Pinot Smack Down – Willamette Valley defends the Championship Title


What’s a Pinot Smack Down you say? It’s a knock-down, drag out, 24 hour global brawl over what region has the best Pinot Noir. Thousands of people from around the world join up on Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets for one 24 hour period to taste, review, and rate Pinot’s from their favorite regions. If you’re passionate about Pinot like me, then I’ll bet you were one of those thousands who stood up for their Pinot producing region to gain global recognition of what you believe to be the best of the best. Willamette Valley reigned supreme in the 1st Annual Pinot Smack Down as the 2010 Grand Champion, not at all to my surprise.

Oregon Pinot Noir grapes

Extremely difficult to manage, the Pinot Noir grape is the Noble red grape of Burgundy, France, but because of its capabilities of ripening in a cooler climate; with warm days, cool nights and occasional low lying fog, it’s also the ultimate red grape of Oregon. It is truly unpredictable and arduous, but it results in some of the most spectacular red wines in the world. It not only makes incredible red wine, but it’s used quite often in the production of Champagne. Aside from France & the U.S., it’s also grown in Germany, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Croatia, Serbia, Italy, Austria and parts of South America and South Africa.

I decided to use Twitter as my social media outlet for reaching out to other Pinot Smack Down enthusiasts. Not familiar with Twitter? Here is the definition, taken right off of their ‘About’ page:

Twitter is a real-time information network that connects you to the latest information about what you find interesting. Simply find the public streams you find most compelling and follow the conversations.At the heart of Twitter are small bursts of information called Tweets. Each Tweet is 140 characters in length, but don’t let the small size fool you—you can share a lot with a little space. Connected to each Tweet is a rich details pane that provides additional information, deeper context and embedded media. You can tell your story within your Tweet, or you can think of a Tweet as the headline, and use the details pane to tell the rest with photos, videos and other media content.”

My decision to use Twitter for this event allowed me to see constant live streams of what other participants were saying about their Pinot producing wine regions, and although everyone I’m connected with on Twitter did not participate in this event, I was able to search “Pinot Smack Down” from my home page that brought me to a live stream of those who were solely involved in the smack down, including people who I had never been in touch with before. Twitter knows who’s involved in the smack down because all participants were instructed to use a hashtag symbol, which is the pound (#) sign, in front of the words: pinotsmackdown. A hashtag is used to mark key words or topics in a tweet and it helps users categorize messages, so all of the people who were involved in the smack down used #pinotsmackdown in their tweets. In order for the hosts of the event to identify the regions that were being sparred over, we were instructed to use a two-character hashtag; such as, #OR for Oregon. Other voting regions were:

  • #CA – California
  • #WA – Washington
  • #NY – New York
  • #46 – U.S. The “Other 46,” outside of the Big Four
  • #FR – France
  • #IT – Italy
  • #DE – Germany (Deutschland)
  • #EU – Europe, beyond France, Germany, Italy
  • #CN – Canada
  • #NZ – New Zealand
  • #CH – Chile
  • #AR – Argentina
  • #AU – Australia
  • #SA – South Africa

Since I was, of course, cheering for Oregon, each of my tweets contained #pinotsmackdown and #OR.

There were 12 participating wineries and venues as well as well-known wine bloggers from different regions around the world who hosted the event. Ed Thralls of represented the Napa region of California.  Joe Herrig, aka, The Suburban Wino was a host from Atlanta, Georgia who blogs about wine on . Simple Hedonisms wine blogger, William Allen is from Sonoma, and Tamara Belgard of was representing Oregon.  Clive Pursehouse of is from Seattle, but represents wines from all of the NW wine regions, and Trish Barry, known as Mastermind TB on Twitter, was the host from Australia.

Restaurants and bars around the world threw Pinot Smack Down wine tastings and dinner parties. Simple Hedonisms William Allen put on a carefully planned Greenhouse Tasting Event at his farm that showcased world class Pinot Noirs that were organized into groups, tasted blind by 5 judges, including two winemakers, and the top in each category were selected to pour for the event. He provided stemware, spit cups, water, top-notch Pinots, detailed tasting sheets and voting sheets, where participants were asked to select their top 3 wines of the night. The only thing not provided was a Smartphone, so people could tweet about their favorite items – a must have for a Pinot Smack Down event when away from your trusty laptop, iPad or PC.

