“I was going to play shortstop for the Dodgers or Mariners, but couldn’t hit a curveball, so bailed on that plan. And being a 5’10” white guy who can’t dribble with my left hand, basketball was out, too. So I decided to try and create some added value at the family farm,” says Jesse Lange, recently explaining how he became the head winemaker and GM at Lange Winery.
He farms with his parents, Don and Wendy Lange, who started the winery in 1987 with their first vintage of three varietals: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay – all three of which continue to be their focus.
Lange Winery has been praised as one of the best from industry publications such as Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, as well as Wine and Spirits Magazine, who named them “Winery of the Year” for 2012. El Gaucho Portland is pleased to host a winemaker dinner with Jesse on May 17th at 6:30 pm, to showcase a few of his incredible wines. Guests will be taken through a special 5-course El Gaucho menu, created specifically to highlight the Lange wines, including 2011 Reserve Pinot Gris, 2011 Three Hills Chardonnay, 2011 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, 2009 Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir, and the 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir.
Jesse and his team focus on small, artisanal winemaking, focusing on quality, not quantity. “Hopefully, our wines reveal a fervent commitment to growing the appropriate grape varieties in the appropriate place. I’d like our wines to have impeccable balance and to be great matches with food,” Jesse explains.
That impeccable balance was also sought by El Gaucho’s culinary team to create a stunning menu for the evening. Dinner guests will dine on seared diver scallops, Columbia River salmon, and, of course, El Gaucho’s signature – steak.
“The New York steak paired with the 2009 Freedom Hill Pinot Noir should be a stunning match – this is my favorite beef wine that I craft,” Jesse said.
When asked what Jesse is attracted to about wine, his answer was simple: “That it comes from the earth – we grow it, craft it, and when it’s done properly, its highest honor is bringing good friends and family together around the table to share great food. It’s something that humans have been doing for a millinea.”
Jesse considers himself a “blue collar” winemaker, by studying wine and working his way up to his present position. He earned a scholarship through Oregon State University to study Viticulture and Enology at Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1999. He also spent two years working under winemaker Bruce McQuire at Santa Barbara Winery, before going “home” to work with his family, which he finds extremely satisfying; that, and bringing in a year’s worth of farming into the cellar and crafting a world-class product.
We’ll drink to that!