After an order for $4 million worth of grapes was canceled, local winemakers stepped up and used them anyway.
Winemaking involves plenty of science, but it doesn’t have to be an exact science. And much of what is good or bad can often be chalked up to someone’s personal tastes or preconceived notions. Four Oregon wineries recently proved this point — and in the process, they bailed a bunch of wine grape growers in the state out of a bad situation.
Oregon Solidarity Wines, the first of which debuted this month, were not originally planned for the 2019 release calendar. Instead, the project was forged out of misfortune: Last fall, the California-based brand Copper Cane Wine and Provisions cancelled orders for over 2,000 tons of grapes (valued at around $4 million) from growers in Oregon’s Rogue Valley, claiming that the fruit had high levels of smoke taint — which can imbue the final wine with unwanted smoky notes — due to the Klondike Fire that burned over the summer. Jim Blumbling, VP of operations for Copper Cane told NPR’s The Salt that “we felt like [the test wine] was expressing too much smoke and it was incongruent with what the wine would typically taste like.”
Though NPR writes that other winemakers disagreed with this assessment, the truth is, it doesn’t really matter: Even if grapes do have a touch of smoke taint, they can still make perfectly enjoyable wine. So instead of letting these grapes go to waste, and letting local growers take a financial hit, four wineries — King Estate Winery, Willamette Valley Vineyards, Silvan Ridge Winery, and The Eyrie Vineyards — teamed up to purchase the grapes at cost at the last minute and turn them into three Oregon Solidarity wines: a Rosé (which was released on March 1), a Chardonnay (slated for May 1), and a Pinot Noir (slated for August 1).
“We made 7,500 cases of wine in a week that we were never planning on making and we did it at four wineries with four winemakers,” Willamette Valley Vineyard’s Christine Clair told The Salt. “We were all running on adrenaline, and it turned out to be one of the most rewarding things to be a part of.”
Meanwhile, not only did purchasing the grapes help bail out the grower, as Oregon Solidarity says on its website, “The net sale proceeds from the wines will be donated to the Rogue Valley Vintners to help support vineyards in the region.” And though this project was spawned by a one-time event, it’s likely the group will continue even after this batch of wines is sold.
Speaking of which, if you’re interested in supporting Oregon’s wine industry, the Rosé is currently for sale at OregonSolidarity.com, and preorders are also already open for a trio of all three releases.