ski slopes of Mount Ashland drive along the Applegate River loaded with steelhead and salmon into the beautiful, often sunny, Applegate Valley. You will find it a great place for visiting and for cultivating grapes to produce fine wines. You may wish to join Omar Khayyám’s vision

a jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou in the wilderness,

Swing by beautiful Applegate Lake, where trails take you back to forests, mountains and old gold mines.

While enjoying the great outdoors find time to visit our Applegate wineries where your tour guide may also be knowledgeable in computer software, education, hiking trails, and manufacturing, and may also happen to be the winemaker.

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Stay tuned for a brief review of the valley’s early wine business.

The Academy

– Newsflash –

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The Rogue Valley Winegrowers Association (RVWA) will present an “Operating a Successful Tasting Room” seminar on Tues., March 6, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., at the OSU/Jackson County Extension Service Auditorium, 569 Hanley Rd., in Central Point. The session is designed for people who own or work in a tasting room and those thinking about starting or re-designing one.
Speaker Craig Root of St. Helena, Calif., has more than 30 years of experience working with wine tasting rooms, first as a successful manager then for the past 17 years as a consultant. In his consulting practice, Root has helped to create 60+ new tasting rooms and 100 wine clubs throughout North America. Also, he has analyzed, advised and improved dozens of current operations.
Root will cover these topics and more:
• Wine tasting room design, effective management and operation
• The links between customer service and profitable sales
• Secrets of wine club success
• Acquisition, display and sales of non-wine items
• Avoiding theft and dealing with difficult situations in the tasting room

Seating is limited to 50 and registration deadline is February 15. Cost for the seminar, which includes lunch, is $40 for current RVWA members and $50 for non-members. For more information or to register, contact Marilyn Hawkins at (541) 552-9922 or mhawkins@prhawk.com.

Top 100?

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While our blog is normally about wines and wine news of the Applegate, this one is about news that doesn’t include the Applegate – sort of Applegate news by omission.

Wine Enthusiast magazine just released their “Top 100” wines list for 2011.  Now admittedly, this is a worldwide list so the competition is pretty stiff.  But personally I think the NW might have been a little under-represented.  The list had 14 wines from Washington (9) and Oregon (4).  Those were:

#15 – Domaine Serene 2007 Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir – 95 points, $58
#16 – Buty 2007 Columbia Rediviva Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah – 96 points, $48
#17 – Cayuse 2007 Cailloux Vineyard Syrah – 99 points, $65
#21 – Trisaetum 2010 Estates Reserve Riesling – 95 points, $32
#26 – Rasa Vineyards 2008 DuBrul Vineyard Creative Impulse –97 points, $95
#30 – Charles Smith 2007 Royal City Stoneridge Vineyard Syrah – 99 points, $140
#34 – Mark Ryan 2008 Dead Horse – 95 points, $45
#38 – Januik 2007 Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – 95 points, $50
#41 – Betz Family 2008 Père de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon – 95 points, $60
#45 – Adelsheim 2009 Nicholas Vineyard Pinot Noir – 95 points, $90
#49 – L’Ecole No. 41 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon – 94 points, $37
#53 – Leonetti Cellar 2008 Reserve – 96 points, $135
#56 – Gramercy Cellars 2009 The Third Man Red – 94 points, $45
#76 – Eyrie 2007 Reserve Pinot Noir – 94 points, $62

What do you think?

— Newsflash —

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Six Southern Oregon Winery Association members from the Applegate, along with 19 additional wineries from Southern Oregon will be heading north to expose Portlanders to Oregon’s warm climate wines.

These wineries will conduct a Public Tasting on Sunday, November 13 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Portland Art Museum located at 1219 SW Park Avenue.  Tickets are $39. For more information or to order tickets, call (800) 781-9463 or visit the website www.sorwa.org.

There will be a FREE “trade only” tasting the following day, Monday, November 14th from 1 to 5 p.m. at Davis Street Tavern, located at 500 NW Davis Street. The trade tasting is free to media members, restaurant buyers, wine distributors and other members of the wine industry. An RSVP is required to attend.  For more information, and to RSVP contact regina.vaccari@gmail.com or call (541) 282-3041.

I love Fall, am I sick or what!

