To be honest, I’m swimming in samples of wine. It is, after all, sample season: it gets too warm to ship over the summer. I don’t say this to brag. It’s just a fact, a fact that I am very grateful for, and that I’ve worked hard to achieve. I’m on a lot of lists and I’m offered many amazing opportunities to taste wonderful wines from around the world.
But that’s what I did with Oregon’s A to Z Wineworks: I asked for samples. Like I needed any more wine to write about…. but I had to. I needed to know more.
Thank you for your presentation today at the Sustainable Wine Growing Summit.
Congrats on being a B Corp; I’m in Ventura and very familiar with the work that Patagonia is doing with B Corp and regenerative agriculture.
From the presentation, I got the impression that A to Z Wineworks is biodynamic but I don’t see that on the website. As a writer I love to tell sustainability stories, and I am open to samples. I love the detail you shared about the bees on the label, and I appreciate the pairing ideas especially the sauces!
Also I love the term “Oregonically” but I didn’t see where that is defined. Is that because all of your fruit is grown in Oregon?
best wishes, gwendolyn
The response was swift:
Hello, Compassionate Rebel!
How nice of you to write, gwendolyn. We hold Patagonia with the highest regard.
We do farm everything we own or have long-leases on in the Willamette Valley Biodynamically but we work with many more vineyards (around 60) in Oregon. Although we have always (since 2003) provided the services of a viticulturist on our dime (and for years on our staff) to help our grower partners improve their farming and encourage certification in one of the sustainable programs, I am sorry to report they are not all certified.
You correctly deduced our whimsical phrase “Oregonically grown” is to indicate that we source our grapes 100% in Oregon. That seems to be unusual here with the larger wineries.
We have supported bee (and more recently other invertebrate insect) health for years. Although they do not directly affect grape growing, we are concerned for the whole farm and want to support our hard-working pollinators who are in decline. And, there is this; my name in Egyptian means Queen Bee. : )
Considering you also wear an Art Predator hat, it might be fun for you to see what we’ve been doing on that front. Here are links to our first two Artists-in-Residence: https://www.atozwineworks.com/Artist-in-Residence-Application/AiR-Adrian-Chitty,https://www.atozwineworks.com/Artist-in-Residence-Application/AiR-Hadley-Hatcher.
We are home to a wonderful Lee Kelly sculpture in front of the winery: https://www.arts.wa.gov/artist-collection/?request=record;id=2057;type=701. And, until last week, we hosted the art installation “Goose Cube” in our rebuilt tasting room.https://pamplinmedia.com/nbg/144-features/498824-400041-goose-cube-project-comes-to-newberg-pwoff?wallit_nosession=1.
If you have a particular story idea, let us know and we would be happy to send you samples.
In addition I learned from Deb: “Biodynamic farming is more rigorous than organic farming and all Biodynamically grown grapes would qualify for organic (simply no chemicals) but not vice versa. Some of our grower partners are not certified in any sustainable certification. This year we are working on clarifying our expectations.”
A to Z Wineworks has actually been on my radar since I attended the Wine Media Conference in Portland way back in 2012. I remember tasting the wines and finding them to be serviceable and affordable, but otherwise unremarkable…
So what changed? In April, I attended Sustainable Winegrowers Conference where Deb spoke in a session on “How to Message Sustainability to Consumers and Trade: Workshopping “Sustainability” as a Challenger Brand” about A to Z being not only a B Corp but biodynamic and organic.
WHAT? With one eye and ear on the session, with the other I quickly googled A to Z Wine Works and then searched the website.
Sustainable yes. Affordable definitely yes. B Corp brags yes. Great motto? Also yes:
“We have always tried to model best practices and be a best partner in all of our dealings,” writes Deb Hatcher, Founder & Chief Marketing and Sales Officer. “As we continue to grow economically, we can also now through B Lab measure our improvement in environmental and social practices. The bigger we get, the more good we can do, the more opportunities for our employees and the more visibility for our model. We hope to inspire businesses to compete not only to be the best in the world, but to be the best for the world.”
But biodynamic? Not that I could find or figure out.
So I did what any journalist would do: I reached out to Deb at A to Z by email to find out what the deal was, and, as you can see from the email exchange above, I found out they do indeed source and blend grapes grown organically and biodynamically.
And at this price? $16? With wines this good? Now that’s remarkable– as you’ll see from our tasting and pairing notes that follow.
First a little HISTORY: In 2002, Oregon wine industry veterans Deb Hatcher of Eyrie, Bill Hatcher of Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Sam Tannahill of Archery Summit, and Cheryl Francis of Chehalem founded A to Z Wineworks. Today A to Z is one of the top-selling under $20 Oregon wine brand with Michael Davies as winemaker since 2006. Twice named to Wine Spectator’s Top 100, A to Z Oregon Chardonnay is America’s best-selling Oregon Chardonnay. In May 2014, A to Z Wineworks certified as a B Corp subsequently being named as a Best for the World B Corp five years in a row.
