Buy local, dammit!

By Frank Dufay of Portland, Oregon. Frank describes himself as a "card-carrying member of the ACLU and the Oregon Wine Growers Association."

Last week at "Nixon in China" in Civic Auditorium (you can call it Keller Auditorium if you insist, but I won't) we thought we'd try the buffet before the show.

Now, not being much of an opera fan, this was probably going to be a high point of the evening for me. And the food was OK, and actually the opera was pretty interesting... but what's the deal with the wine list?

I know, I know... there are weightier issues in the universe, but I'm an Oregonian, proud of it, and damned proud of our Pinot Noir, and our wine industry in general. Oregon agriculture is an important part of our economy.

One (only one!) Oregon Pinot on the list, Cooper Mountain. And, sorry, they were out.

"OK, we'll have the Argyle sparkling wine."

"Sorry... out of that too..."

"Do you have any Oregon wines?

"Yes, a really nice Merlot."


The bottle comes and it's from Washington State!

Can't we have some pride in our wonderful state's bounty in our public institutions? Isn't this an economic issue when we don't carry our own products? Can't the Schnitz pour one of our fine local sparklers instead of the crap from California they pass off as "champagne?"

I'm afraid by the time coffee came around I was pretty worked up. "We really need to do a better job of supporting our state economy by buying local...", I was saying to my wife. Then I noticed the little container of half and half. It was from Plant #27-416... Houston, Texas!

Can't we do better than this?

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    It would help if Oregon wines were better than their Washington and California counterparts...and not priced as if they were.

    I want to support OR wines, but my experience (and that of my friends) is that they simply aren't worth the asking price. When OR vintners give the locals a break, we'll respond in kind, I promise.

  • Garlynn (unverified)

    Oh, Joe, c'mon! Oregon produces some of the finest wines on the West coast... if you happen to like Tempranillo, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gevurschtraminer<sp?>, Riesling, Merlot or even Chardonnay. I've tasted wines in the Rogue Valley, in the Applegate Appelation and in both the northern, middle and southern Willamette Valley. I've also taste wines in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Santa Cruz and other counties in California -- all at the wineries. Plus, I've tasted wines from Washington state at restaurants, from the liquor store, etc.

    Oregon doesn't have a quality problem. Its wines are top-notch.

    Oregon has a volume problem. No single winery in Oregon produces enough volume to get easy distribution, or to get the price down to the level that most cheap Americans expect.

    If you're willing to pay $15-25 a bottle, you'll find many great Oregon wines.

    Heck, you can even find a great $8 bottle of Oregon wine. Look for Bridgeview. I dunno about you, but I think their wines are incredibly good!

    So... the issue isn't quality. Like Frank suggests, I think some people that do business in Oregon just don't get the whole Buy Local thing, and should be re-educated. I applaud Frank's efforts to do so.

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    Top 100 West Coast wines of 2004: 79 CA 14 WA 7 OR

    Washington...America's 2nd wine state.

    Top wines in the US by Wine Spectator score...

    <h1>of OR wines in top 100: 1. Number of WA wines: 2.</h1>

    And $15 is too much for a standard bottle of wine. That's exactly what I'm talking about. There's too much very good wine available for less than $10, to pay $25 for OR wine.

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    Our family made a decision a while back to eat local. We have beef in the freezer from Elgin, Oregon. Our stash of booze contains Oregon micro-brews and vodka from Bend. We drink Earth2O water because it is from an Oregon spring near Bend. We grow our own veggies through the summer adding extra goodies from a local Farmer's market. We actually thought our decision would be difficult, it's been remarkably easy. We spend less too because we rarely eat any packaged or processed food. When we do eat out, we choose resturants that feature local foods, Higgen's and Wildwood come to mind. We never stay in Shilo Inns, we try B&B's. Once you start it's really fun to go Oregon!

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    Wait just a minute there TJ... That Top 100 list was from the San Francisco Chronicle... maybe just a little bias?

    In any case, I'm not interested in drinking from the Top 100 list. Are there ANY sub-$10 bottles on that list?

    I don't drink wine to feel superior to the next guy, or to wax rhapsodic about, I drink wine because I enjoy good wine. I don't care what some magazine ranks it, and I certainly don't care to drink the rare, the special, the trendy....

