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PASSION IN PINOT NOIR
CHANGING THE WORLD ONE BOTTLE AT A TIME
by Simone Zarmati Diament
In 1966, when most graduates of Stanford University, California, dreamt of changing the world and joined student protest movements, Susan Sokol and Bill Blosser, two liberal arts graduates, got married. And in the early ‘70s, while Symbionese Liberation Army recruits planted bombs, the Sokol Blosser purchased their first piece of land in Dundee Hills, in the Northern Willamette Valley, Oregon, to start a vineyard, in one corner of which they built their home to raise their family.
“Oregon had no or little wine industry then, and we made the type of decision you make when you’re young and you think you can do anything,” recalled Susan Sokol on a visit to Miami to promote her wines. “When we got to Oregon we found that there were a few young people who had decided to do the same thing.…”
Growing grapes organically and sustainability in all winery operations has been a way of life since then: a painstaking way to change the world step by step and make it a better place for the next generations. “Dundee Hills was bare back then. What we looked for were successful orchards that bloomed early spring (meaning that it was a frost free pocket). In Dundee Hills we’re two to three degrees warmer on the hill side, which is perfect to grow Pinot Noirs and makes it easy for Mother Nature to do her best.”
Today, with two of their children, Alex and Alison, and the expertise of winemaker Russ Rosner, the Sokol Blosser Winery is certified for using sustainable farming practices, certified as a Salmon Safe enterprise ( this means planting cover crop to prevent soil erosion, using natural methods to control pests and keeping chemical runoff and silt from poluting the nearby salmon-rich Willamette and Colombia rivers. “Salmon is an icon in Oregon, a symbol of all that’s free and pure and safe,” explained Sokol Blosser), and has earned a full USDA organic certification from Oregon Tilth - meaning that their wines can legally be labeled “ made with organic grapes.”
But what are grapes without the art of winemaking?
This family-owned operation has won many national and international awards for their Pinot Noirs and produces over 45,000 cases per year.
On a visit to Miami to promote her wines, Susan Sokol Blosser, the president and co-founder of Sokol Blosser Winery, told us about hard work, its rewards, but also about making ''fun'' wines, or wines “with a personality” such as Nonvintage Sokol Blosser Meditrina red wine (Meditrina was the goddess of wine and health, unlike Bacchus who was the god of imbibing and partying) and Nonvintage Sokol Blosser Evolution white wine (a blend of nine different varietals – Pinot Gris, Muller Thurgau, White Riesling, Semillion, Muscat Canelli, Gewurtraminer. Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Sylvaner, a grape found mostly in Alsace and Germany, in The Rhine - proof that different grapes grow well in the rich micro-climate of Willamette Valley, and ''serious'' wines like the 2003 Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Oregon
2003 Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Oregon $30.
“We’re really passionate about Pinot Noir and we think that our hillside is the best place to grown this grape.” This lovely full-bodied pinot is smooth with violet aromas; flavors of maryonberries with a great acidity tempered by velvety tannins and a long finish.
Nonvintage Sokol Blosser Evolution white wine $18.
A blend of Pinot Gris, Muller Thurgau, White Riesling, Semillion, Muscat Canelli, Gewurtraminer. Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Sylvaner. “A lot of cool-weather white grapes. It’s kind of a parade of flavors across the palate. It’s like mixing nine different colours of paint and trying to end with a rainbow instead of a muddy brown,” says Sokol Blosser. The grapes come together to create a complex flavor greater than the sum of its part with enticing aromas of lychee and orchard fruit, orange blossoms and a fresh citrus finish.
Nonvintage Sokol Blosser Meditrina red wine $18.
A libation to the gods, or rather the goddess Meditrina is in order. Based on Pinot Noir, the added Syrah and Zinfandel add up to a vibrant and spicy red, generous with cloves, black cherry fruit and mocha flavors