The Oregonian recently reported that the 2008 vintage of Oregon wines is drawing rave reviews from wine publications around the country.
That’s a particular relief, coming in the wake of tepid notices for the state’s 2007 vintage.
Now, I’m no wine expert, but I’ve been a fan of Oregon pinot noir for years, even before I moved here. With that said, though, it’s a good bet that I wouldn’t have been able to discern much difference between the 2007 and 2008 vintages.
But, increasingly, a lot of people can — and that could mean good times for this fascinating (and fast-growing) Oregon industry.
Many of the state’s 400 or so wineries are reporting improved sales over last year.
And we seem to be getting savvier about taking advantage of the working wineries in our midst.
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In the Willamette Valley, tourism organizations and wineries are teaming up to lure wine-savvy tourists to the region.
Melinda Claire Stewart, the public relations manager for Visit Corvallis, the city’s tourism organization, has been working with the Willamette Valley Visitors Association to create the Corvallis sections of wine trails for tourists, which also include suggestions for shopping, dining and browsing through art galleries.
As the idea of wine tourism gains traction throughout Oregon and in the mid-valley, that’s an effort that makes good sense. It seems likely that many wine tourists will be interested in those activities as well, and these are folks who tend to be well-heeled.
Wineries themselves are helping to forge these connections: For example, many already are displaying works by area artists in their tasting rooms.
It’s another strong example of how a rising tide in one economic sector can boost others as well.
It’s too early to tell, of course, how the wines created from this year’s crop of grapes will fare with the critics. This year’s crop started late and stayed that way: In some cases, the delayed harvest crowded the traditional Thanksgiving weekend tasting events – a reminder of how luck and weather still play a role in the winemakers’ craft.
But in the meantime, as we prepare to ring in the new year, it wouldn’t be out of the question to raise a glass or two — assuming, of course, you’ve arranged for a designated driver — in honor of a rare bright spot in Oregon’s economy.