Two Pacific Northwest winemakers won awards in recent weeks, and the Oregon producer involved believes the state’s surging wine industry has the potential to “lift the tide” for many other agricultural products.
Ed King, CEO and co-founder of King Estate in Eugene, said the future will find Oregon “fully arrived as a wine region standing on an equal footing with the world’s greatest.”
King’s 2015 Acrobat Pinot gris was named best buy of 2016 by Wine Enthusiast, an influential industry magazine. The designation goes to wines considered an extraordinary value. Acrobat sells for about $13 a bottle.
The Best Buy of the Year award was a first in that category for an Oregon wine. In 2014, Ken Wright’s 2012 Abbott Claim Vineyard Pinot noir, from the Willamette Valley’s Yamhill-Carlton district, was ranked first in Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 wines.
In an interview, King said he views the award as a parallel development to news that a large California company, Jackson Family Wines, maker of the familiar Kendall-Jackson brand, has purchased its fourth Oregon property in three years.
King said the popularity of Oregon wines is a sign of its “arrival” in the wine world, and the interest of “very sophisticated” companies such as Jackson Family Wines is further evidence.
He said the current evolution and success of the state’s wine, beer, hard cider and spirits sectors may one day be looked upon as a “Golden Age” of Oregon agriculture.
King shared an email he distributed to wine industry leaders this summer in which he predicted Oregon will be “much more heavily planted” to wine grapes in the future, and that the Southern Oregon and Columbia River wine regions will “share in this growth and renown” with the Willamette Valley.
He said the wine industry will become the largest component of Oregon agriculture in terms of dollar value, and will be “politically powerful.”
Wine grapes ranked ninth in value among Oregon commodities in 2015, at $147 million. They were ranked 11th, at $107 million, in 2013.
King said Oregon wine must define itself as part of the state’s “global brand,” which will include fine craft beverages, great food and an “unspoiled environment” to attract culinary travelers.
King also said the state can have world-scale export brands “built around our spectacular Oregon products: wine, beer, cheese, fruits, berries, hops, nuts, meats and grains.”
He warned that Oregon wine must retain the diverse operations and high quality that got it to this point.
“Do not allow a creeping sameness under any guise (to) overtake our diversity,” he wrote his fellow vintners. “We must compete with each other with ferocity, and yet it is also our duty to seek the survival of our littlest, most unorthodox wineries.”
He said Oregon’s winemakers “must stay close to our dirt and our yeast, making our wine with the idea that we, ourselves, and our friends and families will be drinking it in ten and twenty years. We can do this and still be a business.”
The other recent wine prize went to the Walla Walla Valley’s L’Ecole N° 41 winery, of Lowden, Wash., which won a trophy for Best Red Bordeau Blend in the Six Nations Wine Challenge held in Australia.