Oregon: The Taste Of Wine, by Janis Miglavs
It should be pointed out at the outset that this book is not so much a celebration of wine as it is a self-congratulating collection of quotations and observations from those involved in the Oregon wine industry. Although I am not a particularly heavy drinker in the least, I am certainly interested in the culture of wine and in Oregon’s wine country . A large part of that interest for me springs from my own family background. My grandfather, for example, grew grapes for the purpose of making his own table wine, and was a thoughtful and pointed critic of the wine-growing efforts of others in Central Florida. It appears that a similar cause exists for the wine culture that exists in Oregon. While there are plenty of ego-driven efforts by people who want to be celebrated as winemakers, a lot of the culture involves family, and many of the winemakers in this book comment on the trial and error nature of their craft and the way that insights are passed from one generation to another within families and within the wine culture as a whole. All of this makes for good reading, which for some will likely be a poor substitute for good drinking.
The contents of this book are more than a bit scattered. The slightly more than 100 pages of this book are divided into seven chapters after the book begins with a discussion of the timeline of Oregon’s wine industry and a discussion of the American viticultural areas of Oregon. The chapters of the book cover such areas as Oregon’s wine landscape, the roots and vision of Oregon’s wine growers, the terroir, the vineyard, the wine and the winemaker, the future, and lessons from the vineyard. Most of the book itself consists of quotations by Oregon’s winegrowers, mostly about their family or about other wine growers, especially those they learned from and interacted with, along with some immensely gorgeous photos of the wine, grapes, vineyards, and wineries of the state. As might be expected, these winegrowers have interests in leftist politics, speculations about the future, expressions of their own hard-earned knowledge of local geology, and so on. They show themselves greatly concerned with the price points of wine, the yields of their crops, comparisons with the wine growing of Burgundy in France, as well as how their wine stacks up to other areas of the world. They are, in short, an interesting group of people.
What is ultimately, appealing about this odd assembly of quotations from many of the prominent figures of Oregon’s winegrowing efforts? This is not, after all, the most coherent of books and it does not say much about Oregon’s wine itself. Even so, there is something quite intriguing in the way that the book gives insight into the philosophy of growing wine in Oregon, and the culture that exists for wine. A great deal of Oregon’s winegrowing efforts depend on government regulation, showing one of the pro-elite aspects of Oregon’s socialism. Oregon’s wine growers comment that they cannot compete on price with California’s growers because of the lower yields of Oregon’s terrain, and so the focus is on niche efforts like Oregon’s love affair with Pinot Noir. Likewise, the authors comment over and over again in various ways how Oregon’s wine growing community is a generally friendly place full of communication and cooperation. Many of the growers offer prognostications, for what it’s worth–and that may not be much–on such matters as the chimerical threat of global warning as well as the possibility that largely undeveloped Eastern Oregon offers the potential to be a great winegrowing area despite its current devotion to wheat farming. All in all, this book is a good introduction to the culture of Oregon’s wine growing if not to the wine itself.
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