Oregon Wineries Romance New York

50 vintners pour Pinot and other wines for trade and consumers

by Peter Mitham
Oregon wine New York City
New York, N.Y. —Residents of the Big Apple got a taste of Northwest fruit during a recent expedition to showcase the bounty of Oregon—and Willamette Valley wineries in particular.

“We brought fresh Dungeness crab with us, we brought mushrooms with us, we brought great wine with us, we brought a lot of great energy with us,” said Lynn Penner-Ash, winemaker and a principal of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars in Newberg, Ore.

Winemakers from 50 wineries participated in what was billed as an “Oregon Wine Flight to New York” Feb. 14-15. The events included a trade tasting that drew 300 participants, a 350-strong consumer tasting and a dinner for consumers showcasing Penner-Ash and two other wineries.

The dinner attracted 65 people (and many more enquiries) and capitalized on the romance and experiences people associated with the state.

Oregon wine New York City
New York wine enthusiasts sample Oregon wines at the Oregon Wine Flight to New York event.

Personal invitations
“A lot of people had come who had visited out here in Oregon wine country, and we all used our personal mailing lists and such to mail a personal invite to them,” Penner-Ash said. “(They) were excited to be there and excited to see another taste of Oregon, because they had just been out last summer, and whatever their experience, they were just enjoying and reliving their experiences.”

While the group’s awareness of Oregon was already well established, Penner-Ash said people seemed willing to taste more than Pinot Noir. She brought a Syrah, for example, and received good feedback—and not necessarily because it was the only one present. Many people were asking good questions about the wines and, in Penner-Ash’s opinion, showed a rare level of engagement.

It suggested that discussions at the Oregon Wine Industry Symposium a week later regarding the dominance of Pinot Noir in Oregon and the relationship between the two on the national stage is complex. Oregon may be known for Pinot Noir, but if Pinot Noir’s fortunes falter, do Oregon’s, too?

“There’s so many market factors going on right now in this strange world. We like to draw conclusions, but we take them all with a grain of salt,” Penner-Ash remarked to Wines & Vines.

New York is the state’s second-biggest market, but the past two years have seen wine sales in the city mirror the economy’s trajectory.

More than one grape variety

Consumer response to Willamette Valley wines has been solid, added Sue Horstmann, executive director of the Willamette Valley Wineries Association. The reputation of the state’s Pinot Noir boosts the fortunes of her association’s wineries, but she said the state’s other producers are showing that there’s more to the state than just one grape variety.

Approximately 80% of the wineries on the New York trip were pouring Pinot Noir, but the reputation of that grape is attracting attention to the state from which everyone can benefit.

“Whatever we do to bring attention to the wines of Oregon, it’s good for everybody,” Horstmann said. “When people in New York discover our Pinots, they discover more about the state and they come to visit here. They will have opportunities to taste other varietals and go to other regions.”

And, as Penner-Ash discovered, when people visit Oregon, they’re left hankering for more of what they discovered when they return home. “There’s a lot of romance around Oregon. People are somewhat envious of our experiences here,” she said.

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