Now in its 29th year the ¡Salud! Oregon Pinot Noir Auction is a prime example of how a wine region can keep its key workers alive and well. Although the world sees many wine auctions, with exclusive cuvées and formats up for grabs in an auction setting, rarely is it tied into a free healthcare programme that is providing 2,500 vineyard workers and their families with the healthcare and outreach they need – especially important this year during the pandemic. LM Archer looks at this unique programme as well as picks out key wines from this year’s auction that is operating online until November 16 and gives a first look at the 2019 ‘throwback’ cool vintage.
“Now in its 29th year, the ¡Salud! auction allows vintners to present their best wines, and efforts, to bidders. But it also provides an opportunity to celebrate Oregon’s winemaking community,” writes Archer.
¡Salud! The Oregon Pinot Noir Auction opens online bidding this year from November 9-16. The premium wine auction showcases exclusive 2019 cuvées unavailable elsewhere. All proceeds benefit ¡Salud! Services vineyard worker healthcare program, including no-cost Covid-19 testing.
Dundee, Ore. – goes online this pandemic year, with bidder paddles available at no cost to participants. All proceeds benefit the , part of Tuality Healthcare Foundation, servicing Oregon’s vineyard workers.
¡Salud! Cuvée Big Board Auction on November 9-11 presented one-of-a-kind wines crafted by 36 members of the Vintners Circle which, at the time of posting, has raised $204,600. In addition, a Silent Auction runs concurrently with the Live Auction November 13-16. Both proffer uncommon large formats, Chardonnays, and speciality lots, plus a host of carefully curated custom experiences. Auction Week culminates in a livestream Live Gala on Saturday, November 14 at 7 pm PST.
To prime bidders’ palates, Auction Week rolled out a series of virtual conversations with members of The Vintners Circle from November 9-11. Six different panels comprised of six winemakers discussed the 2019 vintage, tasting notes, and the importance of ¡Salud! Services.
One such panel included Chris Hermann, proprietor of , David Millman, managing director of , Michael Fay, director of winemaking and viticulture for , Anna Campbell, creative director, and associate winemaker Heather Perkin of , Bryan Weil, winemaker at , and Bill Sweat, co-founder of .
“There’s just always something so special about this moment every year,“ says David Millman. “It’s just like such a marker in the wine season for all of us.”
Founded in 1991 by a prominent group of Oregon winemakers and physicians, including Nancy Ponzi of Ponzi Vineyards, Paul Hart of Rex Hill Vineyards, and Dr. Robert Gross of Cooper Mountain Vineyards, ¡Salud! wine auction draws inspiration from Burgundy’s Hospices de Beaune. The ¡Salud!heathcare program, however, proves totally unique. A bicultural, bilingual mobile unit logs 6,000 mile a year bringing health and dental care to vineyard workers in the field, including no-cost Covid-19 testing. Unlike other healthcare programs, ¡Salud! requires no documentation, insurance coverage, or proof of payment. Funded entirely by philanthropic donations, the auction proves a vital source of its income.
“It’s incredible to see the growth of ¡Salud!,” says Anna Campbell of Elk Cove Vineyards. “And in 2020, more than any other year, we really relied on ¡Salud! just to keep farming. Early on in the pandemic, we had a tractor worker test positive, and without ¡Salud!, that could have put us back 10 to 14 days.They really helped us get testing for everyone.” Elk Cove also utilised the program during harvest, when an out-of-state worker with a non-Covid medical issue needed help. “We turned to ¡Salud! They were able to help us, so it’s all facets.”
“We’re super grateful to ¡Salud! for keeping our vineyard workers healthy – not just this year, but every single year,” adds Michael Fay of Domaine Serene. “The real heavy lifting of growing Pinot Noir is is done in the vineyard, and it’s done by the the the vineyard workers. I’ve never worked in a wine industry before that had something like ¡Salud! to help support vineyard workers from all over the world who come to grow grapes for us here in the Willamette Valley.”
Winemakers describe the 2019 as a nod to earlier cooler vintages. “I think this is our 20th time participating, and this is, as far as I know, the first time ever that we’ll be doing our ¡Salud! cuvée from Jerusalem Hill Vineyard,” says Fay.“We selected the Jerusalem Hill Vineyard specifically for this vintage, because 2019 was a kind of a return to cool climate for us here throughout the whole the Willamette Valley – the first cool vintage we’ve had since 2013.”
“It was a warm growing season for the most part, but definitely cooled down,” concurs Bryan Weil of Rain Dance. “It kind of had that beautiful hang time that we really love here in Oregon. That hang time, I think, really got us some great physiological ripeness, while maintaining really good acidity and lower alcohol.”
