Saturday, September 5, 2009

Obscure Grape Variety Sighting in Oregon

Signs of intelligent (wine) life in Oregon…

You gotta love those Oregonians. They’re enthusiastic, good-natured, hard working, dynamic and down-to-earth folks with a bent toward individuality. And when it comes to the world of wine, they express all those attributes---especially the individuality!

Sandwiched between the power house producers of California and Washington, Oregon is much more home to small estates and ‘wildcatter’ growers and winemakers who are out to grow and produce good wines rather than volume units.

And that attitude is nowhere more evident these days than in Southern Oregon. Outside of the ocean of Pinot Gris/Grigio (Oregon’s answer to the otherwhere ubiquitous Chardonnay, but enough already), there’s no telling what grape variety you’re going to stumble over down there.

Case in point: I was taking a short break from browsing the tables at the Southern Oregon “World of Wine” event held at Del Rio Vineyards in the Rogue Valley recently, when a wine neophyte acquaintance came running up and telling me about this “yummy, yummy” wine he’d just had, and boy I had to try it and he’d never heard of it before and it was something called GeraldoRivera or TerribleDago or something like that, and YOU HAVE TO TASTE IT!!!

So I lumbered to my feet, took glass in hand and launched back into the sweatbox tent to find said table. It was Crater Lake Cellars and the “GeraldoRivera or TerribleDago or something like that” turned out to be…Teroldego!

Teroldego? In Southern Oregon? Really? Yes. Really. The folks liked the variety, found some, and put a vineyard in. Seemed the sensible thing to do. And it turns out Teroldego does just fine in the warm, dry climate of the Rogue Valley, if planted in sparse soil and kept at low yields. And while it isn’t the best Teroldego I’ve ever had, it’s pretty tasty stuff! Plenty of deep, black fruit, with some nutty almond aromas, a slightly smoky quality, decent acids and low tannins, it’s a great food wine, and not too shabby for sitting around sipping either.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Crater Lake Cellars is also doing a Recioto! Uh huh, you heard me right, an Oregon Recioto. Only it turns out their Recioto is made from Merlot. I didn’t try that one. Maybe, uh, maybe another time. But the more I think about it…

The point is, when you travel through Southern Oregon, be alert; keep your eyes open for new experiences; and don’t limit your expectations to the standards. You just might find a pleasant surprise.


  1. Teroldego? Interesting find. This is definitely worth checking out. Can't wait to see what the future brings for it...


  2. Matt, so far (one vintage :^)) it has been worth following up on---it was good enough to see the possibilities inherent in the variety. Also, the Lagrein (!) I discovered from the Willamette was a stunning wine with fiercely intense varietal characteristics. And the Lagrein/Syrah/Sangio blend was truly impressive---something this jaded old palate had never experienced before.