I Love Gamay festival helps kick off Oregon Wine Month

By on May 1, 2019
Jay Drysdale of Bella Wines in Naramata, British Columbia, pops the cap on his 2017 Mariani Vineyard Sparkling Gamay, which is made with clone 509. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

Oregon Wine Month kicks off this week, and yet the third annual I Love Gamay multi-day festival in Portland takes on some British Columbia flavor as sparkling wine producer Bella Wines joins in.

“I sourced them out as I couldn’t imagine a better festival to celebrate such a beautiful grape,” Naramata Bench bubbleman Jay Drysdale texted Great Northwest Wine.

Of course, much of Oregon has become branded by Pinot Noir, but there’s a rippling undercurrent of interest and growing support for Gamay Noir. In addition to Bella Wines, one of Canada’s cult producers, Washington, California and French producers also will be involved in the Friday-Saturday-Sunday-Monday soiree.

It begins with The Gamay Soiree at 6 p.m. Friday at The Parlour at The Nightwood, where corks will first be pulled on Gamay both still and sparkling. Cost for that event orchestrated by Sunday School is $60 and includes appetizers.

“I will be pouring both clones of Mariani Vineyard and the estate Gamay pét nats,” Drysdale said. ” I’m looking forward to visiting the natural wine scene in Portland.”

Gamay rooted in Oregon since 1987

Kate Norris, co-founder of Division Wine Co., and Southeast Wine Collective in Portland, is a proponent for Gamay production in Oregon. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

Interest in the grape throughout the Northwest has been reflected in Seattle’s support for the Beaujolais Nouveau Wine Festival, which will toast the variety for the 27th time on Nov. 22 at the tony Columbia Tower Club.

Amity Vineyards founding winemaker Myron Redford is credited for supporting the Beaujolais Nouveau concept early on in Oregon. The Seattle native produced his first wine in the Willamette Valley — which he dubbed Pinot Noir Nouveau — in 1976. He didn’t begin growing Gamay Noir until 1987. Redford sold Amity Vineyard to Ryan Harms of Union Wine Co., in 2014.

Saturday brings what is billed the Gamay Field Trip ($150), which includes a vineyard walk, tour and tasting in Newberg at iconic Brick House. Well-spoken Doug Tunnell helped blaze trails for both Gamay and Biodynamic wine production with Brick House, planting Gamay in 1992, two years after he established Pinot Noir.

Leading the tour will be Chevonne Ball of Dirty Radish, and Tom Monroe, co-owner of Division Wine Co. and Southeast Wine Collective in Portland. Monroe and Kate Norris have been at the forefront of the recent Gamay movement and their work prompted Wine Press Northwest magazine to name them its 2015 Oregon Winery to Watch.

On Sunday, The Nightwood opens up the Gamay Tasting Salon for more than 25 wineries to pour from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. They include Grochau Cellars / Hanson Vineyards / Vincent Wine Co. / Duck Pond Cellars / Cooper Mountain Vineyards / Ayres / Division Winemaking Co. / Anne Amie Vineyards / Love & Squalor / Craft Wine Co. / Stedt Winegrowers /  Evening Lands Vineyard / Brickhouse / Chehalem Wines / Edumunds St John / Failla Wines / Bow & Arrow / Walter Scott / Pray Tell / Cascadia Wine Imports / Syncline Winery / Andrew Rich Wines / WillaKenzie Estate / Boedecker Cellars / Terroirs Originels / August Cellars/ Burton Bittman Wines / Hundred Suns Wines / Maison Jean Loron / Bjornson / Bella Wines / Becky Wasserman & Co.

Monday turns more thoughtful with a seminar titled Between Two Barrels: Wine & Conversation ($30) at Coopers Hall from 4-6 p.m. Ball returns as a panelist joining Steve Edmunds, winemaker/owner of Edmunds St. John in Berkeley, Calif.; Andy Fortgang, co-owner/wine director of Le Pigeon in Portland; and Paul Gregutt, contributing editor for Wine Enthusiast.

About Eric Degerman

Eric Degerman is the president and CEO of Great Northwest Wine. He is a journalist with more than 30 years of daily newspaper experience and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest with Andy Perdue and served as its managing editor for 15 years. He is a frequent wine judge along the West Coast.

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