I DIDN'T KNOW OREGON MADE WINE...
Yes, someone actually said that to me. And, NO, that was not the strangest thing I heard about Oregon wine in the past two weeks.
As some, maybe most of you know, I have been involved in some way with the wine industry for the past 30 years or so. Most of that time has been in Oregon doing everything from wine sales and marketing, consulting and producing to owning a winery and vineyards. Over the course of those years I have also served on many industry boards, represented Oregon wines in other states, sat on way too many panels and done innumerable seminars. So imagine my shock when a lovely lady looked me in the eye and uttered those words.
To be fair, she had previously shared that she didn't travel much from her home in Ohio and wasn't much of a wine drinker, unless mimosas count. But it struck me, nonetheless. I know first hand of the hard work of those involved with the Oregon story. My industry friends are too numerous to count. I have witnessed first hand the tireless efforts of the Wine Board, the dedication and passion of the tourist and travel organizations in supporting the industry and hard work of every winery and vineyard owner to tell Oregon's amazing story. And I could not help but wonder how my late friend, the great Cole Danehower, would have reacted. Although, in truth, we all know he would have simply smiled, responded with gracious respect and made a mental note to redouble his efforts to preach the wine gospel.
I probably should have prefaced this by saying that I have spent the past two weeks immersed in the activities of the the Olympic Trials just completed. Every day I had a chance to talk, serve wine and interact with people from all over the country and it provided some wonderful insight into how others see this Oregon Wine family. For the most part, it was truly rewarding. Escorting groups on a wine tour, explaining the magic of the Willamette Valley, sipping really exceptional wines and getting to listen to their wine journeys. Wonderful experiences, all. So it barely fazed me when that sweet lady offered that observation. But...
Remember I said that was not the strangest thing I heard? Well, are you ready?
I give the gold medal to the gentleman sipping on his pint of local brew who offered the following opinion.... " I don't know why Oregon would bother to make wine. California is not that far to drive and you can get good wine there."
That shudder you just felt was Messieurs Danehower, Lett, Brooks, Sommer, Cooney and too many more, collectively rolling over in their grave.
So keep fighting the fight, my Industry friends. It is clear that for everyone who passionately produces great Oregon wines, there is a huge, untapped market. For those of you who lobby and legislate for greater accessibility and a better consumer experience, fight on. And for those of you in charge of the message, the marketing and advertising campaigns, the brand building.... Well let's just call it job security.