May 31, 2013

Third annual PDX Urban Wine Experience tasting June 9

PDX Urban Wineries, the association of Portland-based wineries, is holding our 3rd annual PDX Urban Wine Experience tasting on June 9, 4-7pm at Refuge PDX in inner SE Portland.

All association member wineries will be pouring, including Vincent Wine Company. Most producers will have new releases that you haven’t tried before, and we’re delighted to welcome our newest member Clay Pigeon Winery to the fold. Try their just released 2011 Pinot Noir among so many other wines sample.

Advance tickets are now available, and buy in advance because your ticket price will include $15 towards wine bottle purchase at the event. Tickets at the door will be available, but they won’t come with that credit. Don’t miss out, and we hope to see you there.

May 24, 2013

In Portland this Saturday? Come taste wine

Just a short post to let you know that we're doing a wine tasting and casual BBQ at the Southeast Wine Collective in Portland this Saturday, May 25, 4-7pm. The address is 2425 SE 35th Place in Portland, at SE Division.

I'll be there pouring my Vincent Wine Company Pinots, and a barrel sample or two from 2012 (possibly Chardonnay if anyone's interested). And Division Winemaking Company, Helioterra, Bow & Arrow and Fullerton wineries will also all be pouring new releases.

Cost is a modest $15 at the door, and includes tastings and some Olympic Provisions wieners or vege dogs and whatnot from the grill. Come hang out Portland-style and drink some great Oregon wine in the Memorial Day weekend tradition. Hope to see you there, and if you're out of the area, our tasting room is open Wed-Sun. Surprise us sometime.

May 20, 2013

The truth about Oregon's 2011 vintage

I'm just going to say what no one seems willing to admit. 2011 is going to go down as one of the greatest vintages for Oregon wine in history. A brief history, true, but the point is the same. And apparently controversial.

I think I can finally say this with a straight face because I have most of my 2011 wines sold. Don't accuse me of shilling to move wines from an allegedly substandard vintage. I finally feel like I can say what I really think, not that I haven't before. I can just do it without opening myself to accusations of only being positive about things because I have wines to sell. Happily that's not an issue.

The weather in 2011 was cold all spring and summer long. Then unusually dry, mild weather through October into November allowed for a historically late harvest under relatively nice conditions. The fruit in the winery was riper tasting than the sugar measurements might have suggested. The acidity was stellar, with terrific energy propelling the fruit flavors to a long aftertaste.

And yet the vintage immediately received bad press because of the late harvest, as if the summer couldn't possibly have yielded something worthwhile, much less anything made to last.

For producers who want to make big, rich wines, ok, the year was a challenge. You won't find goopy, top heavy wines full of dense fruit and lumber flavors in 2011. Likewise, you may find some underripe, hard, mean little wines that taste best in the rearview mirror, especially with the rich, opulent 2012s waiting in the wings.

Taste before you buy, but be open to what's truly special and exceptional about this year - the subtlety. What I think you will find are some of the most nervy, energetic and delicate wines I've ever had from this fair state. Wines of low alcohol, light color, intense perfume and lacy, fragile flavors with way more tensile strength than you might expect.

And that's the key. Great wine is not synonymous with ageworthy wine. But the most truly ageworthy wines are great, are what we most want from our wines, and I expect many top notch ageworthy wines will come from the 2011 vintage in Oregon.

Can I prove it? No. We won't know how things turn out until time passes. And yes, many wines from 2011 taste really shut down right now, essentially not generous in the way a cut flower doesn't smell as it will after a few days in a vase. These delicate things take time. They demand your patience.

What I do know is this - the beauty that has emerged from the roller coaster 2011 vintage is there. It's not always easy to see, certainly not what will be there over time. But the greatness is there, the beauty that will win out over time if it's not already apparent.

And I'm betting an extra large amount of library wines that this is the vintage to hold in the cellar. I want more of this vintage than any other to pour at future dinners and special events, to sell years later to customers who prize the delicacy of fine aged wine, and of course to share with my sweet at home. Our home.

