My Latest in Wine Business Monthly: Iris Vineyards Making Quality Bubbles South of Salem

My Latest in Wine Business Monthly:

Iris Vineyards Making Quality Bubbles South of Salem

Bespoke Bubbles Bursts Misperceptions about Southern Willamette Valley

Iris Vineyards winemaking team tastes through base wine samples at their winery in Eugene, Oregon.
Iris Vineyards quality assurance supervisor María Ignacia Alarcón, general manager David Cordtz, winemaker Aaron Lieberman, and cellar master Damien Lapuyade taste through base wines. ©L.M. Archer.

by L.M. Archer

 

Eugene, Ore. – Most people know about Willamette Valley sparkling wine. But quality bubble makers south of Salem? Not so much. Iris Vineyards in Eugene, Oregon is bursting that misperception, one bottle of bubbly at a time.

Sense of Place

Often compared to Burgundy in France, the Willamette Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area) runs north to south from Portland to Eugene, much like Burgundy runs from Dijon to Lyon. A few wine wags compare northern Willamette Valley (Portland to Salem) to Burgundy’s Côte d’Or. If that’s so, perhaps the southern Willamette Valley may best resemble the Mâconnais, since both share a lack of status enjoyed by their ‘grands crus’ siblings up north. But such discounting belies an unexpected benefit. Lower expectations allow for greater experimentation. And greater experimentation often yields extraordinary results, such as Iris Vineyards sparkling wine.

Unintended Consequences

Winemaker Aaron Lieberman didn’t set out to make bubbles at Iris Vineyards. But he acknowledges a lifelong fascination with the stuff. “I’ve always loved sparkling wine. I remember, as a child, the only time we got to drink was sparkling wine on the holidays, or for special occasions. Dad would let us taste a little bit, so as a kid, I really enjoyed it.”

Lieberman went on to study soil science at Oregon State University (OSU). After graduation, he worked in Guatemala with the Peace Corp for three years. He returned to Oregon in 1996, entering the wine industry, eventually working his way up the ranks for such notables as Amity Vineyards, DePonte Cellars, and Owen Roe. In 2008, Lieberman garnered the position of winemaker at Iris Vineyard, a 870-acre estate in southern Willamette Valley owned by Richard and Pamela Frye. READ MORE HERE.

 

 

 

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