1971 was a very good year, just ask the Sokol Blosser family.
For it was in 1971, long before anyone had lofty notions of an "Oregon Wine Industry" that the Sokol Blossers planted the self-named vineyards about 30 km (20 miles) south of the city of Portland in the county of Dundee. Started by Stanford graduates, and newlyweds, Bill Blosser and Susan Sokol, these two must have either been incredibly stubborn or truly certain of their vision. I say that because the business-law of averages states that any new company will take about seven years to start making profit.
For this vineyard, the big break took more like eight years when the intrepid couple sent their wine to the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London winning six awards, including several golds. I can't imagine waiting eight years to receive validation from my peers that I'm doing the right kind of work... it takes a very special person to struggle to create something that flies in the face of "mass-opinion". I mean, really, at heart we're all still in high-school waiting to see what everyone else is going to wear for the first day of class, and then running home to ask our parents for money so that we can buy the same clothes.
Well obviously Bill and Susan weren't those kind of kids. They built a winery where virtually no one else thought World-Class wine could be made. They sent that wine to one of the most prestigious competitions of the day, and won gold. They then expanded the vineyard the very next year and Bill left the stability and comfort of a well-heeled planners position to take the reins as the Sokol-Blosser winemaker full-time. Bravely forging into the unknown...
But Bill and Susan were never afraid to push into the unknown; they were innovators with the use of cover crops to preserve top-soil, they reduced and eliminated the use of pesticides and herbicides to preserve the local salmon streams, they became recognized as one of the top-100 companies to work for in the state of Oregon (the only winery that year). In short, this couple spent their careers striving towards a different direction then the mainstream.
|underground wine cellar|
Why forge so ardently for organic principles long before it became popular, or even fiscally prudent to do so? Why install solar panels for energy on the WestCoast, where it rains enough to make even ducks uncomfortable? Why create the first U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified underground barrel cellar? Why work so darned hard when so many others were doing the opposite?
I believe it was to preserve their terroir.
Inspired winemaking and stunning land weren't the only reasons that The Wine Spectator featured Sokol Blosser and their Pinot Noir in 2001. No... awards, accolades, adoring consumers all happened because these wines tell a story.
I was fortunate enough to have a colleague at PMA Canada send me some samples of the new release from this vineyard; their mid-tier wine which hovers just below the $20 price in British Columbia. Excellent price for certified organic wines in this part of the world, but what about the flavors???
A fresh take on Oregon!
Evolution n/v white
Dundee hills AVA, Oregon
varietals: Muller-Thurgau, White Riesling, Semillon, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer,
Muscat Canelli, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner
maturation: 100% stainless steel
- visual: clear; pale gold core with watery rim, silver highlights
- nose: clean; medium+ to fully intense youthful aromas bursting with exotic floral and lush fruit, yellow and pink grapefruit zest, white flowers, apricot, roses... layers of bouquet
- palate: clean; dry, medium+ grapefruit acids, medium- body, medium- ABV (12%), medium+ youthful flavors mimicking the nose... there truly are layer upon layer to this wine and yet in presents itself in a very approachable manner. Full of fruit and floral this wine uses the Gewurztraminer brilliantly and will appeal to any Spring/Summer patio/beach/deck. Excellent balance and very good structure, medium+ length
- conclusion: imminently thirst-quenching, this bright little number drinks well now and will not develop appreciably with age. Best 2013-2017/19
- FOOD PAIRINGS: as the Gewurztraminer was one of the most prominent varietals in the blend (for me) - I would use that as my anchor and try Dijon marinated grilled chicken with BC apricot relish, steamed quinoa, fresh rosemary sauteed apples and baby bok-choy... the sweetness in the wine will respond well to some savory tones in your food, the apricot accentuates the ripe stonefruit notes whilst playing acid (relish) off sweet fruit, I'm on a quinoa kick so there's that - but really this wine carries multiple layers and can handle multiple layers in the accompanying food
Bronze Medal Winner - Dallas Morning News Wine Competition
Bronze Medal Winner - New York International Wine Competition
- visual: clear; deep garnet core with distinct cherry rim
- nose: clean; moderate+ youthful aromas bursting with cherries, cherry blossoms, roses, savory earth background and light spice
- palate: clean; dry, moderate+ red currant acids, moderate+ green/grippy tannin moderate- body, moderate+ ABV (13%), moderately intense youthful flavors much like the nose: fresh and cheery with a hint of savory backbone but not overly complex. Very good balance, good structure, medium length
- conclusion: fresh young wine best consumed young. Will not develop appreciably in bottle but tannin will soften over the next 12-18 months and will drink more easily without food (for those who enjoy a soft red). Enjoy 2013-2017
- FOOD PAIRINGS: I would use this Syrah based blend much like an inexpensive Chianti or perhaps Primitivo... pasta bolognese with prosciutto chips, grilled sausage and portobello mushrooms, shaved Parmesan... it needs no explanation - a juicy wine for some juicy food!
"All things unto themselves" I've heard it said... to me, as I grow in the wine-industry, I find that is still a rarity. It's rare to find people I guess in any walk of life who dare to express themselves as they are, rather then how they wish they were. For a winemaker to express grapes the way that they want to be expressed- well- that's not every winemaker.
Winemakers are proud. Winemakers are bold. Winemakers want to put their stamp on a wine so that people half-way around the world will say: "Oh - that was made by Winemaker X!". It takes more strength of character to allow a wine to travel halfway around the world and someone says: "Oh - that was made in Dundee Hills!".
The Evolution line of wines is still introductory, but certainly walks a long way towards expressing more of where it came then of who made it. These wines may well change the way consumers look at Oregon wines... from lofty Pinot Noir commanding top-level prices to these which are easy drinking and (relatively) easy to afford. I look forward to tasting more of the wines that made Sokol Blosser famous.
As always, I welcome your comments and questions.
CINCIN~!!! SLAINTE~!!! CHEERS~!!!