May 16, 2013

Wine sales update

How about an update on how Vincent Wine Company wine sales are going? Not sure if anyone's too interested, but I once asked and some readers suggested yes, they wanted to hear about it here and there. And after all the detail of making wine in my garage and then transitioning to commercial production, vineyard visits, bottling days, etc., surely you want to know if and where all the wine goes, no?

The short story is this - things are going great. The wines are selling well, reaching more and more better and better places, and generally my issue right now isn't whether or not the wine will sell, but whether or now I'll run out too soon before the next vintage is ready. That's not a bad problem to have.

The longer story is a little more complicated.

I won't lie. The first year of sales - mostly my 2009 Vincent Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills - was a little daunting. That's in part because selling wine is hard, in part because things actually went much better than they might have, but still it was hard and the wine took time to sell. In retrospect, my feeling after selling through the 2009 vintage was like a tight rope walker who looks back after a successful crossing and gulps, realizing the peril s/he didn't notice en route. Things could have been much, much harder.

The sales year for the 2009s started well. My nascent mailing list purchased a healthy amount of the first wines. My first winery open house event with a friend and her label was a huge success (would that there were always such big crowds at our open house tastings...). And my first ventures into the local market selling my own wine began wonderfully - a nice shop downtown bought two cases right away. Another couple shops bought cases. I was off and rolling.

Then reality set in. I had a bit more than 200 cases and my early sales moved maybe 1/3 of it. Then I fell into the pattern of stores or restaurants buying some wine but never buying more. Suddenly I realized that instead of 20 accounts that might move a few cases of wine over the year, I needed many more accounts because they would likely just a bit and that would be it. The wine would sit on the shelf. I'd come in a month or two later and see how things were going but there were the same bottles, getting dusty. The owners would say, what can we do, you're new, no one's heard of the point where I stopped asking. I'd see the bottles sitting there and duck out, hopefully without being noticed so there wouldn't be that weird conversation about how they were sure things would pick up.

Throughout the year, my sales days got harder and harder. Some places I really didn't want to be going to weren't so thrilled to see me either. I'd spend a precious day in the market and move barely a case of wine, inside worrying what I'd do it the wine wouldn't sell. A little voice would tell me though - be patient, be charming, know that you're making incredibly special wine and don't give in. And I didn't.

Sure enough, the wine from that first year sold, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I wanted to declare the vintage sold out months before I finally was able to. I'd actually released the 2010s before the 2009s were finally gone, a little out of frustration, a little out of the reality that people were ready for new wine, not so interested in trying that same old wine again. It's a cruel reality of the business, though hardly unique to wine.

By year two of sales, I noticed a few things. One - stores that greeted me skeptically tended to now take me more seriously. I got it - shops wanted to see if I was for real before going to long on my wines. Would I be back the next year? Would the wines be good in another vintage, or were my '09s just lucky starts? Sure enough, yes I was back and yes the wines were good again, and even though I made 40% more wine in the 2010 vintage, the wines sold in half the time.

That was a little problem. Where with the '09s I have wine available all year, with the '10s I was sold out seven months after release. How'd that happen? Mailing list growth, shops ordering and reordering more quickly, restaurant placements picking up, even a special deal with Whole Foods that go my wine throughout Oregon and Washington stores - that all added up to wine disappearing almost too fast. Oh, and I picked up distribution in New York and that definitely moved some wine. Nice.

I'd already planned for more production for 2011, and could have made more still but don't want to grow too fast. My 2011s came out last fall, all 400 cases or almost double what I made in 2009, and as of today I have about 80 cases left. And that's including wine allocated for a local restaurant glass pour list for this summer (20 cases?), as well as an expected order from my NY distributor. Otherwise the rest of the wine will go to the winery tasting room and a few important accounts around Portland that I want to make sure don't run out of wine.

In 2012 we upped production further to at least 550 cases, probably a bit more once everything settles out. We've picked up distribution in Rhode Island and, with the coming year, I'd love to add Los Angeles (my home town). If everything goes well, that organic growth should take care of the increased production, leaving me in position to monitor wine sales rather than push, push, push. Wouldn't that be nice.

Meanwhile, I still do push some to get the wine where I want it. And I hear that voice - be patient, be charming, believe in what you're doing. And I'll just say, again, thank you.