My event wasn’t as extravagant as Simple Hedonism’s event, but I did invite 4 good friends to share 4 good bottles of Willamette Valley Pinot that I had carefully selected for the event: My Smack Down party included Sweet Cheeks 2009 Pinot Gris (no-one specified that it had to be Pinot Noir!), Sarver Winery’s 2008 Pinot Noir, LaVelle Vineyards Matthews Reserve 2008 Pinot Noir, and Domaine Meriwether’s 2005 Pinot Noir. When my friends arrived, Smartphones in hand, we sat on the patio and opened our first bottle of wine, the Sweet Cheeks Pinot Gris. Our chilled white wine was a welcome beverage on a hot August 18th afternoon. Crisp and truly refreshing, we all discovered hints of melon and fig and thought the finish was bright and clean with balanced acidity. It was delicious with the Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad I had prepared earlier. We sipped and tweeted our thoughts on the Pinot Gris and took note of some of the other tweets that were streaming live for the Pinot Smack Down:

  • “A nifty little Alsatian number will be my #pinotsmackdown contribution”: 
  • I’d hazzard we had close to 200 people come through @6thAveWine throughout the night for #pinotsmackdown, #OR Pinot ran the show”
  • Winemaker Steven Anderson of Eola Hills is pouring his wine until 7pm. Come taste & buy signed bottles.  #pinotsmackdown
  • “Some nice #pinot from RRV in CA, but just not on par with #OR or #FR for my palate. #PinotSmackdown [ #true ]”

6th Avenue Wine Seller (@6thAveWine) is based in Seattle, Washington, so it was encouraging to see that Oregon Pinot’s were being purchased in great quantity for the event from our neighbors to the north.  In fact, I was amazed at the number of people tweeting about the Pinot Smack Down. Messages were coming through 20 at a time because so many people were tweeting about the smack down at the same time. What’s truly amazing to me is how many people are reached through an event like this, here are the official stats provided by Ed Thralls of and Trish Barry:

Official Stats of Reach & Impressions

  • Reach 446,589 users, 5045 tweets, 1067 contributors, 8.7mil impressions (

An astonishing 8.7 million impressions! Now, that’s a whole lot of ‘tweeters’ attracted to one specific event.

The next bottle we popped the cork on was the 2008 Pinot Noir from Sarver Winery.  Elegant and true to the Pinot Noir varietal, this was silky smooth with well rounded tannins and a lasting, perfectly balanced finish. We all agreed that it was delicious and exactly what we’d expect from a stellar Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, which was heavenly with Salami and Cheese “Antipasticks”, a recipe I found on . Away we tweeted, sipped, and ate while enjoying the weather a little more now that the temperature had dropped a few degrees.

The third bottle of Pinot was the 2008 Matthews Reserve from LaVelle Vineyards. Since its release, it’s safe to say I’ve had the luscious Matthews Reserve more than a few times; it’s one of my favorite Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs. With fruit forward flavors of cherries and strawberries, this Pinot Noir can stand with the best. Extremely well balanced, we enjoyed every drop, and it didn’t last long as we consumed our wine with a suggested recipe pairing that I found on the LaVelle Vineyards website: Sweet Red Pepper Bruschetta. As we occasionally checked in on twitter to write our reviews on the Pinot we were sampling, we noticed almost every other tweet either had #NZ, #OR or #CA included in the 140 characters. It was obvious the New Zealanders and Californians had officially joined the battle for the best Pinot producing region.

Our last bottle of Pinot Noir to be opened was Domaine Meriwether’s 2005 Pinot Noir. Known for their world-class sparkling wines, the Meriwether still wines definitely keep up with their sparkling wine siblings. Darker in color than your average Willamette Valley Pinot, there’s a surprising and enticing depth of flavor. Very earthy, which is a quality that I love in many Willamette Valley Pinot’s, there’s also black cherries, blackberries and a hint of blueberries. There’s a bit of vanilla spice on the finish that leaves your palate wanting more. We grilled some shish kabobs using filet mignon, onions, bell peppers and mushrooms. Usually, I would pair a Pinot with salmon or turkey, but this particular well balanced and structured Pinot holds up extremely well with steak, and we were all impressed with the delicious melding of bold and complex flavors.

We continued to monitor the live streams of people battling for their beloved regions. Thousands of wines were tasted around the world on a particular Thursday in August; well, at least it was Thursday in our part of the world. We were anxious to find out who was ahead in the ultimate Pinot brawl, but we knew we wouldn’t have the results until the following day; therefore, we said goodnight to our new found twitter wine friends from around the globe and wished them luck in their quest to gain Pinot envy.

The first thing I did the next morning was pop open my laptop and search for the results, and there they were:

#NZ        24.2%
#OR       23.4%
#CA        23.2%
#AU       13.9%
#WA      5.9%
#FR        3.1%
#CH        2.3%
#CN       1.9%
#IT          .5%

As close as it was, with the top 3 regions being separated by only 23 tweets, New Zealand had won the Smack Down. New Zealand is now the Grand Champion title holder of the Pinot Smack Down; shockingly, Willamette Valley had been defeated and lost its title.