Brainstorming with Sue about what to pair with these three white wines, we were thinking about summer and how we will be able to once again gather with friends. With their screw caps and crown cap, we thought how fun they’d be to share with friends with a selection of simple sandwiches and salads for an American “Tea” or Garden Party in the backyard.
Wines from Oregon’s A to Z Wineworks
samples provided for my review consideration
- 2020 A to Z Wineworks Chardonnay $16
- 2020 A to Z Oregon Riesling $16
- NV A to Z Wineworks “Bubbles” Oregon Rose Wine $16
Summery Salads and Sandwiches: Menu
- Ceasar Salad with sautéed asparagus and avocado
- Baby Green salad with mozzarella, berries, and organic berry balsamic vinaigrette topped with Rafael’s salad topping mix with herbs
Mini open faced sandwiches
these bites were made on baguettes– so fun!
- BLT with avocado
- Sautéed mushroom over brie
- Sautéed Asparagus over brie with fried prosciutto topping.
- Smoked salmon over organic cream cheese and topped with capers,
- Wine country chicken salad
2020 A to Z Wineworks Chardonnay
This unoaked Chardonnay is not identified as organic which means that most of the grapes likely are grown that way but aren’t certified.
Color: Very pale chiffon, shimmery like gold
Aroma: Banana taffy, fresh pineapple, guava, petricore like fresh drizzle of rain on the ground
Palate: Banana taffy at the front of the palate, apple mid palate, lemon citrus pineapple finish, acacia flower,
Pairing: The banana taffy flavor yearns for something salty and rich to balance the flavors. I went for the Cesar salad which was a very nice pairing because neither one overwhelms the other. The addition of the asparagus makes it light and bright. Sue went straight for the procuitto wrapped asparagus which has the same wonderful effect on the wine. Bright and light with a lovely richness. Surprisingly nice with our berry salad with berry balsamic vinegarette. Oregon is known for its berries, therefore it works very nicely with the the profile of the wine. Very nice with the wine country chicken sandwich.
2020 A to Z Oregon Riesling
Organically grown! Beautiful art on the bottle includes a B which represents A to Z “being” a B Corp.
Color: Very pale lemon, straw, catches the light nicely
Aroma: Honey, honeysuckle, bee pollen, very sweet florals, sweet herbal notes, very light petrol notes, very sweet nose.
Palate: Sweet and tart, nicely sweet fruit up front, not at all cloying. This is not a dessert Riesling. There is a lemony tartness mid palate, finishing with cool refreshing herbs,
Pairing: Think Thai food or Indian food, any Asian food. Would also pair nicely with a lightly sweetened dessert like a cafflouti. This wine was so absolutely amazing. Sue paired it the next night with vegan brats and mustard, apple salad, and broccoli and she was wowed.
Spicy, salty, and complex cuisine like Indian, Asian, Spanish, North African, and Central & South American, as well as simple, pleasant dishes like a stew from Alsace.
Shellfish, oysters, and ceviche
Pretzels & mustard
Sriracha, citrus, curries, mustard-based
NV A to Z Wineworks “Bubbles” Oregon Rose Wine
By the bottle or in the can! Organically grown!
Color: Salmon, light foamy bubbles
Aroma: Cotton candy, cherry, red delicious apples, strawberry, rhubarb,
Palate: Extremely foamy, like seafood rolling across your tongue, the foam is so prevalent that it detracts from tasting the fruit at the front of the palate, however there is a very distinct wild strawberry finish,
Pairing: I assume most people will not try to pair this wine, but just drink it. However, this wine works with so many foods so well. La, la, la, loves the berry salad. OMG what a fabulous pairing. the cheese offers a grounding base to all of the other flavors the berry notes match the berry flavors in the wine and the salty nut topping adds to the finish. This wine compliments and contrasts with the salad. After this experience I imagined a sandwich with creme fresh, berries, walnuts and micro greens. Fun with potato chips. Fabulous with the wine country chicken sandwich loving the sweetness of the cranberries and the richness of the whole grain bread. The basil in the caprese salad was the outstanding with the wine. Trader Joes should carry this wine just because it goes so well with their chicken salad! So absolutely fantastic with the BLTA. Another wonderful pairing was the smoked salmon on cream cheese topped with capers. There really wasn’t a sandwich that DIDN’T go well with this wine. The wine loves the salt and the umami from asparagus sautéed in bacon grease.
They were all the best, but I had a very difficult time deciding what is the best with the wine.
Also fantastic with asparagus. Wrapped prosciutto, fun richness and flavors that match perfectly with the wine.
This is a great menu for a sparkling rose. It was so fun and delicious.
Complex, spicy, and herbaceous dishes that skew towards the bounty of Spring and Summer; think picnic.
Watermelon, feta & mint
Crispy hors d’oeuvres with spicy sauces
Fish & chips
Potato salad with bacon- for that matter, most anything with bacon
Vindaloo, harissa, mustard-based, mayonnaise-based
So go and enjoy a sustainable spring and summer with this affordable, well crafted, organic wines with these fun sandwiches and salads!!