Wine lovers – This is summer camp done right!
Oregon Pinot Camp is an invitation-only annual event in the heart of Oregon wine country. This June, El Gaucho Portland’s wine director Katie Lasley and Kevin Westbrook, wine director for El Gaucho Tacoma, were among more than 270 wine professionals from around the country selected to enjoy this deep dive into Oregon’s premier wine region.
Campers spent time with top winemakers learning about the history, process and personalities behind growing Pinot Noir in Oregon. Katie says, “What a whirlwind of knowledge, experimentation, ideas, acceptance and continual learning. I am proud to say that in my own backyard of the Willamette Valley live some of the bravest, smartest, most mindful winemakers and vineyard managers in the world.”
In addition to tours and tastings, there were workshop sessions to teach the attendees about all the factors that go into making Oregon Pinot Noir unique. The session that most impacted Katie was on the second day where campers heard a lecture about sustainability and biodynamics from Bill Sweat of Winderlea Vineyards and Geoff Hall from Argyle. There is a lot of experiment is going on in the Willamette Valley to continue to become more sustainable in all their business practices. Katie says, “The concept of “no till” farming was fascinating with the idea that fertilizing the plants actually has a negative effect leading the vines dependent while, if left on their own, the plant will dig deeper to get the nutrients they need and we can neutralize use of fertilizers and stop erosion in the vineyards.”
Biodynamic agriculture is a form of alternative agriculture very similar to organic farming, but it includes various esoteric concepts drawn from the ideas of Rudolf Steiner. Steiner not only had a mission to create sustainable farming practices but also has ideas of how this should fit into other aspects of your business and your life. Katie described a further discussion with Bill Sweat of Winderlea, “His philosophy to become sustainable in all ways in his business, including products he uses, vendors he partners with, hiring practices and reducing our carbon footprint proved the most fascinating conversation I had at OPC.”
Katie and Kevin left inspired and grateful for their time with other wine professionals. These discussions with peers keeps them open to new ideas as well as ambitious to get back and apply their new knowledge to the wine lists and share with their team and guests. Katie wraps it up this way, “I can’t wait to return and continue to shape El Gaucho Portland’s wine list giving a chance to many Oregon Wineries to show off their wines where they belong- with great food! I am also very inspired by the general risk-taking and fortitude of the wine-making community and their continued efforts to run fair, ethical, sustainable, thoughtful businesses. I come back from the Valley grateful that I work for El Gaucho, a business that reflects those same values. I continue to be passionate with some new information and ideas to continue forward with vigor and continue to make choices that impact El Gaucho Portland in a sustainable way.”
Kevin and Katie would like to express their appreciation for the warm welcome they received from Grace and Ken Evenstad at Domaine Serene. Katie describes them as “true adventurers whose determination has resulted in absolutely world class Pinot Noir and a shining beacon of what Willamette Valley wines can be at their best.”
Please visit Katie at El Gaucho Portland and Kevin at El Gaucho Tacoma to find out more about their trip to Oregon Pinot Camp and taste some of their favorites.