end of an era

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Back when I was making my first trips into Willamette valley wine country, some 25 years ago, I soon discovered that the Oregon Wine Tasting Room, at the Lawrence Art Gallery on Highway 18, 9 miles southwest of McMinnville, was the most essential stop. It was the brainchild of Amity Vineyards owner and founder Myron Redford, and it spoke to the needs and the zeitgeist of the day – it was a co-op, run more for education and pleasure than profit, and it gave a public face to the young, upstart Oregon wine industry.

The Tasting Room was run for most of its years by Patrick McElligott, a genial, knowledgeable, enthusiastic guide to everything that was happening in the still-cozy world of Oregon wine. Patrick quickly became known as the most reliable and broadly experienced source for information on Oregon wines, and I consulted him whenever I was in the area, and sometimes simply by phone (in those pre-email days).

So I was saddened, and a bit startled, to receive this notice from Myron Redford yesterday:

“As a courtesy to our Amity Vineyards customers we are forwarding the following to you:

The Oregon Wine Tasting Room – a fixture in Willamette Valley Wine Tasting for 29 years – is closing on June 22, 2009. The tasting room opened on May 1, 1980; it was the first promoter of all Oregon wines rather than a specific winery. Over the years many start-up wineries were discovered by the public at the Oregon Wine Tasting Room. During the 29 years of existence, the OWTR has been a tireless advocate and promoter of Oregon wines, and over 200 Oregon wineries have been featured on its shelves. In 2003 the tasting room moved across the street into the former Farmer’s Market. The building, originally built in the 1920’s, underwent an extensive renovation and the new space was called the Oregon Wine Tasting Room and Bellevue Market. It featured wines from all of Oregon’s AVAs, as well as local and gourmet foods and beers.

A going out of business sale will start on June 3rd [that’s tomorrow!] and continue until June 22nd when the business will close. Wines and food items will be 20% off. Inquiries about the sale should be directed to the OWTR, 503/843-3787 or owtr2003@yahoo.com. All sales are final and must be picked up at the Oregon Wine Tasting Room by June 21st. Tasting room hours are 11 am to 6 pm.”


There will no doubt be some great deals to be had, but the best bargain of all – the Tasting Room itself – will sadly be no more. It may be that with ten times the number of wineries in the state than when it opened, it is simply impossible to maintain the scope, not to mention the camaraderie, that inspired the place for so long. But for many of us who have tracked the industry from the beginning, it will occupy a special place in history, and will be sorely missed. Thank you so very much, Patrick and Myron, for all you have done over the years.


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