Sparkling bewitches Oregon industry
By L.M. Archer
Sparkling wine demands time, toil and treasure. It’s also seductive as hell. Just ask Oregon winemakers. Already renowned for premium Pinot Noir, the state now threatens to outshine other wine regions in bubbles. Many ascribe this burgeoning fizz fame to a far-flung band of passionate winemakers as diverse as their respective terroirs and as complex as the sparkling they craft.
Willamette Valley winemakers represent a history of leading, not following. If you’ve tasted a bottle of this gnarly region’s bubbles, chances are one of two men had a hand in it: Rollin Soles or Andrew Davis. Many credit Soles of ROCO Winery for getting the ball rolling and Andrew Davis of The Radiant Sparkling Wine Company for advancing it down the field. Together, their respective legacies account for a major touchdown in Oregon méthode Champenoise or méthode traditionelle, the Old World method developed in Champagne.
Soles founded Argyle Winery in 1987 in Dundee with a specific intent: to produce world-class sparkling wine in the Willamette Valley. A pragmatic, handle-bar-mustachioed Texas Aggie, Soles blames luck for his eventual foray into bubbles.
“Setting oneself up to receive luck is important,” says Soles. “My luck was that my biochemistry professor [at Texas A&M] set me up to work in Switzerland one college summer vacation for his cousin, Hans Uli Kesslering, who grew Pinot Noir and was a pioneer in sustainable agriculture in the mid-’70s.” Soles credits this experience as the impetus to his future in wine. A side note: “Can’t get any tougher than ripening Pinot Noir in northern Switzerland,” he confirms. Read more here.