Dabbling With the Dark Side

Portland is a serious beer town; there’s just no denying it. Our proximity and access to the raw materials of brewing—good grain, fresh hops, and a municipal water supply that is clean and soft—inspire one of the most vibrant beer cultures in the world.

But we’re also a short drive from the Burgundian climates of the Willamette Valley, which produces top-notch Pinot Noir (among other things). The Oregon wine industry has grown steadily since 1966, when Eyrie Vineyards founder David Lett planted the first Pinot Noir vines in Oregon.

I’ve toyed with the idea of making wine for some time, but the logistics of making good wine are more challenging than making beer.  I’d probably end up investing in a half-ton of grapes (roughly a barrel’s worth of wine), and moving those around for appropriate climate control would be a challenge.

If I do decide to try my hand at oenology, I’ve already got a model for the effort: Vincent Fritzche runs the well-written wine blog Élevage; he’s made barrel-sized batches of wine in his garage for the last two years.  Today he receives his first delivery of fruit for his new commercial project, Vincent Cellars, and I’ll be tagging along to assist with sorting grapes, cleaning fermenters, and whatever else needs doing.

Many parts of the world seem to practice an intense brand of boozy provincialism.  In my two trips to northeastern Germany in the last year, I was hard-pressed to find any examples of the fantastic Rieslings of the southwest.  Northern Germany likes its beer.  Which was okay; I won’t say no to a tall glass of Franziskaner. But the culture here is more comfortable with the commingling of the beer and wine worlds (many fine wine shops in Portland also carry some selection of specialty beers as well), and that suits me.

Kippis!

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