Debate intensifies over the Oregon roots of pinot noir


The new slogan “Forest Grove: Where Oregon pinot was born” is stirring up controversy, with some winemakers claiming it misrepresents Oregon wine history.

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The new slogan “Forest Grove: Where Oregon pinot was born” is stirring up controversy, with some winemakers claiming it misrepresents Oregon wine history.

A pair of winemakers recently spoke on KXL Radio to denounce the slogan as misleading.

One of those guests, Dyson DeMara, heads up Hillcrest Vineyards, the Roseburg winery founded by Richard Sommer, thought to be the first man to plant pinot noir vines in Oregon. The other, Jason Lett, is the son of David Lett, known as “Papa Pinot,” whose Eyrie Vineyards in Dundee popularized the idea of Oregon’s Willamette Valley as the home to world-class pinot.

But Forest Grove claims a third rail in the pinot story: Charles Coury, who planted pinot noir grapes north of the city on land now operated as David Hill Winery and Vineyard.

Hillcrest Claims the first pinot in Oregon. Eyrie claims the first pinot in the Willamette Valley.

But Jeff King, Forest Grove’s economic development coordinator, said the city’s connection to Coury affords it a serving of pinot history as well. “We’re not saying we’re the first to ever plant or produce a bottle of pinot,” King said. “We’re talking about Coury who was the one to spark the industry.”

Christian Gaston has the story for the Forest Grove News-Times.

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