how an oregon wine region takes root

Travel Oregon, November '18

About 15 miles west of Salem, a distinctive pocket of rolling vineyard land is shaping its fruit unlike any other stretch within the Willamette Valley, the state’s most famous wine-growing region. Above ground in the soon-to-be Mount Pisgah, Polk County AVA (American Viticultural Area), marine gusts and lower-set sites help with ripening. Beneath ground, soil types like Bellpine, Wellsdale and Jory — Oregon’s official dirt— create complexity.

In 2006 Illahe Vineyards’winemaker, Brad Ford, launched the charge to have Mount Pisgah recognized as its own sub-appellation within the larger Willamette Valley AVA. Ford was inspired after witnessing a similar push by Firesteed Cellars’ Bryan Croft to spotlight another special zone in the valley, the Van Duzer Corridor, named after the famous break in the coastal range. These are two of several wine-grape-growing areas within the valley presently engaging in the process of receiving official designation.

Casual wine drinkers can see the Willamette Valley label on wine bottles and expect certain shared characteristics. That’s because several general features define the terroir of this fruitful 150-mile stretch of land, namely its alluvial soils, cool climate, hilly elevations, and the Cascade and Coast mountain ranges sheltering it to the east and west.

But now that the valley has a half-century and several generations of winemaking experience under its belt, vintners have had ample time to see the distinct flavors these differing pockets of land can offer. In 2002 a concerted effort from winemakers in a northern stretch of the valley resulted in the recognition of six more-specific AVAs. Updating the map with other new sub-appellations will reflect the varied terroir throughout the region.


Know Your Music Rights

SevenFifty Daily, June '18

In this digital age, we’re rich with torrents of content, as long as we’re within a wi-fi signal or carrying downloads. Much of this content is property, though, which is an immensely overlooked fact, especially where music is concerned. For the thousands of wineries, breweries, and bars treating their clientele to custom playlists, playing their favorite Spotify station in tasting rooms, taprooms, and other on-premise venues, or providing live music, there are strings attached—and they can be costly ones.

An increasing number of on-premise venues are being approached by performance rights organizations (PROs) like BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC for hosting live music or playing recorded music without legal permission. “This area has always been ripe, but the [music] industry really only started to enforce it in the last few years,” says Sheila Fox Morrison of Davis Wright Tremaine, a law firm based in Portland, Oregon, that employs approximately 500 lawyers in offices throughout the U.S. and China. “Restaurants went through a similar discovery period about 10 years ago.”

Morrison believes the biggest misconception involves streaming. “The copyright act provided for some carve-outs, or safety areas, when it was written, but that was back in the 1970s,” she says. In other words, there’s an exemption for radio broadcasting, but the music you might be playing via iTunes or Spotify needs to be licensed appropriately if played in a public space. “The risk is real,” she says. “It may be difficult to prove infringement, but with fines up to $35,000 per work infringed, and you’re playing many songs during a day—well, you do the math.”

Many streaming services, such as Pandora, offer business accounts that keep users compliant by means of subscription fees. Others, like Spotify or your iTunes library, technically demand special licensing if they’re played in a public space.




24 Hours of harvest

Willamette Valley Wineries Association, Fall '18

Presently, many Willamette Valley wineries are entering the apex of the 2018 crush. That translates roughly to a mind-numbing number of daily cellar tasks, from processing the last of the vintage’s fruit to barreling down young wines for the season. 

We lack the space for every detail, but we can offer a useful—and illustrated—snapshot of the process at large. Welcome to a glimpse of a day in the life of a vintner during their busiest stretch of the year.

PICKING (6:32 A.M.)

Most winemakers will tell you that great wines are grown in the vineyard. Picking is backbreaking work that requires a trained eye, speed and stamina. Some crews are instructed to watch out for certain flaws in the field, like rot or dried out clusters.


Work a harvest or two and your dreams will be sabotaged by sorting line visuals. This sometimes monotonous task ensures the best and healthiest clusters end up in the cellar.  

LAB WORK (9:50 A.M.)

There’s plenty of chemistry in the process of winemaking, and daily analysis of the must (young wines) paint a telling picture of the vintage. The basics often measured include pH, Brix, temperature and titratable acidity.