Now in its 29th year, the ¡Salud! auction allows vintners to present their best wines, and efforts, to bidders. But it also provides an opportunity to celebrate Oregon’s winemaking community. “When I arrived in in 2004, I picked up Veronique’s father Robert at the airport [from Burgundy] about a week after I had moved to Oregon,” recalls David Millman. “Within 20 minutes of driving from Portland back to Dayton, he had laid it out very clearly how important it was to him that we make sure that the local community understands how important they are to the family – that the welcome that they had received in the mid 1980s was foundational.”
“I just love that that was the first thing he wanted me to know,” Millman concludes. “That the people in Oregon, whether it’s the vineyard workers or colleagues, whoever, that these are the people that matter most to the family. That’s where it starts. So, yeah a lot a lot of memories are tied up in ¡Salud! And I’m glad that there are many more to come.”
2020 ¡Salud! Cuvée Pinot Noir tasting notes
Domaine Drouhin Oregon 2020 ¡Salud! The Pinot Noir Auction Cuvée
Vintage: 2019/ Vineyard: Domaine Drouhin/ AVA: Dundee Hills/ Soils: Volcanic Jory
Producer notes: “It was great that we could get Véronique and her brother Philippe into the country for the harvest this year. This year, she found two pieces that she thought were just beautiful together, something really unique, because we want the ¡Salud! cuvée to be a thousand percent unique and special for the buyers.”
She took a small piece from a block of ours planted in 2002, sort of mid-elevation, and another block that was planted in 2008 just to the west of us, a piece of land that we have adjacent to the estate, and combined that. There was just a bit of magic that happened. The texture of this is lovely…amazing length on the palate – certainly lots of red fruit, and all the deliciousness you want, and longevity ahead. Just a really lovely wine, with subtlety, and nuance, with a lot of detail, precision, and just super exciting,” says David Millman.
00 Wines 2020 ¡Salud! Cuvée Pinot Noir
Vintage: 2019/ Vineyard: Hyland Vineyard– old vine/ AVA: McMinnville/ Soils: Volcanic Jory
Producer notes: “For this particular cuvée, we employed a very special method of production. When the clusters came in, we snipped each individual berry off of each cluster, took those intact individual berries, and put them in a 500-litre clay amphora fermenter. That very porous clay allowed a lot of oxygenation during fermentation, so that the tannin structure is there, but they’re very much softened, because the clay is porous.”
The combination of that individual berry-snipping and amphora fermentation causes the enzymes inside each berry to really start processing the fruit, so it extracts the beautiful perfumed notes of the inside of the of the Pinot Noir berry and, because the wine is low alcohol, those shine through beautifully in this 2019 vintage,” says Chris Hermann.
Domaine Serene 2020 ¡Salud! The Pinot Noir Auction Cuvée
Vintage: 2019/ Vineyard: Jerusalem Hill/ AVA: Eola-Amity Hills/ Soils: Woodburn sedimentary soils
Producer notes: “I specifically selected the Jerusalem Hill because, in the cool little vintage, it was actually our ripest site. So it has the most ripe characters, the most expression. It’s more savoury – leather, spicy, and it’s more rich and concentrated than some of the wines from some of our other vineyards,” says Michael Fay.
Elk Cove Vineyards 2020 ¡Salud! The Pinot Noir Auction Cuvée
Vintage: 2019/ Vineyard: La Bohéme/ AVA: Yamhill-Carlton/ Soils: Willakenzie
Producer notes: “There’s so many layers and density and flavour, you can just sink into the glass of wine, and enjoy all the different moments, from the beginning to the end. Lots of chocolate, leather, black fruit, violets on the nose, and just a very long palate. Super, super silky, a little bit of velvet, and some really pretty oak just hinting at the end,” says Heather Perkin.
Rain Dance Vineyards 2020 ¡Salud! The Pinot Noir Auction Cuvée
Vintage: 2019/ Vineyard: Rain Dance/ AVA: Laurelwood/ Soils: Windblown loess
Producer notes: “I selected actually six barrels, Pommard and 777 dominant, and a small amount of new oak,” says Bryan Weil. “Some great natural acidity, some great fruit flavors. The tannins are really evolved – a lot of great rich flavors, without being too big,” says Bryan Weil.
Winderlea Vineyard and Winery 2020 ¡Salud! The Pinot Noir Auction Cuvée
Vintage: 2019/ Vineyard: Winderlea Estate – Biodynamic Demeter certified/ AVA: Dundee Hills/ Soils: Volcanic Jory
Producer notes: “This wine has really beautiful raspberry, cherry, chamomile and orange zest aromatics. In the mouth, cherry, raspberry and strawberry, followed by bay leaf and some chanterelle – some nice mushroom-umami character, and then it finishes with silky tannins, but with a nice acid structure. So for us, it ticks all the boxes,” says Bill Sweat.