When Bill Blosser and his wife, Susan Sokol Blosser, moved from Portland to the Willamette Valley more than 50 years ago with dreams of starting a winery, neither had any farming, business or viniculture background, and Oregon had no history of winemaking success. Armed with only the dream of “growing things,” a pioneering spirit and a burgeoning American wine industry, they set out to make high-quality Pinot Noir in a location whose climate and terroir mimicked that of Burgundy, one of the world’s most revered regions for the fickle red varietal.
It was a lofty goal — and far from easy. Most of the books about American winemaking aimed at California’s Central Valley, so they had to ask friends to translate European ones. An early attempt at natural weed control by bringing geese to graze ended in failure when the flock couldn’t be cajoled to the vineyards. They released their first vintage in 1971 to a lukewarm reception; looking back, Susan said the world just wasn’t ready for Oregon Pinot Noir.
Over the years they experimented with trellising and site selection and imported different clones from Burgundy, and over time the world took notice of the Willamette Valley varietal. With tart red fruit, silky tannins and that signature earthiness, it’s not as restrained as red Burgundy nor as ripe and showy as bottles from California. In 1987 a visit from renowned Burgundian winemaker Robert Drouhin — who started his own venture here — lent the region credibility.
This year, the family-owned winery marks 50 years of crafting world-class wines in Oregon, now also producing Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé, using estate-grown fruit from the Dundee Hills and its own vineyards in Eola-Amity Hills. In 2008 Bill and Susan passed the torch to daughter Alison, co-president and CEO, and son Alex, co-president and winemaker, who pursued a mutual goal of producing traditional- method sparkling wine that shows purity of fruit rather than the yeasty, bready notes of Champagne, resulting in several effervescent expressions including Brut and Rosé.
Just 30 minutes from Portland, Sokol Blosser Winery relishes the chance to welcome wine lovers. At press time, it offered 75-minute guided tastings with reservations and a full food menu; guests can also order meal kits for pick-up paired with their wines. The winery’s YouTube channel features a collection of short tasting videos.
Sokol Blosser Bluebird Cuvée 2018 ($32), a traditional-method dry sparkling wine made with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, early Muscat, Riesling and Müller-Thurgau, presents a vibrant acidity and notes of white peach, apple blossom and minerality.
The signature red, Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Noir 2018 ($42), truly expresses Oregon terroir, with aromas of mushroom and forest floor, a palate tinged with cranberry and black cherry, and a slightly spicy finish.
Offering a nod to the company’s roots with a retro label, Sokol Blosser Old Vineyard Block Pinot Noir 2018 ($60) features a bouquet of cherry cola and florality, along with blackberry, cherry and wet earth on the palate.
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