Although the state has established an excellent eruption for its wines, Oregon has only been in the wine game for the past four-plus decades. In fact, Oregon’s winemaking tradition owes its early start to pioneers such as Susan Sokol and Bill Blosser who established their namesake winery in the early 1970s.
The two met in college, where they studied history and went on to pursue careers in teaching. Bill took a position in Portland, Oregon teaching urban history and soon after the couple purchased an old prune orchard in Dundee. They started small, with five acres, planting Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling and Muller-Thurgau.
Today, with Bill and Susan’s retirement in 2008, Sokol Blosser is led by two of their children: Alex and Allison. Alex has been the head winemaker since 2013, while Allison was named CEO in 2014. She is thrilled to be working alongside her brother in the family business after having worked elsewhere in the past. The business has significantly expanded since it founded and the family now has 86 acres under vine, which were certified by Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine in 2009.
I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Allison for dinner at Morimoto in New York in April, where we tasted through several of the current releases. The winery produces two different labels – Evolution and Sokol Blosser.
The Evolution line is made up of inexpensive blends with an America appellation. But, their lack of a distinctive terroir doesn’t make them any less enjoyable. We tasted the aromatically floral, Evolution White ($15) and light-bodied, yet Zin-like, Evolution Big Time Red ($15) at dinner, both of which were excellent with the Japanese cuisine. The fresh and fruity Evolution Sparkler ($20), tasted at a later date, is a great option to have on hand for any occasion.
We also tasted wines from the Sokol Blosser range:
2014 Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, OR, $20.00
Made from fruit grown intentionally to produce a rosé – with arched cane trellising to ensure higher acidity at harvest – this wine has a pale onion skin color due to the limited, three-hour pressing of the grapes. It has bright aromas and flavors of strawberry and melon, which co-mingle on the dry, rich palate.
2014 Willamette Valley Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, OR, $19.00
Sourced from ½ of estate-grown fruit and ½ from the Eola-Amity sub-appellation, the wine is produced in a dry style with extended lees contact and no oak. Smoke and melon greet the nose. On the palate, it is dry and weighty with medium+ acidity and notes of mineral, citrus and pear.
2012 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, OR, $38.00
This wine undergoes a long, post-fermentation maceration of three weeks and sees 40% new oak during the aging period. It delivers notes of earth, spice and cherries. The dry palate offers ripe, rich and concentrated cherry fruit with mineral, meaty and earthy flavors.
2012 Peach Tree Block Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, OR, $70.00
Sokol Blosser also produces four single block bottlings of Pinot Noir, including the Peach Tree Block. This wine displayed slightly more new oak character on the nose. It showed flavors of floral, spice, and herbs on the structured palate with darker red fruits, culminating in long length.
The beauty of the diverse selection of amazing flavors and textures from the menu, paired alongside the bright fruit, crisp acidity and concentrated flavors, was an absolute delight. The conversation flowed as easily as the wine and it was truly a pleasure to see the evolution of this historic producer as it is led into the future by the next generation.