Full barrels of wine in chilly winery warehouses. Grape vines whose leaves have all been shed and whose shoots need trimming. And, of course, our annual recap meeting held in the former train depot that serves as the tasting room for Ken Wright Cellars in Carlton. All of the above remind us that another year of winemaking and wine marketing has come and gone, and with that, we look at some of the highlights from 2016 from the eyes of our member wineries and growers.
Mike Bayliss of Ghost Hill Cellars, for example, will remember 2016 as the year that a very tangible part of his family’s history ended. The Bayliss farm is over a century old, and history is a very important thing to the family’s winery business. “2016 was the end of an era for the Bayliss family,” he said. “We finished removing the section of our 1906 barn that was built by my Grandfather and Uncle. It was heavily damaged from a falling tree, a year ago last Halloween. Might our Ghost have been responsible? The old timbers were salvaged and are being used as reclaimed wood.”
For Jessica Endsworth, the General Manager of Angela Estate, a clear highlight of the year came from the recognition that her wines received in 2016. “We got a 94-point score on our 2012 Abbott Claim Pinot Noir,” she said. “And the 2013 Angela Estate Pinot Noir got the highest rating of any U.S. pinot at the International Wine Competition held in London. We were one of only five Gold Medal winners from that event.”
High praise, indeed, and many of our wineries and vineyards had high scores this year from the festivals and judges who rate wines. Others saw significant milestones, many years in the making, come to pass this year. Joel and Laurie Kiff of JL Kiff Vineyard saw construction nearly completed on a tasting room that will open this spring at their property, which has been producing grapes since 2010. Blue signs will go up on the roads this spring, Joel added, pointing the way to the Kiff tasting room, and by this time next year he expects to have all of the permits and equipment to make the wine on-property, too. Mike and Mary Ann McNally of Fairsing Vineyards also opened a beautiful new tasting room this year, and began to welcome visitors for the first time. Just down the street, the Willakenzie Estate winery will always remember 2016 as the year that Jackson Family Wines acquired the property from founding owners Bernard and Ronni Lacroute. Chris Berg of Roots Wine was able to move his production into a brand-new building on his property, right next to the family home and tasting room.
Diversifying their product line was the highlight for Jill Zarnowitz and Mark Huff of Stag Hollow Wines, who this year saw a big leap forward with a Tempranillo planting that yielded 100 cases worth of wine that is currently being sold on a futures basis. Another highlight, Jill added, was that they just got their late-ripening Dolcetto harvested before rains arrived in October, and safely saw 150 cases worth of fruit go into the fermenters.
For us as a cooperative marketing organization composed of member wineries, vineyards and affiliated businesses in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, 2016 saw a number of milestones that we will long remember. Our spring event held at Anne Amie Vineyards was another huge success, and we are already deep into the planning process for the 2017 event, which will be held on April 29th. Our debut tasting event in November at the beautiful new Headwaters restaurant inside Portland’s Heathman Hotel was also a big hit that we hope to repeat. Inroads were made with the Portland Timbers and Thorns professional soccer teams, and we hope to feature our wines with them in some capacity.
And most of all, the four road show events that we staged for the first time ever in 2016, where ten YC producers held tastings in Dallas, Houston, San Francisco and Denver, were huge in spreading the word about how special the wines are from our corner of Oregon. A lot of hard work and planning went into pulling off the trade and consumer events in each market, and we all applauded the efforts of Ivory McLaughlin of Ken Wright Cellars, who took on the lion’s share of the organizational duties. The road shows marked the first time that an Oregon AVA has worked together to bring multiple members to markets outside of our area, and the whole thing had the feeling of a special corner turned in our history of working together to promote our wines.
That in itself may be the single best thing that happened in 2016: Our association is strong, as is our commitment towards working together to let the world taste and experience our exceptional wines, and we will keep at it in 2017. Have a great holiday season from all of us in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, and open something nice (or two, or six) for your holiday table and celebrations. We’ll see you next year. Cheers!