It’s easy to return to the familiar wines. The wines we know we like. After all, there’s comfort in the familiar, right? However, during a time when it’s critical to exercise caution in the everyday routines of our lives, wine is one aspect where we can choose adventure. Let’s talk about the less talked about wine varieties and explore Oregon’s alternative wines.
Think about wine from Oregon, and Pinot Noir is sure to come to mind. Or maybe one of the other leading planted varieties – Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Riesling. Each of them fine selections in their own right. However, given the choice between those or a juicy red Zweigelt or fragrant Gewurztraminer I say back the truck up and head down the road less traveled! In fact, there are over 70 varieties beyond Pinot Noir grown in Oregon.
Did you know that Muller Thurgau is the seventh most planted variety in Oregon’s Willamette Valley? In case you’re not familiar, Muller sounds like Bueller, as in Ferris Bueller – the very one that took an infamous day off. Gewurztraminer is sixth. Pinot Blanc fifth. What makes these varieties compelling? Distinct personalities. Food friendliness. Character. Ultimately, this is the kind of juice I’m craving right now.
Six of Oregon’s Alternative Wines
While in Oregon last summer on a wine-soaked journey hosted by some of Willamette Valley’s wine industry veterans, I was exposed to a number of the ‘other varietals’. These are the wines that captivated me.
Brick House Vineyards
Don’t confuse Oregon Gamay Noir for the highly promoted Beajuololais Nouveau. Although the same red grape variety is involved, carbonic maceration is not used here. Brick House practices Biodynamic farming on its 40 acres and ferments with indigenous yeast. The result is a serious wine with notes of cherry, baking spice, and slate. I was extremely excited when I saw this wine being carried at VinoSocial client Esquin!
Try this if you like: Pinot Noir.
Pair with: roast chicken, Asian cuisine, sausage, and special occasions.
Minumus / Craft Wine Co.
Prepare a picnic, pour a glass of this captivating white wine, and get lost in the moment. The name of the grape is pronounced similarly to coroner but with an e instead of o. Sure, maybe coroner isn’t the best word to use but isn’t it going to be easy to remember now? The name comes from Dr. Julius Kerner who developed this delectable cross between Riesling and Trollinger. This fascinating wine inspired me to take advantage of a recent shipping deal and order more of the Minumus alt wines, Vermentino and Muller Thurgau among them.
Try this if you like: Picpoul or other refreshing white wines.
Pair with: bacon wrapped goat cheese atop a salad.
With limited free time during a day of wine education at the property, I ventured into the tasting room for a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am sampling and purchased this bottle as a result. Sokol Blosser is one of the founding wineries of the Willamette Valley, family owned and operated, and deeply committed to being good stewards of the land. They also happen to be the first commercial producer of Muller Thurgau in the U.S. This fragrant, pretty white wine evokes spring.
Try this if you like: Torrontes, or off-dry white wines.
Pair with: Thanksgiving dinner. Some sweetness on the wine also lends itself to spicy food.
Left Coast Estate
This red grape is mostly known as a blending partner in Champagne. Here it is on its own, opulent, fruity, and delightfully gulpable. I can’t wait to get my hands on more of this wine!
Try this if you like: Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir.
Pair with: risotto and a drizzle of truffle oil.
Pinot Noir Rosé
Okay, okay, so it’s made from Pinot Noir. However, rosé of Pinot Noir drinks differently. After a tour of Biodynamic Momtazi Vineyards, I couldn’t resist purchasing this alluring bottle at the tasting room.
Try this if you like: rich, fruity rosé.
Pair with: sunny days on the deck and summer influenced food.
Scott Flora’s fascinating philosophy of farming is all about experimentation and improvability. This wine is for people with an adventurous spirit who desire a glass filled with something that gets along well with food.
Try this if you like: Pinot Gris.
Pairs well with: light seafood.
Now is a great time to pour something other than the usual in your wine glass. Let Oregon’s alternative wines take you to another place.