Why Oregon Wine Month?
By Dewey Weddington, OWB
Having grown up in the Willamette Valley created an inherent sense of pride in Oregon Pinot noir, Pinot gris and Chardonnay. Being an Oregonian this pride extends to Southern Oregon and Columbia Gorge Syrah, Tempranillo, Viognier among others. As a “born here” consumer of Oregon wine I am too biased to answer the question of “Why Oregon Wine Month?”
Separate these innate attachments and I look at the question from a bigger picture marketing perspective and then ask a deeper question; Why Oregon wine?
The answer to this is beyond the recent pages of Wine Spectator, past the increased international acclaim. The answer is at the root of what makes the Oregon wine industry possible: People. Individuals who pioneered Oregon wine, poured their lives into a dream, brought the innovations forward, demanded quality at every turn, put their faith in sustainable practices and sweated each day to bring in the harvest, fill the bottles and create customer relationships.
While it may seem simple to point to the people as a reason for Oregon Wine Month and to support Oregon wine within our state, I would go a step further. It’s a philosophy; one shared by just about everyone you meet in this business. A philosophy that puts Oregon first. From the pioneer families to current innovators, there is a shared vision that Oregon comes first. That a viable Oregon wine industry lifts up everyone and aids in ensuring a future for the next generation. This is what drives the diverse approaches to sustainability, research, joint marketing programs and even joint sales efforts.
Recently, Oregon has been blessed by unprecedented attention from several national publications that are read by hundreds of millions of people around the world. We can’t help but take pride in what the founders have created and the subsequent waves of industry members have added to the equation. In the most recent Oregon Wine Board economic impact statement, wine is credited with contributing $158 million to Oregon’s $8 billion tourism industry. In reality, that number is terribly understated. Wine has become the leading driver of Oregon’s culinary explosion, bringing priceless attention to Oregon.
Wine and Oregon are almost synonymous and it is becoming a big and popular economic engine that is lifting a lot of boats in our state. Where the Willamette Valley showed the way 50 years ago, other regions, from Walla Walla to the Applegate, are now making significant contributions to Oregon’s unique and compelling story.
It’s an industry that while seemingly haphazard in its formation and growth is coming together as a jewel-studded tapestry driving a food and wine culture that is the envy of many leading wine regions. As a leading wine critic recently said, Oregon is entering its golden age as a wine making region, an accomplishment built on the hard work and dedication of those who went before.
In recent weeks I was fortunate to be in Dusseldorf, Germany, with some of Oregon’s pioneer families, including David Adelsheim, Maria Ponzi, Harry Peterson-Nedry, Bill Blosser and Allison Sokol Blosser. They were there for the ProWein trade show, each seeking importer relationships for Europe. During three days of pitching their brands to prospects, they held up one key message: Oregon First. Each day they stood in for each other. I saw Allison pouring and talking about Ponzi. Harry presenting Sokol Blosser’s Evolution. While on the show floor they were competitors, they never lost sight of the core message: Oregon First. After all these years, they still support each other and everyone at the table who seeks to lift up Oregon wine.
When you ask the question, “Why Oregon Wine Month?” consider the winemaker you know, your neighbor who works in the business, a friend who dreams of crafting the finest Oregon wine. Think about the jobs that exist because of our wineries and vineyards as well as the positive economic impact. Consider the high quality of Oregon wine at just about every price point and the pride this brings to our state. Focus on the people who work hard for Oregon. The least we can do is designate one month a year as Oregon Wine Month to pause and focus on lifting up Oregon, all of Oregon and the hard work of its people.
Why Oregon Wine Month? Because it’s Oregon.
Dewey Weddington joined the Oregon Wine Board in July 2012 after seven years as the vice president of marketing for SakéOne and two years as marketing director for Cooper Mountain.