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. 

#DrinkSouthAfrican Now!

Have you ever tried South African wines? If not, now is a great time to enlighten your wine experience with some unique wines from this country known for their high quality yet affordable wines, with a rich history in winemaking.

Beautiful vineyards of South Africa. Credit: Wines of South Africa

Wine Sales Devastated By Covid-19 Restrictions

A lot has happened in South Africa since our last post about their wine exports resuming after an abrupt ban in March due to Covid-19. National alcohol sales ban has remained in effect, except for a brief period in June, with no end in sight. South Africa is the 8th largest wine producer globally, producing some 974 million liters of wine in 2019, and $1.1 billion worth of revenues in wine exports.

Cargo ship

Livelihoods at Stake

Based on Wines of South Africa estimates, $18 million is lost every week in alcohol revenue since the ban, and 1 in 5 wineries may not survive, affecting the livelihoods of some 300,000 wine industry workers and their families. Even before the pandemic, about half of the country live below poverty line. Moreover, hospitality and food and beverage workers are equally devastated, who have been protesting for relaxation of restrictions.

Vineyard worker transporting grapes in South Africa. Credit: Wines of South Africa

#DrinkSouthAfrican!

Some good news: about half of South African wines are exported globally, and since exports are still allowed, global support is more important than ever. South Africa is a highly reputable New World region that produces a diverse range of grape varietals, such as red Pinotage (a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault) and white Chenin Blanc, and many wine styles worth trying. You can easily find it online or from your local wine shop. Taste, share and spread the word!

Many South African wines to choose from to pair with a nice meal and share with friends and family!

Famous Tuscan Winery Releases New Vintage with Focus on Sustainability

In April, world-renowned Ornellaia Winery in Tuscany, Italy, released its Grand Vin, Ornellaia Bolgheri DOC Superiore 2017. The name “Solare”, “radiant” in English, was chosen to define this vintage – unusual frost, heat and drought extremes, which nonetheless resulted in an elegant wine of bold personality.

Ornellaia (@Ornellaia) | Twitter
Ornellaia Solare 2017. Credit: Ornellaia

How Does Ornellaia Solare Taste?

Estate Director Axel Heinz remarked about the surprisingly harmonious wine crafted by winemakers’ gentle handling of slightly younger grapes. Solare has characteristic notes of liquorice and blackberries with velvety tannins, yet rich acidity and roundness with “Mediterranean sumptuousness”.

From an Unpredictable, Extreme Climate

A stark contrast to outstanding vintages of 2015 and 2016, 2017 was a record unpredictable season showing climate change effects, which Ornellaia is proactively responding to for years. A mild winter, above-average temperature fluctuations with little rain during critical vine development stages forced buds to break earlier, and an earlier harvest.

Use of Sustainable Practices

Despite needing to adapt and forgoing traditional methods, Ornellaia achieved excellence  with sustainable practices, such as precision viticulture and terrain preservation. In addition, they use low-impact defences to maintain a self-regulated ecosystem that ultimately creates uniquely distinctive wines.

Sustainability as 2017’s Vendemmia d’Artista Theme

Artist Tomás Saraceno. Credits: Studio Tomás Saraceno 2019

Every year, Ornellaia invites celebrated artists to design limited edition labels through its Vendemmia d’Artista project. Choosing Sustainability as the annual theme for 2017 Solare, Artist Tomás Saraceno designed unique thermochromic heat-sensitive labels, a reflection of humanity’s impact on its environment. The ten Imperial and the lone Salmanazar will be auctioned on Sotheby’s in September. Profits from the event will be donated to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation’s “Mind’s Eye” program.

About Ornellaia –http://www.ornellaia.com

The name Ornellaia is synonymous of fine winemaking and an authentic expression of the beauty of Tuscany. The estate is situated along the Tuscan coastline, a short distance from the medieval town of Bolgheri and the iconic cypress-lined approach. Ornellaia Bolgheri DOC Superiore and Ornellaia Bianco are the estate’s top wines, ensued by the second vin Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia, Le Volte dell’Ornellaia and the white Poggio alle Gazze dell’Ornellaia. In little over thirty years (the first vintage of Ornellaia was in 1985), the team’s dedication accompanied by optimal soil and microclimate have resulted in critical acclaim and public success within Italy and internationally. 

