Guests gather at the inaugural
Alt Wine Fest at the Old Schoolhouse outside Newberg. ##Photo by Mark Stock

The Others

Alt Wine Fest shelves Pinot for the day

By Mark Stock

Organized by Portland wine education and events company Sunday School Wine, the Alt Wine Fest, Aug. 11, celebrated Oregon’s passion for everything except but Pinot Noir. With varieties ranging from Arneis to Zweigelt, diversity remained the theme. Many attendees were surprised to learn some of the wines — Huxelrebe, Lagrein, Saperavi, etc. — are grown and crafted in Oregon. The first-time affair offered a pleasant reminder of the true breadth of the Pacific Northwest wine scene.

The beautifully restored Old Schoolhouse in Newberg played venue host. Built in 1928, the farmhouse-style structure was the perfect backdrop for the soirée with a spacious, rustic interior and sprawling lawn. The building used to host roller-skating nights in the mid-20th century — fitting for the event’s mostly young, eager attendees.

##Photo by Mark Stock

Thirty wineries poured more than 100 wines in total. Decidedly against the grain and rock ‘n’ roll in nature, the atmosphere felt appropriate for the shelving of Pinot Noir — the state’s iconic grape — to spotlight Oregon’s 71 other varietals and the growing interest in more experimental wines and styles — something the latest generation of Oregon vintners is keen to explore. A decade ago, a grape like Aligoté or Tannat might have been laughed out of the region. Today, these more obscure options are embraced with open and inspired arms.

Standout wines included Chardonnay from Statera, a smoke-kissed Grenache Blanc from Sis and Mae and a floral Pinot Gris rosé from Anne Amie Vineyards. The bright Melon de Bourgogne from Brooks was memorable, as was the tropical fruit-driven Chasselas Doré from The Eyrie Vineyards and a flinty, citrusy Auxerrois from Raptor Ridge. Vineyard sites like Johan in Rickreall showed especially well, with several producers pouring from the esteemed Van Duzer Corridor vineyard.

The Willamette Valley continues to embrace the path less traveled. Like-minded festivals such as I Love Gamay in Portland and the Uncommon Wine Festival in the Dundee Hills serve as flourishing proof. Moreover, the region’s countless vineyard rows continue to evolve, taking on non-Pinot Noir varieties. And the bustling wine bar community continues to open eyes and palates to new and interesting finds.

In addition to plenty of intriguing wines, Alt Wine 2019 featured food from Ricky’s Taco Truck, a DJ, lawn games and simple but satisfying snacks like potato chips — the alt version of the tasting room water cracker. There was also a raffle toward the end of the afternoon, benefitting p:ear, a homeless youth mentoring nonprofit based in Portland.

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