Food & Drink

With a little effort, one can savor fine Oregon wines locally

Finding wines from Oregon in the Bellingham area can be a bit tricky. I have a couple of theories on why that is, the first being our small population, which doesn’t provide enough market demand for retailers to justify large inventories of Oregon wines.

The second and probably more logical explanation is that many of the wineries in Oregon are small, family-owned operations, so most of their wines are sold in nearby wine shops and grocers. That helps the winery maintain a strong, local presence while holding distribution costs to a minimum.

That doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t enjoy decent Oregon wines in Whatcom County. For example, The Vines wine shop in Bellingham has a small but nice selection of Oregon wines in a specially designated area.During my last visit, proprietor Mike Petersen recommended a 2006 Pinot Noir from Lange Estate Winery (about $22) that I really enjoyed. It’s definitely more of a New World, rather than an Old World, pinot, meaning it’s a bit more fruit forward than some of its European counterparts.

It has nice touches of plum and bright cherry on the finish, and will pair well with a pork or duck entrée. The Willamette Valley winery is one of many in Oregon that has earned Oregon Certified Sustainable status because of its responsible growing practices.

The Vines also frequently carries wines from Abacela Winery, in southern Oregon. I went online to the winery’s Web site and discovered something called Vintner’s Blend #8, which I thought might be interesting to try. Before I ordered it myself, I called Petersen, and although the wine wasn’t in stock, he was able to have it in his shop for me to pick up within two days, saving me the shipping charges. It’s a great example how local retailers can sometimes assist you in ordering a wine that might not be on the shelves. All you need to do is ask.

The wine, by the way, turned out to be terrific. It’s a blend of several red grape varietals, and although I wasn’t able to track down what they were (syrah, sangiovese, and cabernet, most likely, for starters), it tasted so good that I really didn’t care. I’d call it a veritable berry bonanza, with ample tannins and a good dash of acidity. At about $15 a bottle, it’s a great deal.