When Bill Blosser and Susan Sokol Blosser planted their first vines in 1971 in the Dundee Hills, there was virtually no wine industry in Oregon. With a lot of hard work and determination, the young couple turned an abandoned prune orchard into a thriving vineyard. They planted the persnickety pinot noir grape -- a gutsy move for two people who possessed more passion than experience in a community where everyone was learning the ropes at the same time.
But they persevered and succeeded in a big way. Their first vintage, produced in 1977, was a success. Today, with more than 400 wineries throughout Oregon, Bill and Susan are considered legends in the Oregon wine industry, and their pinot noir wines are considered world-class.
From the start, the Sokol Blossers were aware of the effect that grape-growing and wine production have on the environment. Today, siblings Alison and Alex Sokol Blosser, the co-presidents, continue to honor their parents' commitment to the environment through their certified organic farming practices and sustainable business practices. In 2002, Sokol Blosser became the first winery in the United States to receive LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification. Last year, the winery became certified by Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine.
According to the Organic Consumers Association, a wine can be labeled "Organic" and bear the USDA organic seal when it is made from organically grown grapes and provides information about who the certifying agency is. In addition to using only organic fruit -- grapes that are grown using only natural fertilizers and strict farming methods -- wine in this category cannot have any added sulfites. They may contain naturally occurring sulfites, but the total sulfite level must be less than 20 parts per million.
If you subscribe to the theory that it is always good to know exactly what is in your wine, then here are some delicious organic choices from one of Oregon's oldest and most respected wineries. Retail prices are approximate.
One of my favorite white wines coming out of Oregon is pinot gris, and the 2011 Sokol Blosser Willamette Valley Pinot Gris ($18) is an excellent example of how much pleasure this varietal can deliver. Willamette Valley has just the right combination of warm days and cool nights to bring out gorgeous aromas of ripe pear and honeysuckle on the nose, while showcasing flavors of white nectarine, lemon/lime citrus and green melon on the palate. The stylish finish is elegant, with a nice touch of acidity to keep the wine balanced. QPR 9
The 2011 Sokol Blosser Rose of Pinot Noir ($18) is a very versatile wine. (I sampled this wine with Indian food and it was a perfect match.) The wine is produced from 100 percent pinot noir grapes using the saignee method -- where the where the grape juices are bled away from the skins soon after the grapes are crushed, leaving the remaining juice with a pinkish hue. The bouquet offers vibrant aromas of fresh strawberries and red cherries on the nose, while flavors of strawberry, watermelon and ripe cherry linger on a super-crisp frame in the mouth. The wine finishes with a delightful note of minerality and crisp acidity. QPR 8.5
A classic example of Oregon pinot noir is the 2010 Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Noir ($38). It sports a perfumed nose of wild strawberries and bright cherries on the fragrant bouquet. Lush flavors of dark strawberry, red plum and cherry cola hit the tongue up front, then hints of mocha and toasty oak remain delicate and stylish all the way through to the charming finish. QPR 9
If a bolder-styled pinot is your preference, then I think the 2009 Sokol Blosser Estate Cuvee Pinot Noir ($60) might be your proverbial cup of tea. Produced from estate-grown fruit, the wine features perfumed scents of black cherry, raspberry and dried herbs. In the mouth, flavors of black plum, blueberry and black tea expand onto a supple frame. Notes of dried fig and dark cherry filter in on the back of the tongue, leading to a firm-but-pleasant finish. QPR 8.5
Note: QPR is a rating system that compares the quality a wine delivers relative to the price. A QPR of 10 is considered an excellent value.