Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Where Do I Find Good Oregon Pinot Noir If I Don't Live In Oregon?

One of my new readers (or peeps as Tracey calls her readers) asked, in her comment this morning, if I could recommend some Oregon pinot noirs beside her current favorite, Big Fire, produced by R. Stuart & Co. in McMinnville.  Well, if she lived in Oregon I could go on for pages, but she doesn't.  She lives in Georgia about two hours from Atlanta, and that poses a problem.  I sent her an email with some information and, after I'd thought about her dilemma for a bit, decided to post a more detailed explanation.

The thing is that most wineries in Oregon are sort of artisan in nature; low-key operations with small productions.  Sure, we're getting some palatial, showy places that remind one of The Magic Kingdom . . . err, the Napa Valley . . . but they're still fairly few and far between.  This is partly due to the nature of the valley, a place where people are conscious of all things organic and sustainable and where they share the low-key Oregon lifestyle, but it's also because of the nature of pinot noir, which doesn't readily lend itself to being made into wine in large quantities.

The upshot of this low production is that a lot of wine doesn't make it out of Oregon and Washington, and what little manages to sneak out ends up in California and perhaps New York, Chicago, Boston and Atlanta - but that's about it save for the Pennsylvania state stores, which seem to get more than you'd expect.  Even then, a wholesaler might get 3 or 4 cases that are supposed to supply an entire state.  When you consider that the real money in the wine distribution business is, for the most part, in moving entire pallets of wine, not a few bottles at a time, there's not much incentive for most wholesalers to bother with Oregon wine, especially considering the relatively low demand for it.

There's a silver lining to this little cloud, as there usually is, because the lack of interest on both the supply and demand ends of the equation means there's more wine available for you.  You just have to work at finding it, and your local store might have to order it for you.  Or, better yet, if you're willing to pay for shipping and live in a state where it's allowed (trust me, you don't want me to get started on a rant about interstate wine shipping laws), you can order direct from the winery.

So, my dear peeps, unless you're one of my wine geek pals who knows all this already, bear it in mind when I publish my notes and recommendations on Oregon pinot noir. Sometimes I'll comment on something like the Cloudline which, even though I don't know how much was made and can't find out, probably has fairly wide distribution because of its Dreyfus Ashby parentage. But more often than not I'm going to be commenting on something like the 2008 Ayres Lewis Rogers Lane, a $32 bottle of wine that was made in the huge quantity of 251 cases, or 3012 bottles to supply the entire country. You won't be finding any of it at your local Safeway or Winn-Dixie, that's for sure - much less at Zeke's Groceries, Guns and Bait Shop.

1 comment:

  1. Bob - Zeke's closed years ago but the new place is called Bait and Boo*s and functions as a Hooters type of restaurant when the fish ain't biting.

    Just joking - I'll be giving some of your recommendations a try really really soon. Gosford Wine here in Athens will order for me.

    Again - thanks so much -- gonna try those brussel sprouts too.