We still have a month left in 2016, but this has been an incredible year for the Oregon wine industry.
Across the Willamette Valley, an early bud break and nice summer weather lead, once again, to an early harvest. We’ll wait to see how the 2016 vintage stacks up against 2008 and 2012, but the winemakers I’ve spoken with are excited about 2016 being another excellent vintage.
The influx of California wineries buying well-known Oregon properties has now become a strong trend. In April, Jackson Family Wines, a large California corporation (LaCrema, Carmel Road, Siduri, Kendall-Jackson and about 30 others) purchased, Penner Ash Wine Cellars, located in Newberg. More recently, Jackson Family Wines added another Oregon winery, Willakenzie Estate, to its corporate holdings. Willakenzie and Penner Ash join other Oregon properties, Solena (now known as Gran Moraine) and Zena Crown, in the Jackson Family Wines collection. Don’t be surprised to see additional acquisitions in the future as Willamette Valley real estate prices are substantially cheaper than Napa and Sonoma. Additionally, Oregon has less regulation and more water than California. All of which make the Willamette Valley attractive to California based buyers.
On the wine awards scene, nothing was bigger than the Decanter Wine Awards bestowing Domaine Serene’s 2012 Winery Hill Pinot Noir with one of their top awards. Of course, we know Oregon makes some of the finest pinot noir in the world, but other regions, such as Sonoma, Russian River and Australia, also believe their wines to be of comparable stature.
In winning this top award, Domain Serene defeated some of the finest premier cru and grand cru Burgundy pinots. This result is being compared to 1976’s “Judgment of Paris” where California winery, Chateau Montelena, shook the wine world when it took the best chardonnay honor.
Locally, it was a great year for the wine industry in Cannon Beach as well. The Stephanie Inn started the year off strong by being named an Oregon Wine Press A-List Award winner. Each year, the Oregon Wine Press and Oregon Wine Board recognizes restaurants which do the best job of promoting Oregon wine on their wine list.
Cannon Beach was the site of two big wine events early in 2016. In February, the Savor Northwest Wine Competition was held in Cannon Beach. This annual wine competition is run by Gary Hayes and an invaluable group of local volunteers. I have been fortunate to participate in this event for several years as both a judge and a panel moderator. Laurel Hood, owner of Laurel’s Wine Shop, has also judged the competition for years. Once again, Puffin wines did very well at Savor Northwest as every wine walked away with a medal, including our latest release, Puffin Chardonnay.
Just a couple of weeks after the wine competition, it’s time for Savor Cannon Beach. This four-day wine and food festival showcases Cannon Beach’s restaurants and Pacific Northwest wineries. The most popular event during the weekend is the Saturday Wine Walk. Approximately 40 wineries are paired with local stores and pour their wines for about 500 thirsty wine lovers. It’s a great event!
In summer, Westport Winery opened a tasting room in Cannon Beach, giving visitors another great place to enjoy Pacific Northwest wines. Westport Winery is best known for their fruit based wines, such as their delicious Cranberry Sparkling wine, but they also make more traditional wines, such as merlot and riesling.
2016 was a great year for The Wine Shack and Puffin Wines as well. In January, The Wine Shack was named “Best Local Wine Shop” by Coast Weekend readers. We strive to offer the finest selection of Pacific Northwest wines and highest level of customer service, so the recognition was nice for our shop and staff.
Our 2015 Puffin Rosé was named a “cellar Selection” by the Oregon Wine Press in July. This is the second time our Puffin Rosé has been as one of the best summer wines by the Oregon Wine Press. Additionally, both our 2013 and 2014 Puffin Pinot Noir were named “judge’s selections” at the Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition in October. Because of it’s incredible value, Puffin Pinot Noir remains The Wine Shack’s best-selling wine. Our second best-selling wine, Puffin Pinot Gris, had a pretty good year too. Our 2015 Puffin Pinot Gris won its fourth consecutive gold medal at the Oregon wine awards.
Yes, 2016 was a great year for Oregon wine. My guess is that 2017 won’t disappoint us either. I look forward to a year with more acquisitions, more awards, new products and new friends. Those things sound like topics for a column early next year.
As you enjoy an alcoholic beverage during the holiday season, please do so responsibly. Don’t drink and drive. See you at The Shack.