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  In the Applegate we have a true Fall.  The colors are outstanding, the weather is crisp and it starts to rain.  Never mind that we may never get the vines netted before the birds arrive, don’t worry about low sugars or getting the tractor stuck in a soggy vine row.  Its harvest time and harvest we shall , just like all the years in the past.  We’re grape growers, farmers, the biggest gamblers in the country.  We just pull on the rubber boots and get the job done.

The history of Champagne

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To better understand the history of Champagne, one has to touch on, however briefly, the development of wines and vines.

The Romans were responsible for the proliferation of vineyards and winemaking within the boundaries of the Roman Empire. As Rome spread its influence and power, Roman leaders had visions of long-term occupation of its holdings; that vision was realized by over 750 years of Roman rule. The Romans established transportation systems with well-built roads, waterways, and government, trade routes, the first mail system and etc. A “Roman standard of living” prevailed as the Romans absorbed the cultural aspects of conquered people, improving the prosperity of all Roman citizens.

Rome’s respect and increased knowledge of Etruscan and Greek cultures included agriculture and wine production. Successful crop production was necessary to feed the troops and the people of its expanding empire. Early Romans quenched their thirst at the local fountains, the drink of the day, for Romans, was water. Wine was a beverage of Greek and Etruscan nobles. The Romans looked upon wine, at first, as a medicinal drink with health benefits; wine was used to heal battle wounds and cure assorted ailments. The wine was highly alcoholic, white, and sweet.

The rise of the Roman Empire saw an increase in technology and awareness of winemaking, which spread to all parts of the empire. The Romans came to believe that wine was a necessity of life; this led to the desire to spread viticulture and wine production to insure steady supplies for Roman soldiers and colonists. In the hands of Romans, wine became “democratic” and available to all, from the lowly slave and simple peasant to the aristocrat.

As an aside the drunken orgies of the Roman aristocracy is legendary, but the Romans used low fire, lead based glazes to make their drinking vessels, which the acid in wine brought into solution. Nero’s madness, some scholars suggest, came from over consumption of wine, resulting in lead poisoning of Roman leaders. It’s interesting to think that wine, inadvertently, was a factor leading to the fall of the Roman Empire.

In the 5th century the Romans were the first inhabitants to plant vineyards in the Champagne region located in NE France near present day Reims and Epernay. The name Champagne comes from the Latin campania and referred to the similarity between the rolling hills of the province and Italian countryside of Campanula located south of Rome.

The early wine of the Champagne region was a pale, pinkish wine made from Pinot Noir. The Champenois were envious of the red wine made by their Burgundian neighbors to the south and sought to produce wines of equal acclaim. The northern climate of the champagne region, however, gave the Champenois a unique set of challenges in making red wines from Pinot Noir. The grapes struggled in this extreme viticulture climate and would not fully ripen and have high acid levels and low sugar content. The wines were lighter bodied and thinner than the Burgundies. Furthermore, the early, cold winters of the Champagne region prematurely halted fermentation in the wine cellars, leaving dormant, but active, yeast cells in the wine, that would awaken and activate in the warmth of spring and start fermenting again.

One of the byproducts of fermentation is the release of carbon dioxide gas, which, in bottled wine is trapped inside the wine causing intense pressure up to and exceeding 110

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P.S.I. This unreleased pressure build up caused the early, weak, French bottles to explode. If one of these unstable, grenade wine bottles survived, the wine was found to contain bubbles. These bubbles were the carbon dioxide trapped in the wine and finally released upon opening the bottle. These released bubbles were something the early Champenois were horrified to see and considered them a fault and flaw in their winemaking skills; three cheers for serendipity.

While the Champenois and their French clients preferred their Champagne wines to be pale and still, the British were developing a taste for the unique bubbly wine. Champenois winemakers, most notably the Benedictine monk, Dom Perignon (1638-1715) were still trying to rid their wines of the bubbles.

The next article will deal with Dom Perignons’ attempt to rid his Blanc De Noir from bubbles and how to control the process and make wines deliberately sparkle and describe the dawning of the modern champagne wine industry.

All the Best,

Michael Giudici

John Michael Champagne Cellars

1425 Humbug Creek Road

Applegate, Oregon, 97530

(541) 846-0810 winery@budget.net

www.johnmichaelwinery.com