Photo: Kate Norris & Tom Monroe (Credit: Division Winemaking Co.)

The New Oregon Wine: Division Winemaking Company

A recent trip to Oregon demonstrated that there’s much more to the winemaking scene than Pinot Noir. There are some great Chardonnays (check out the 2014 vintage!), German, Alsatian, and Loire Valley varieties, and even experiments with Spanish grapes in the Columbia Gorge. (Mencia! Albarino!)

Within the state, there's a collective of young, passionate winemakers embracing a natural, less-interventionist winemaking philosophy similar to the iconclastic producers who have been rewriting the rules in California over the past ten years.  (Full credit to Jon Bonne’s must-read “The New California Wine” for inspiring the title and context of this e-mail.) This cadre of producers are exploring the unfound potential of Oregon's existing terroir and vineyards while producing distinctive wines that bristle with personality and move beyond the Pinot status quo.

Kate Norris and Tom Monroe are among this vanguard of Oregon winemakers, and as implied in their winery’s name, they represent a clean divide from the old guard of Oregon Pinot Noir producers. After college, Kate had worked at event planning firms and wineries across the U.S. and in France; Tom got turned onto wine after working in corporate finance for several years in San Francisco. After both leaving their jobs, Kate and Tom worked for wineries in the Loire Valley, Beaujolais, and Burgundy. Inspired by these wines, they moved to Oregon in 2010 to start Division Winemaking Company in order to produce similarly stylistic wines with modest alcohol, bright acidity, less extraction, and minimal manipulation.

A couple of years later, Tom started a production facility in southeast Portland on Division St. called the Southeast Wine Collective. He co-owns this along with the wine bar next door. The Southeast Wine Collective also serves as an co-op for several small-production winemakers; previous alumni include Scott and Dana Frank (Bow & Arrow Wines) and Barnaby and Olga Tuttle (Teutonic  Wine Company).

Division Winemaking Company produces Oregon and Washington wines from Gamay, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Cot, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Grenache (as well as Pinot Noir) from terroir-expressive vineyards, many of which are organic and/or biodynamic. The Gamay, Chenin Blanc, and Béton are reminiscent of their Beaujolais and Loire Valley counterparts, but still reflect the diverse geologies and soils of the Willamette Valley, Columbia Gorge, and southern Oregon. Food-friendly yet still serious, Division's wines are perfectly priced for a summer picnic but sophisticated enough for a culinary fête. Make sure to visit the winery and wine bar if you’re ever in SE Portland! Jonas Mendoza

Division 2015 Washington State Chenin Blanc "L'Isle Verte"

Tom Monroe spent some time working for wineries in the Loire Valley; you could say this is his domestic Chenin Blanc love letter from his previous travels there. From vines planted in the 70’s in the Willard Vineyard in Yakima, Washington, this wine impresses with ripe yellow peach, apricot, and quince flavors. The palate is sustained by bright acidity, and finishes with lush undertones of orange marmalade and honeysuckle. Jonas Mendoza

  • white
  • 26 in stock
  • $21.99

Division 2015 Gamay Les Petits Fers

Division Wine Co.'s 2015 releases are addictively delicious, starting with this blend of Gamay from four different vineyards in Eola-Amity, with some carbonic maceration, for a light, luscious, delicately floral and exuberantly fruity red wine. Notes of ripe strawberry and wild cherries, flecked with spicy wild rose and a hint of licorice root. Ariana Rolich

  • red
  • 21 in stock
  • $23.99

Division 2015 Béton (Cabernet Franc, Gamay, and Pi

Matured in concrete tanks (hence the French name "Béton" for the blend), this is a dangerously drinkable blend of mostly Cabernet Franc, but also Gamay Noir, Cot, and Pinot Noir. Reminiscent of the bistro wines that winemakers Kate Norris and Tom Monroe enjoyed while working in France several years ago, the grapes are sourced throughout southern Oregon (Applegate Valley mostly) and select vineyards in the Willamette Valley. Raspberry, cranberry, bell pepper and green peppercorn flavors mingle together with earthy and leafy undertones. Loire-Valley influenced, but straight-up Oregon.  Jonas Mendoza

  • rosé
  • 21 in stock
  • $24.99

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