Although I didn’t participate in the 1st Annual Pinot Smack Down, I was not about to miss the 2nd global battle, and now I’m already planning, or should I say, “training”, for round #3. Regardless of the outcome, it was entertainment at its best, and the 5 of us truly enjoyed sipping fine wines and eating delicious foods all while tweeting our hearts out for the sake of the region we love most: The Willamette Valley, which we whole-heartedly believe produces some of the greatest Pinot grapes in the world.

Watch out New Zealand, the Willamette Valley will be especially prepared for 2012, and we’ll be expecting a switch-back of that Grand Champion Pinot Smack Down title. Cheers mates!

Which Winery Will Wine Down Your Memorial Weekend?



Benton-Lane Winery

Memorial Day Weekend Winery Open Houses
May 28th, 29th, & 30th

Blue skies and warm days are on their way, and local wineries will be swinging their doors open for one of the South Willamette Valley’s highly anticipated and most celebrated 3 day wine events: Memorial Day Weekend Winery Open Houses. It’s the official kick-off to the summer season at the wineries; featuring, special releases, barrel tastings, live music, artisan treats and an endless flow of their locally, hand crafted wine- from Pinot Noir and Petit Syrah to Huxelrebe and Sweet Rosé. Each winery entices us to head their way for a number of reasons, so here’s a list of what they’ll be indulging us with this 2011 Memorial Day Weekend:

Benton-Lane Winery: Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 11a-5p. $10 admission includes logo glass and gourmet tapas. Live music with Jerome Monaco Saturday and Sunday- 12:30-4:30p. Gourmet Pizza Tapas on Monday. Also hosting the new Ebony Wines-grown in Oregon’s rockiest vineyards!

Brigadoon Wine Company: Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday 11a-4p. Enjoy a Pinot-Picnic in the Park. Bring a lunch, chairs or a blanket & sample the Shown families 3 delicious Pinot’s while relaxing in a beautiful park-like setting at the Brigadoon Wine Co. property. FREE admission

Chateau Lorane's Lake Louise

Chateau Lorane: Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday 11:30a-5:30p. $10 admission includes logo glass (free under 21). Taste over 20 different wines, live music, art festival, delicious food available for purchase provided by Flavors Catering. All this on the shores of the beautiful Lake Louise! Rain or Shine.

Domaine Meriwether: Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday 11a-4p. $10 fee for 4 tastes of wine and a plate of food. Live music

Capitello Wines will be featured at Domaine Meriwether!

Iris Vineyards: Open Saturday, Sunday, Monday 11a-5p. Free wine tasting all 3 days! 25% discount on case purchases, including mixed cases.

King Estate: Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday. New releases & restaurant open daily for lunch and dinner.

The deck at LaVelle Vineyards

LaVelle Vineyards: Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday, enjoy live performances by the 5 piece band-‘Concrete Loveseat’ on Sunday and Monday. Delectable food will be catered by Field to Table.

Noble Estate Vineyard & Winery: Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday 12-5p, live acoustic music Saturday & Sunday. $5 tasting fee which includes 6 wines- fee waived with a bottle purchase.

Pfeiffer Winery: Open Wednesday – Monday 11a-5p, offering Italian Chocolates & appetizer’s with wine tasting. Private Pinot Clinics will be held in the Grotto every 90 minutes. Owners Robin and Danuta Pfeiffer will be your guides with barrel tasting of their 2010 Pinot Noir Futures and official release of the highly anticipated 2008 Blue Dot Pinot Noir Reserve. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy their water garden falls and streams.

RainSong Vineyard: Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday 12-5p. Featuring new releases, 20% case discounts, complimentary hors d’oeuvres, and barrel tasting! Admission is FREE.

The tasting room red barn at Saginaw Vineyard

Saginaw Vineyard: Open Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday 11a-5p, but open late Friday for live music with Timothy Patrick 6p-9p

Silvan Ridge Winery: Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday 12-6p wine tasting, live music, sales on wine; Sat. 2-5p “The Valley Boys” Live; Sun. 2-5p “Just Say Yes” Live; Mon. 2-5p “Apropos” Live. FREE admission

Sarver Winery: Open Saturday, Sunday, Monday 12-8p, complimentary tastings paired with cheese and chocolate.

