Not Just Another Wine Auction: Portland Trailblazer Star turned Winemaker CJ McCollum and Wine for Social Good

With its natural terroir ideal for growing Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley is also Oregon’s largest wine growing region with over 70 varietals. Willamette Valley Winery Association is their wine industry association, which organizes an annual Pinot Noir auction that just ended on August 13. This year, 74 wine lots from the 2018 vintage made exclusively for the auction were sold, with proceeds this year not only supporting the Association’s education and marketing initiatives, but an additional $100,000 dedicated to the James Beard Foundation’s Open For Good Campaign – Food & Beverage Investment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans.

From the “Normal” Willamette Auction…
…to the Online Willamette Valley auction this year

Many Firsts

This was a special year for the Willamette Pinot Auction: going online for the first time, with the opening featuring its first-ever Ambassador, Portland Trailblazer NBA star and now Willamette Valley’s newest winemaker CJ McCollum, who launched his own wine McCollum Heritage 91 with Adelsheim Vineyards in June this year.

CJ McCollum and his new wine, McCollum 91 Heritage.

Supporting Black & Indigenous American Food & Beverage Businesses

The $100,000 donation, or about 20% of total profit, will go to the James Beard Foundation Food & Beverage Investment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans. This fund supports food and beverage businesses owned by Black and Indigenous Americans, with the goal to rebuild an independent, more equitable restaurant industry following re-openings post-pandemic.   

Credit: James Beard Foundation

About Willamette Valley Wineries Association
The Willamette Valley Wineries Association (WVWA) is a non-profit industry association dedicated to achieving recognition for Oregon’s acclaimed Willamette Valley as a premier Pinot noir-producing region. Currently, the WVWA has nearly 250 members representing wineries and tasting rooms throughout the Willamette Valley region from Portland to Eugene. 

Not Just Your Average Canned Wine – Tips on Finding the Right One for You!

They are everywhere: from Trader Joe’s to online stores, pop-up bars to your friend’s party. Since Sofia Coppola’s pretty pink cans of blanc de blanc sparkling debuted in 2004, canned wines have exploded especially in the past few years. According to Nielsen, canned wine sales grew 69% year-on-year in 2018, and 79% in 2019. The variety is now diversified to seltzers, wine coolers offering “zero sugar” and “lower alcohol” options, even sake and more.

Sofia Mini Brut Rosé Coppola 4 Pack
Sofia Coppola’s Brut Rose.

The Case for Canned

Although canned wines often have no vintage, specific AVA or vineyard, and are not meant to age like fine wines, they are a great choice for many: it’s portable, chills faster, one can try something new without buying a whole bottle. Cans protect wines from oxygen and light, and a thin layer of plastic inside prevents imparting metallic flavors, which keeps white, rose and sparkling wines surprisingly well. Finally, they’re environmentally-friendly: aluminium cans are often recycled, and lighter weight means less carbon footprint during transport.

And contrary to what some critics say, it’s not just cheap wines that get put into cans – reputable vintners have been canning their wines too. That includes Sommelier and Wine Director of NoMad New York, Thomas Pastuszak, who started Vinny using exclusive Finger Lakes grapes, and ex-Sommelier Gina Schober of Sans Wine, who makes premium organic canned wines.

Credit: Vinny Wines.

My Positive Experiences with Drinking Canned Wines

My first canned wine was the much-hyped BABE rose, which I had seen across social media, and was excited to buy a pack at Vinexpo in Hong Kong 2017. Since then, I have tried canned Prosecco, Rose and Pinot Noir. I was very curious to find a canned Pet Nat from Nova Scotia, which is normally made by bottling before end of fermentation to preserve wild yeast and create light sparkling. Fermenting in a can is quite a feat! I’m also keen to try urban warehouse winery Infinite Monkey Theorem, who sources grapes from western Colorado and High Plains of Texas, and they’re available at my local BevMo.

2018 Benjamin Bridge pet-nat in 250mL can, $8.99 ea., available in Atlantic province liquor stores.
Benjamin Bridge Pet Nat 2019. Credit: Toronto Star.

Sizes of Cans and Drinking Tips

Canned wines come in a range of sizes, usually: 250ml, equal to 1/3 of a standard wine bottle, or 1.6 standard glasses; 375ml, roughly 2.5 glasses; 500ml, about 3.33 glasses. Just remember to share and drink responsibly, and finally, canned winemakers have noted a difference when you pour it in a glass, even if it’s plastic. Try for yourself!

Balletto and DeLoach Wineries Celebrate the Pinot Noir Harvest with SSU Millennials

Forty-four Millennials showed up to Thursday evening’s SSU Wine Club tasting called “Pinot Party.”  Not only did the students get to taste pinot noir wines from both Balletto and DeLoach wineries, but they were also treated to fresh Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris grapes from the vineyard.

Favorite wines of the evening were the 2011 Balletto Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($29), which has notes of dark cherry cola, violets, earth and rhubard, and the 2009 DeLoach Green Valley Pinot Noir ($45). According to the winemaker notes, this latter wine is very aromatic, with touches of raspberries, black cherries, rhubarb, rose petals and a hint of cola.  It pairs well with salmon and other rich fish.

An interesting variation on the food plates were the inclusion of fresh raspberries, dried plums and red grapes, as well as cheese plate to accent the Pinot Noirs.