Recently, I was searching in a wine department in MI, and I found the most interesting thing. I came upon several varieties produced by a winery called Elk Cove in Oregon. As I stated to pet the bottle (yes, this is something I do), it brought back fond memories of my travels.
Wine (in fact, all beverages) have an incredible internal response for me. When I see a label, it instantly brings a flood of memories linked to experiences. I’m the type of person that has trouble remembering names of people or places. However, show me something related to it, and I can tell you what time it was, what we were doing, what we ate or drank, etc. Beverages just seem to touch my heart in a unique way.
As I stroke the bottle (get your minds out of the gutter), two thoughts crossed my mind:
- It’s hard to find a good selection of Elk Cove other than their Pinot Noir. They are a small producer, so they tend not to ship out smaller production wines. Being able to find their Pinot Gris, Riesling along with other varietals is a great find (especially in MI).
- Every time I drink something, a little light bulb goes off in my mind. It helps me to store the information related to the wine but the experience around it. I was drawn back to my visit there years ago.
My Oregon Trip
I went with one of my Colleagues from the University of South Carolina during my time working there. It was one of those moments where we did not have much of a plan. Every day, I mapped out an area to explore in Willamette (and that is pronounced Willamette as in saying Dammit as I was taught) and we would go to 4-5 wineries each day. I call it ‘ground and pound’ as we would:
- Go to each winery,
- see what they have,
- try all their reserve wines that you cannot purchase, and
- talk with as many people that work there to get the feel of the winery and learn their background of what makes them special.
When you go to any wine country, the big question is what winery do you visit? You can review websites and talk with people who have been to the region. The problem is, most of the time you get directed to the bigger wineries that have more marketing. There is nothing wrong with this (do not write me to complain). I want to visit these, but I want to also see the smaller producers. The goal is to visit the entire region.
Visiting the region is about exploring the region for its unique value. For example, everyone wants to go to Napa (and you should…it’s amazing). However, most people do not realize how big the valley is with multiple sub-regions and diverse offerings. This is what I love to learn about. I want to see what every winery is doing in the region (big and small). I want to learn about the climates and what makes them special. Anyone that makes wine has incredible passion, vision and drive and I want to explore that aspect with them.
We chose Elk Cove for the first visit of that day. It was a bit of a drive to get there from Portland. As I’m driving, I’m wondering if I made a good decision to visit them. Is this going to be worth the drive? What is the wine like? Will it be a good experience? What am I able to learn deeper about their products? I’m looking for inside knowledge on the decision making, etc. Again, I’m trying to discover what makes this winery special.
We were not disappointed. First, we had travelled during our Spring break. By luck, we had arrived in the area when all the cherry trees were blooming. I must admit, it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Some of the trees looked like pillows that you could float in. The pictures do not do it justice.
Second, there is nothing like driving up to a winery just as it opens and seeing mist hanging out in the fields. We arrived during bud break. That is when the vines start to grow and produce new buds for the year’s growth. It’s amazing to see little green buds exploding from the dormant vines. Did I mention it was about 60 F? Just perfect weather to start the experience.
We go in and we were able to taste their wines and received a quick tour of the facility by the winemaker. The broad range was amazing with depth and several nuances that I had not experienced at other wineries. I still remember each one and the thought process by the winemaker for each. I purchased a few bottles and then took multiple pictures outside before leaving to go to the next place. That hour and half spent there is still etched in my memory. Writing this article and looking at the pictures of the visit bring back incredible emotions.
Standing in MI and touching the bottles instantly brought back that time like it was yesterday.
Never forget the power that a beverage can have in your life and memories.
I’ve been told that touching a bottle in the store and staring at it silently for a few seconds is weird. It must look a little strange now that I think about it. For me, I’m reliving a moment of my past. I’m reminiscing about a great experience where I was able to travel, meet new people, learn, and grow. Most of all, its about how something so simple is tied to our emotions.
Always take that moment when you are visiting or sampling to get to the core. Later on, when that memory comes back, you will be smiling as well.