The New Oregon Wine: Division Winemaking Company

7/29/16 -

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, Kate and Tom co-founded a production facility/wine bar in southeast Portland on Division St. called the Southeast Wine Collective. (Kate works as the general manager at the wine bar and events coordinator for private events in the winemaking facility). 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

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