Slow Wine 2019: California expands and Oregon debuts

With more than 50 estates added to this year’s California guide and 50 estates appearing in the debut edition of the Oregon guide, the 2019 Slow Wine guide covers more ground than ever before. 

The Slow Wine Guide to the Wines of California and Oregon 2019 is the fruit of a team of highly talented and dedicated tasters, wine writers, and editors. Without their “boots on the ground” during the summer and fall of 2018, the greatly expanded book simply wouldn’t have been possible. And its spirit is infused by their passion and devotion to their work.

Thanks to their efforts, the number of California wineries in this year’s guide has expanded greatly and is nearly double with respect to last year’s.

And for the first time, we are publishing profiles of 50 Oregon wineries.

From the outset, our editor-in-chief Giancarlo Gariglio never intended the guides, whether for California or Oregon, to be perceived as “exhaustive” or “comprehensive.” In fact, the project will only continue to grow and evolve over the years. And we are really pleased with the results of this year’s survey of the Californian viticultural landscape, with more than 50 new wineries added.

Our Oregon team, guided by the leading expert on Oregon wine today, Michael Alberty, debuts with 50 estates. It’s our hope and goal to expand that number with the 2020 edition as well.

With decades of experience in fine wine writing and solid roots in the Oregon wine community, Michael was the natural choice to lead our Oregon panel of tasters. From the Willamette Valley tour he organized for Giancarlo, to the panel tasting he put together and the team of field contributors he assembled, he’s made the inaugural Oregon guide a unique and benchmark entry in the state’s wine media coverage. His profound knowledge of Oregon wine country is difficult to rival and it was wonderful — and wonderful fun — to watch him dive into the project with his signature verve and gusto. His groovy energy was reflected in the winemakers’ embrace of our undertaking.

This year’s California team included for the first time Deborah Parker Wong, who, like Michael, is a longtime veteran of the American wine trade. She’s also an admired educator, expert taster, and one of the most talented wine writers focusing on California today. Her insights and field knowledge also proved instrumental in expanding the number of wineries featured this year. And her skills as a highly experienced wine writer and taster bolstered the overarching tenor of the book. But perhaps most importantly — and it’s worth sharing here — her esprit de corps helped give the guide just the right tone.

It’s our hope that readers of last year’s guide will enjoy the many new features in the 2019 edition.

Each 2019 profile includes for the first time an index of growing and winemaking practices, including applicable and current certification. The guide covers a wide range of growers and among those, many employ organic or biodynamic practices but do not have organic or biodynamic certification. In the final entry for each profile, the certifications are clearly listed. Where no certification was available, our editors have entered n/a for non-applicable.

With this year’s publication, we’ve also included figures for each estate’s acreage planted to vine, total number of bottles produced, number of bottles produced for each wine tasted, and a suggested retail price for each wine tasted.

Last year’s guide mostly omitted “urban” estates and négociant wineries (who own no vineyards but source fruit from growers). But this edition includes a legion of winemakers, from Berkeley to San Diego, for whom zero acres planted to vine are reported. It’s one of the few ways the California and Oregon guides diverge from their Italian and Slovenian counterparts.

Because of the youth of its wine industry, there are significantly fewer “legacy” and “family” estates that have been handed down over generations in the American west. The high cost of land in California, for example, makes it nearly impossible for young winemakers to plant their own vineyards — an expensive enterprise that takes years to develop. As a result, some of the best wines produced in California today are made by progressive winemakers who buy all the fruit they vinify. As a team, we concurred that heir exclusion would deliver an imbalanced survey of California viticulture today.

The “we” of this year’s guide included some extremely gifted west coast wine professionals. Some were sommeliers and wine professionals employed in different sectors of the trade, others were wine educators and wine writers and wine bloggers. The one thing they all share is a passion for and devotion to American wine and the Slow Food and Slow Wine movements. Their labor amoris, their toil, and their dedication to our mission were indispensible in gathering and organizing the data. And their hand in writing the book gave it a wonderfully vibrant spectrum of tasting notes and profiles.

Giancarlo and I can’t thank them enough.

But even more importantly, our heartfelt thanks goes out to the grape growers and winemakers, across California and Oregon, who opened their doors to them, opened their bottles for them, and shared their lives and livelihoods with them. We couldn’t have done it without their support.

 

Jeremy Parzen

Coordinating Editor for North America