by Fred McMillin
for May 30, 1997
Prologue: "At repeal of prohibition in 1933, Oregon made legal...the production of light wine from fruit. There was "Henry's Lowball" (loganberry) and "Rhubarb Rose" (roh-zay)...Then vine fever spread after 1968 when the state's Economic Commission pointed out the 'dramatic potential' for quality wine grapes"...by Leon Adams in his first edition of "The Wines of America"
The Rest of the Story: The Oregon wine fever? Ed King, Jr. has an incurable case of it. He's convinced that the US market for Pinot Noir will grow remarkably in the next decade. Consequently, in the last few years he has spent tens of millions of dollars to fill that demand with a premium Pinot from Oregon. The grand scheme starts with the grapes. The estate is bringing to maturity 16 different clones of the varietal. Furthermore, there are long-term contracts with 36 other Pinot vineyards in the state. Another indication of the commitment is the use of REFRIGERATED tractor trailers to bring the harvest to the crusher.
No effort is spared in making the wine, either. Grapes from different parts of the vineyards are fermented and oak-aged separately. Typically, there will be over 100 lots; King Estates blends the best and sells the rest to other vintners. The result is a bold Pinot...intense black cherry flavors, plus spice and smoke from the oak.
But Ed does not live by red wine alone. At a recent tasting, my panel's BEST WHITE by a large margin was a King Estate Pinot Gris (gree). Winemaker Brad Biehl finds that his Oregon Gris produces such a rich, full-bodied wine that he omits all the bells and whistles used to enhance many Chardonnays...no fermentation in oak...no acid reduction with malolactic fermentation. It's pure Gris, and Brad is proud of it.
Just the Facts
Postscript: If you enjoy matching food and wine, phone V.P. Michael Lambert's office and order the two King Estate cookbooks, one for Pinot Noir-friendly dishes, the other for Pinot Gris matchups.
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