GRASSROOTS AND GRAPEVINES
"In Burgundy, the wine community is in some ways very insular," says Tanna- hill, who recently left Archery Summit to found his own vineyard, Pearl, which will release its first bottles in 2003. "When you're sitting around with this wine community [in Oregon], it's not
a competition, it's a self-help seminar. It's rare to find people who say, 'Oh, that's proprietary knowledge.' There's a willingness to share and be open here that's made the industry grow up emotionally and in experience."
The best example of that esprit de corps is the Steamboat Conference, a two-session, winemakers-only workshop (emphatically no press allowed) held each summer in a secluded wilderness retreat. At the first session, winemakers bring in their best wines for tasting and peer critique. But it's the second session, when the winemakers bring in their worst wines for the same treatment, that was unheard of when the conference began informally about 20 years ago.
"Winemakers can say, 'I have this problem in my cellar, what can I do?' and then field suggestions," says Tannahill, adding that there are now similar seminars in California and New Zealand. "It's bettering the breed and it's a big reason why Oregon is considered to be at the cutting edge of Pinot Noirs. I think that's what Oregon is bringing to the winemaking table."