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by Cheryl Brock, Slow Food USA Regional Governor Oregon

The Story of a Slow Wine Initiative in Oregon

The 2014 vintage in Oregon was the vintage of a lifetime that delivered a record amount of exceptional, balanced fruit at higher than normal yields. With this abundance of excellent fruit Don Oman, co-founder of Slow Food Portland, Oregon, saw an opportunity for local wineries to share this great vintage with the community. He decided to create SLOW Pinot Noir 2014 to support Slow Food activities in Oregon.

The idea of blending wines from vineyard designated barrels made by eleven renowned producers into a limited edition wine was a rare event for the Willamette Valley. Beyond the uniqueness of creating a wine from many sources, the project was tied into the principles, values and mission of Slow Food. Biodiversity, land and water use, responsible growing practices, and labor and health issues of family farm producers were at the forefront when Don began planning for the project.

He secured barrels, paying fair prices, from some of the best and most Slow Food-committed wineries and vintners in the state (including past Terra Madre delegates). Eleven wineries participated, and each adheres to sustainable practices with their land, people and product.

John Grochau, Grochau Cellars, oversaw the blending, bottling and labeling of the wine. A panel including professionals from the wine industry and representatives from Oregon Slow Food chapters participated in the tasting and selection of the final blend. A limited edition of 260 cases of the wine was produced.

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Slow Food inspired restaurants stepped up to help launch the wine in November 2015. Terra Madre delegate and chef Cathy Whims held an industry-only reception at her restaurant Nostrana, where the wine received great reviews. Slow Food Portland teamed up with former Slow Food leader Jason French at his restaurant Nedd Ludd to host a public unveiling of the wine. The Slow Food Corvallis chapter worked with Gathering Together Farm to present SLOW Pinot, Small Plates to great success.

Many tastings took place in wine shops and stores throughout the holiday season, providing people with a unique “made-in-Oregon” gift and a perfect dinner wine for the holiday gatherings. In addition to tasting the wine, these events offered an opportunity to highlight Slow Food activities and how our international volunteer network supports a good, clean and fair food system for all. Each restaurant and retailer that featured the wine was offered a commemorative poster featuring the wine’s label and its producers.

The expertise and connections that Don has within the wine industry played a valuable role in bringing the SLOW Pinot Noir project to fruition. His company, Casa Bruno, LLC, provided capital and all-important support, from the office team, to sales and delivery people, to computers and vans to transport barrels around the Willamette Valley.

In addition to helping raise funds for Oregon Slow Food projects and events, including the Ark of Taste program and supporting Terra Madre 2016 delegates, Don had two other goals in mind. He wanted to raise awareness of the Slow Food mission throughout Oregon and to provide a viable model of fund development that other chapters could replicate. The Oregon Slow Food network has grown wider and stronger by the increased visibility of SLOW Pinot Noir. An assessment of the project will be completed in the next few months and a review will be available for others interested in developing a similar program.

Sustainable Growing Practices Fit With Slow Food

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Most of the juice for SLOW Pinot Noir came from vineyards certified by the Deeproots Coalition, an Oregon winemaker advocacy group dedicated to the production of wine sourced exclusively from non-irrigated vineyards. This group of producer-members is dedicated to dry agriculture and responsible water management practices. The mission of the organization includes education for the wine consumer on the benefits of “dry-farmed wine.” Conservation of water supplies and the validity of the resulting wine showcase the work of this dedicated group.

While each winery pursues its own path to sustainability, some of these wineries and vineyards engage four other certification processes; LIVE, Salmon Safe, Oregon Tilth, and Demeter (Biodynamic®). By working towards complete carbon neutrality, using horse-power, hand-harvesting fruit, and other important practices, this group of wineries is leading the way in sustainable farming in the wine industry.

Wineries included in SLOW Pinot Noir 2014

For more information about the project and the vineyards involved with SLOW Pinot Noir 2014 visit http://slowfoodportland.com/slow-pinot/

To read an interview featuring Don Oman visit http://slowfoodportland.com/2015/11/creating-the-2014-slow-pinot-noir/

Stay connected with Slow Food with our Slow Wine 2016 series