SECOND TO NONE
By Viki Eierdam
As the Willamette Valley’s world-class reputation continues to attract entrepreneurs, artisans and corporate wine brands, the region’s founders remain the glue, the storytellers offering their unique perspective on a place that prides itself on authenticity and community.
These pioneering families laid the groundwork for collaboration in the 1970s, and that ideal continues in the children who grew up witnessing the birth of an industry. Two years ago, three of those families proposed a project to celebrate the second generation: the 2017 2GV, a Pommard clone Pinot Noir cuvée. Now, it’s ready to enjoy.
Family members at Ponzi Vineyards, Elk Cove Vineyards and Sokol Blosser Winery had been meeting regularly to talk about the challenges and successes, and bounce ideas off one another on a variety of topics, from human resources to marketing, to vineyard plantings, etc. It was during one of these meetings that 2GV was born.
The collaboration stars sibling pairs Alex and Alison Sokol Blosser, Adam and Anna Campbell of Elk Cove, and Maria and Luisa Ponzi. In order to properly convey their shared story, they agreed to a baseline of Pommard and to choose an original site from their parent’s plantings. Elk Cove and Ponzi chose sites planted in 1985. Due to phylloxera, Sokol Blosser’s 1971 block was replanted in 2007.
“These were sites only our parents and ourselves have worked with,” Luisa says. “We’ve never sold the fruit so we have never seen anyone else work with it. To see what I could do with Elk Cove and Sokol Blosser fruit was really exciting.”
The process started with harvest at the three sites: La Bohème (Elk Cove), Madrona Vineyard (Ponzi), and Old Vineyard Block (Sokol Blosser); each represents a different AVA — Yamhill-Carlton, Chehalem Mountains and Dundee Hills, respectively. The winemakers made a total of nine wines, each working with the fruit from all three sites. After tasting through the wines to determine the final blend for 2GV, the results were affirming.
“The techniques used were all different,” Luisa says. “As we talked about how we each approached the winemaking, it became pretty interesting! Most gratifying was that the wine made by the winemaker from their own site was always the superior wine. It solidified the value in working with one vineyard, in the same family, year after year, after year, and knowing the site so well.”
Alex shared a similar reaction on the creative aspect of 2GV. “We’ve known each other for quite some time, and finally working on a wine together came quite naturally. We’ve never sold our estate Pinot Noir to anyone before, so to see how another winemaker would handle our fruit was fascinating.”
Employing their gift of storytelling, Elk Cove, Ponzi and Sokol Blosser have taken 2GV on the road. Their first stop was New York City. Luisa says the room filled with top accounts and media arrived armed with good questions. They’ve received an invitation to present this seminar at the 2020 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen and plan to host events in Chicago and San Francisco later this year, as well.
Ponzi hosted a tasting seminar in May, and one is scheduled at Sokol Blosser this month and Elk Cove in July. Guests taste through the nine components of the wine — each winemaker crafting a bottle from each vineyard site — and the final product. It’s also an opportunity to talk about the birth of wine in the Valley, the experience of growing up in the industry and where this group hopes it will be in the next 50 years.
In total, 300 cases of the 2017 2GV Pinot Noir were made, with 150 cases earmarked for charities dear to the hearts of all three wineries. The final blend represented 36% Ponzi; 32% Elk Cove; and 32% Sokol Blosser.
Alex says, “The resulting 2GV wine is starting to show a lot of complexity, not only stemming from three different winemaking styles, but three different soil types: volcanic, marine sedimentary and wind-blown [loess].”
Throughout the project, the six friends reminisced plenty over childhood memories during meetings filled with as much laughter as items on the agenda. Luisa likens the group to distant cousins who have a shared experience not typical of their peers. In this circle, they’ve found a unique camaraderie, growing up among the vines, in the cellars and the tasting rooms.
Although there are other second-generation wineries in the Valley, Elk Cove, Sokol Blosser and Ponzi also have compatibility in their continued determination to continue to invest in vineyard plantings, winery and tasting room facilities, growing as they go. This strategy has given them wider national and international distribution opportunities, allowing them to spread the word about Willamette Valley wine.
And yet, what bonds the three wineries goes much deeper than any shared business approach.
Luisa says, “There’s a very genuine and intriguing story about families who have been here from the very beginning. We’re still making wines and are family-owned and operated. Making a wine was the best way to tell that story and show the strength of that experience.”
Purchase your own bottle of 2017 2GV ($100) at one of the three tasting rooms or online.
“Most gratifying was that the wine made by the winemaker from their own site was always the superior wine. It solidified the value in working with one vineyard, in the same family, year after year, after year, and knowing the site so well.”