Sweet Cheeks Winery: Open Saturday, Sunday, Monday from 12-6p, Live Music by “Taste”, food available for purchase, wine specials, and an art festival. New vintages of Rosy Cheeks and Riesling will be available & admission is free

Territorial Vineyards & Wine Company: Friday 6-9p live music; Saturday 3-9p live music starts at 6p; Sunday 3-7p; $7 tasting fee for flight of 7 wines. Light snacks.

Opine Cellars wines will also be available to sample at Territorial.

We are truly blessed to be in the midst of these unparalleled wineries of the South Willamette Valley. Thanks to the efforts and hard work of all the people involved in meticulously planning these fun-filled Memorial Day Weekend events, there will be loads of fun to be had by all.

But, know this: Before I blow off the dust from my flip flops and sun-glasses, and unpack the boxes that have housed my favorite t-shirts and shorts for the last 8 months, I’ll take a moment to remember those who have fallen in battle fulfilling their obligation to the great country in which I live. The freedoms that I enjoy everyday are protected and ensured by men and women who have put their lives on the line to protect my country and what it stands for.  After a moment of silence and heartfelt gratitude so deserving of our military, I’ll be ready to swirl, sip, and savor all that our stellar local wineries have to offer, and I will raise a glass to our American heroes.

Cheers to my Dad, my hero: Lt. Col. Maurice H. Leiser, 1954 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. Dedicated to God, his beloved family, and the United States Army–he is forever in my heart. 1931-2009.

Julia – Writing about Eugene’s Wine Scene

Sarver’s Spring Wine Sale. Run, don’t Walk.


If you haven’t been to Sarver Winery yet, I have two words for you. Go now.


Sarver winery is about a 30 minute drive from Eugene’s city center, just south of Fern Ridge Reservoir. Their cottage style tasting room with the ultimate view is inviting and casual, yet elegant. Sarver’s grand opening was the first weekend of August, 2010, so it’s one of the newer wineries of the South Willamette Valley, but there’s nothing about their spectacular wine that says ‘new’. Owners Chris and Erin Sarver have come a long way…literally. Their journey began as owners of a small brew pub on the shores of Lake Superior in a town of 300 people called Grand Marais, Michigan.Erin and Chris first met each other at the Lake Superior Brewing Company, Erin had just returned from Madrid as a wandering musician and Chris had owned the brew pub for about 5 years. Chris, his brother and his father made wine in their home, and because of their backgrounds in engineering, wine making was much more than a hobby: the wines they produced were genuinely enjoyed by friends and family. In 2006, Chris and Erin made 75 cases of Napa Cabernet, fermenting the grapes in Napa and then trucking in the barrels to their small winery operation in Michigan. Chris and Erin both shared a passion for wine, so this mutual passion led them to their search for the perfect vineyard where they could begin a new adventure in their lives. Although Chris and Erin didn’t know anyone in Oregon, they came out to take a look at Elhanan Vineyards and it was love at first sight; they immediately called it home.  Elhanan Vineyards was originally established by the McKinney’s in 1984 and is home to some of the Willamette Valley’s first premium Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir plantings. Bob and Betty McKinney planted 20,000 vines on 35 acres and sold their grapes to well known wineries throughout Oregon. In 2008, Chris and Erin packed up their belongings along with their then newborn, Eve, and headed west to establish Sarver Winery at Elhanan Vineyard. For the next couple years, they tended the vineyard and turned the woodshop into a gorgeous tasting room that looks out over the vineyards. They offer an extensive selection of wines from a fruity and tropical estate grown Sur Lie Aged Pinot Gris to a Yakima Valley full bodied peppery Syrah. One of my favorites is their highly complex and earthy Napa Petit Sirah.

Everyone, including kids and non-wine drinkers, can enjoy time spent at Sarver Winery. The Sarvers make homemade root beer, iced tea and lemonade, and they always have a keg of local beer on tap. Their cheese and fresh meat menu is extensive and alluring, and includes items like fresh pâtés and gourmet salamis along with international and local cheeses. 6 oz. glass pours (yes, that’s right, 6oz.) range between $5 and $8.

So, not only do I say, “Go Now” because of their incredible wine and the unobstructed views of the Coburg Hills, Spencer Butte, and – on a good day- the snow capped beauty of Three Sisters, but they have a Spring Wine Sale happening right now. Both of their stellar Pinot Gris’, the Sur Lie aged and the Estate Grown, are 40% off.  So, treat yourself before it’s all gone, they make less than 500 cases of each of their superb wines, and they’re making room for their next delicious vintage.

Winter/Spring hours: Friday-Sunday noon-8pm

Sarver Winery

25600 Mayola Lane

Eugene, OR 97402


Sarver Winery is on Facebook and Twitter.

Julia – Writing about Eugene’s Wine Scene







Post Author: Julia Crowley.