    There's plenty of great Oregon wines, and there's plenty to drink that are under $15. (I've found the sub $10 wines from everywhere to be generally lacking.)

  • k (unverified)

    Buying local is VERY important to me. Wine, food, you name it. I'd rather pay more or drive a bit further and know that my dollars are going back into my community, helping to support a family here and grow a business here. I wish more people would do this. I understand that it can be difficult to spend a bit more to buy a local product but when I think of the benefits, it makes it worth it to me. Local businesses support our economy, they provide jobs there (and we need more jobs) and they pay taxes here meaning they are supporting our public schools, our roadways, our social services and other things our state and communities need. Sending my dollars out of state supports some other state's economy, schools and social services. When I think of it that way, I can't afford NOT to buy local.

    Here's just a few Oregon products / companies that we should be buying: Berries, Brooks Prunes, Cheese, Christmas Trees, Clear Creek Distillery, Columbia River Spring Chinook, Comice Pears, Danner Boots, DePaula Confections, Hamley & Co Saddles & Leather Goods, Harry & David, Hazelnuts, Leatherman Multitool, Maraschino Cherries, Mint, Myrtlewood, Moonstruck Chocolates, Nike, Pacifica Soy Candles, Pears, Pendleton Blankets, Pink Martini, Rogue Ales, Traeger Grills & Smokers, Tuna, Wild Mushrooms, Wine

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    And don't forget the Ville as in burger. All produce and beef organic and local.

    Big donors to local charitable efforts.

    I know they're in Vancouver, but they definitely get it.

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    Here are more Oregon companies: Strawberry Mountain Inn, Higgens, Carafe, Neil Kelly Co, Blackberry Springs, Clear Creek Distillery, Sienna Architecture, Artichoke Music, Crater View Ranch, Blackledge Furniture, Pratt and Larson Tile, Motel DelRogue, Mustard Press, Schock Welding Co, Sokol Blosser Winery, Mark Woolley Gallery , and the list goes on.

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    There are overpriced pinots --I just got a flyer from Domaine Serene about their new "limited release" at $200 a bottle!-- so I appreciate there are overpriced, pretentious, Oregon wines out there. But then there's Patricia Green's second label "Dollar Bills Only." (named after the sign on the jukebox in Lumpy's tavern...) OK, so the grape glut is over...Hip Chicks Do Wine couldn't even buy any reasonably priced pinot grapes last year. So prices ain't going down.

    But my point was more: Civic Auditorium (OK, "Keller Auditorium"), the Schnitz, the Rose Garden...can't we showcase what we have?

    That you often can't buy a bottle of Oregon wine at dinner is just wrong. If Burgerville -- to their credit-- can feature Oregon beef...why can't our vendors in our public spaces?

    It was fun to be at the season opening of the Farmer's Market at PSU last weekend. So much great local food...cheeses, wine, sauces, pastries. Pate from Viande. Bread many local vendors?

    Let's support these guys. Keep them in business, and insure there will be fresh food --REAL fresh food-- on our tables.

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    Frank, I should say to you that at a place like the Schnitz or the Keller, there really should be OR wines. I'm thinking about what wine I'd choose standing in the aisle at Joe's.

    Kari, there are some really nice Chilean and Australian wines for less than 10 bucks.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)

    I live in Dundee and have to admit to buying probably more Spanish wine than wines from the Willamette Valley, but what do I know? I'm a beer drinker. Nevertheless, when I have company, I always bring out the Oregon wines and there are some good buys. You just have to look.

    Add to the Buy Oregon companies: Nancy's Yogurt, Toby's tofu pate (it actually tastes good), Kitchen Kaboodle, Paloma clothing, New Seasons, Kettle chips, Bishop's barber shops and the hundreds of independent coffee houses in Oregon. And, of course, NEVER eat a strawberry from California.

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    I was watching Food Network the other day and Rachel Ray's 30 minute meals was on. She was talking very highly of the pinots from Oregon's Willamette Valley. She said there were numerous award winners and there were several great wines you could get for $8.