About Vendemmia d’Artista

Vendemmia d’Artista celebrates the exclusive character of each vintage of Ornellaia. Since the initial release of Ornellaia 2006, Ornellaia has commissioned an internationally-famous contemporary artist to create a work of art for the estate and a series of limited-edition labels, inspired by the character identified by the Winemaker and Estate Director, Axel Heinz, to describe the particular characteristics of the new vintage. 111 large formats, of which 100 3-liter Double Magnums, 10 six-liter Imperials and a nine-liter Salmanazar, are sold or auctioned off by Sotheby’s Wine for charity.

Wine is My Love Potion: Adventures as a Harvest Intern

(Contributed by Alexandro Gomez) Wine is my love potion. Never before would I have thought wine could be this interesting. It all started in the summer of 2019 when I met the Robledo family, owners of Robledo Family Vineyards in Sonoma, California. They established the first tasting room in the United States that is owned by a former Mexican migrant vineyard worker and his family. After much discussion of my interest in wine, they offered me a harvest internship. Although I was very excited about this opportunity, I was also scared and nervous as I knew nothing about harvest or wine in general.

Robledo Family Winery
Harvesting grapes at Robledo Winery. (Credit: Robledo Family Winery)

First Day on the Job

As I was pulling up to the vineyard at around 5am, I noticed how fast the harvest workers already were at picking grapes. Luckily, my father taught me about hard work and how to quickly adapt to tough situations. I began picking as fast as possible, knowing these workers were also relying on me to do the job well. After about 6 hours and 24 blade cuts later, I sat under the shade for some water and thought to myself – I want more!

A Promotion to the Cellar

Seeing my instant enthusiasm, the Robledo brothers offered me work in the cellars where I would soon realize the art of winemaking. Again, it was an extremely fast-paced working environment, but I went with the flow, despite being very green. My curiosity and motivation helped push me to learn more. I was assigned to clean tanks, disinfect barrels, mop floors, clean hoses, and many other tasks. Working in the cellars was a major eye opener, because I learned winemaking techniques and the language of wine.  The experience was just what I needed to immerse myself into the wine production world.

My internship at Robledo Family Winery ended after four months, and I decided to focus on my final exams and also gain more experience on the business side of the wine industry. It has been a great learning journey so far and I’m looking forward to more!

Prosecco Production Keeps Up With Growth Projections Amid Covid-19 Concerns

According to the Prosecco DOC Consortium, data from end of March showed that Prosecco DOC production quantities continue to meet expected demand to meet growth projections at least until the next harvest, despite current supply chain impacts of Covid-19. Available quantities ending April 1 amounted to at least 2,217,000 hectoliters, with an extra 550,000 hl in reserves from the 2019 vintage if demand increases.

Vineyard in Prosecco Region

Ongoing Challenges

However, multiple challenges remain which the Consortium is closely monitoring. According to Stefano Zanette, President of Prosecco DOC Consortium, the 2020 harvest is expected to have lower than average fertility. Additionally, producers with a short supply chain and those who do not operate with mass retailers are said to need greater financial and operational support. Overall wine consumption may decline as a direct result of Covid-19.

Supportive Measures

The Consortium Prosecco DOC emphasized their priority in maintaining market stability and preventing speculative actions, help producers increase liquidity for investment, and focus on producing higher value wines on a regional basis. The Consortium is prepared to implement legal and financial measures to support if the need arises.

About The Prosecco DOC Consortium

Prosecco

Prosecco was granted the Controlled Designation of Origin status on July 17th, 2009, and the Prosecco DOC Consortium (Consorzio di Tutela della Denominazione di Origine Controllata Prosecco) was created on November 19th of the same year to coordinate and manage the Prosecco DOC. The organization unites the different groups of manufacturers—wineries, individual and associated vine-growers, still wine and sparkling wine producers—to ensure the designation continues to grow and that the production regulations are complied with.

About Prosecco DOC

Prosecco DOC wines come in Spumante (sparkling), Frizzante (semi-sparkling) and Tranquillo (still) varieties. The wines are made from mainly the Glera grape, native to North East Italy for thousands of years, and can be combined with a maximum of 15% of the following grapes: Verdiso, Bianchetta Trevigiana, Perera, Glera lunga, Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Nero. Prosecco Frizzante and Spumante varieties get their famous bubbles using the Secondary Fermentation production method, bottled under high pressure after fermentation in bulk tanks called autoclaves, as opposed to the traditional method, which bypasses the autoclaves and is used for other sparkling wine varieties. The end result is a brilliant straw yellow wine with fine, persistent perlage and aromas of white flowers, apple and pear. It is fresh and elegant on the palate with moderate alcoholic strength. For more information regarding Prosecco DOC, visit www.casaprosecco.com.–