COMMENTARY

Keeping It Real

Oregon wine must never forget its humble beginning

By Hilary Berg

So often when tourists visit Oregon, they remark on how friendly everyone is. I agree, for the most part, unless you tell them you are from Kansas

The standard reply: “Kansas?!”

Each time I feel I’ve given the wrong answer to a riddle of which I wasn’t aware. If I had a dollar for every time I next heard, “Well, you’re not in Kansas anymore,” I would be an extremely affluent person.

No, I did not arrive via ruby slippers — I don’t wear heels — and, no, I did not accidentally wander 1,400 miles before realizing I was lost.

“What brought you to Oregon?” invariably follows.

In truth, I followed my then-boyfriend and now-husband, Chris Berg. Young love — now well-seasoned — was my impetus for migration, not wine. Although Chris moved here to plant a vineyard and eventually start a brand, I, honestly, went along for the ride.

Editor's Note

Hilary Berg has been the editor of OWP since 2006. She graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s in journalism. She and her husband own a seven-acre vineyard and winery called Roots.

Fifteen years later, I am still here and have found a home in Oregon’s wine community, an industry founded on community itself. But if we are not careful, that “friendly” foundation will crumble into just another Napa.

As big players come in and even small players ride media waves and high scores from publications nowhere near our valleys, we must remain approachable, not with our noses in the air, but, perhaps, to the grindstone. After all, this industry was started by hardworking, genuinely nice people.

As editor of OWP, I’ve had the great fortune of meeting Oregon’s first wave of winegrowers and makers, the Letts, David Adelsheim, the Ponzis, Susan Sokol Blosser, Dick Troon and others. Most outsiders would expect this elite group to act somehow exclusive, but they don’t because they know the importance of community.

They were here when there was no glamour in growing grapes. No articles in The New York Times. No multi-million dollar facilities. No exorbitantly priced festivals featuring only a select few. No, at the beginning, they were just a small group who had either just arrived to Oregon or discovered the promise of Pinot in their own backyards.

To everyone in the industry, how important it is to remember where “we” came from.

As for me, I am from Kansas, and no, I don’t wear red high heels.

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