We all know about dollar beers and thirsty Thursday, but did you forget about Merlot Monday?
On Oct. 22, seven students plus Nutritional Anthropologist Dr. Geraldine Moreno, her husband Ed, and Fullbright Scholar Pissamai Homchampa drove to King Estate Winery for a tour and wine tasting.
It takes 30 minutes to get there from Eugene, but the drive through the autumn-colored hillside is beautiful. By the time we approached the 1,033 acre property, the air was dark and frigid. The lights from King Estate beckoned us inside.
We met our hostess, Gwen, who welcomed us with a glass of Acrobat Pinot Gris, light, citrusy, and refreshing and the Signature Pinot Gris, which is more complex. Both white wines are delicious and best paired with shellfish, cream sauce, or chicken.
Next we tried the Acrobat Rose, a Pinot Noir and great food wine. Before fermentation, the grapes cold soak which releases some color and flavor and infuses the wine with a beautiful pink hue.
We were lucky enough to be able to tour the winery and see this process first-hand. King Estate produces approximately 260,000 cases per year and their bottling room can process more than 60 bottles per minute- corked, labeled, and ready to go. They run an efficient operation and are said to be the number one pinot gris glass pourer in the United States.
All King Estate grapes are certified organic by the Oregon Tilth Association. They grow two-thirds pinot gris, one-third pinot noir and source the rest from 30 other vineyards in the northwest.
In addition to being organic, King Estate has implemented many sustainable and community-minded practices. They use the fruit from their orchards to make preserves and donate leftovers to Food for Lane County. They also work with the Cascades Raptor Center to harbor birds of prey on the orchard. These birds scare away rodents and smaller birds, so it is a win-win situation.
In July of 2012, King Estate completed their solar panels project. Spanning four acres, these panels generate one mega-watt, enough energy to power 300 homes for a year. King Estate’s owner Ed King says he chose to do the project because it met the winery’s long-term sustainability efforts.
At the end of the tour, Gwen led us to the basement to see the oak barrel fermentation room. The cellar workers were shoveling grapes into giant vats. I asked if they planned to stomp the grapes I Love Lucy style, but they just laughed. King Estate uses a mechanized system to disrupt the grapes that float to the top. This process, like grape stomping, releases the juices and begins fermentation.
“The tour was amazing! I had no idea how big their winery is and how many acres there are,” said Co-President Janet Avila-Medina. We said goodbye over a glass of dessert wine and then headed back to Eugene.