    When comparing the number of top wines for each state, you also have to take into consideration their size. California is much, much larger than Oregon or Washington. Population also makes a difference. A lot of the smaller wineries are going to sell a large chunk of their wine locally. The bigger the population, the more likely they are to have a larger selection. And a larger selection increases your chances of having more award winning wines.

    I do like buying locally, and try to do so whenever possible. I like buying foods made here in Oregon. I must admit I get excited when I can find products at the store that were made here. I don't drink wine, so I don't buy that. But I do like buying meats, produce, cheese, etc. that is made in Oregon.

    I pretty much never buy any cheese that isn't made in Oregon. The exceptions are when I need a specialty cheese and can't find an Oregon one at the grocery store. I fell in love with Tillamook Cheese while still living in Texas (thanks to a Made in Oregon care package).

    I really like buying at the local farmer's stores/markets that carry local produce. However, they're apparently all closed for the season right now, as I couldn't find one open today.

    If you're looking for some good prices on wines, check out Grocery Outlet. They buy wines from various wineries at steep discounts, which means they often have some really great wines for under $10-- and they have wine tasting evenings (I know the Gresham location does for sure).

    Speaking of Oregon businesses... if you happen to be in Pendleton and are looking for a great place for a beer, wine, etc. consider the Great Pacific Wine and Coffee Co. I have to admit I am biased, though-- it's owned by my husband's family.

  • k (unverified)

    Jenni reminded me of something else I try to do - besides just using/eating/shopping local - I GIVE local. When I travel out of state to friends' homes, I like to leave a little something behind as a thank you. I prefer that something to be an Oregon product accompanied, hopefully by a notecard made by an Oregon artist.

    Made In Oregon offers many ideas but you can even go to your local grocer (Fred Meyer actually does a pretty good job of featuring local products if you can't get to a Zupan's or New Seasons). Strohecker's also carries local products. My parents don't live in Portland (but do live in Oregon - dad is 5th generation) and when they come to town, my mom always makes a trip to the Saturday market to buy handmade candles and pottery to give as hostess gifts and the like. By giving Oregon products as gifts, we promote our economy... plus, I'm incredibly proud of Oregon and I like the opportunity to "show off" a little bit of Oregon when I give gifts, etc.

  • k (unverified)

    I also want to plug my favorite salsa ... Emerald Valley (it used to be Jan's).

  • Beth (unverified)

    You are so right, Frank!

  • Benkay (unverified)

    I wouldn't know about wine per se, but I try to buy coffee from local roasters.

    Because obviously nobody grows coffee in Oregon.

  • visitor (unverified)

    Fantastic article, Frank!

    For those who are interested in local and regional cheeses--check out

    And remember, each time you buy local not only are you supporting your community by keeping your dollars in your community but you are also cutting down on gas consumption, transportation costs, and sometimes even packaging (if you're buying from a famers' market, for instance)!

    Just think of what it would be like if we ate food that was grown (or processed) within 100 miles of where we live.

  • AF (unverified)

    I don't get it. What the heck is so special about buying local? And what exactly is local? Should I only buy produce from my neighbors? Is it okay with you guys if I buy something from the guy across town? What about if I stray across the border into Vancouver or is that prohibited by the "buy local police"? Where would I find local bananas anyway?

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    One point would be reducing pollution caused by eating New Zeland apples and "Atlantic Salmon" from Wal Mart that are grown on the largest fish farms in the world in south central Chile. All of this stuff comes to us by freighter and overland trucks, which of course adds to air pollution.

    Or how about the idea of the circulating dollar? Money spent in a local store on local products offers a local economic multiplier as the dollar spent circulates several (up to six) times through the community. A dollar spent at the farmer's market in Gresham stays around a lot longer than a dollar spent at say, Freddys.

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    What about if I stray across the border into Vancouver or is that prohibited by the "buy local police"?

    The point is not forcing anybody to buy anything. The point is having the opportunity to buy local in our public institutions, which we often don't have. Certainly you're not oppossed to that?

    Reasons to buy local are environmental, economic...but most importantly, our local stuff is often fresher and better. In the case of developing wine lists, there's no reason to not have Oregon wines available. Is there? Bananas? Go to New Seasons, a local company, where the profits generally stay in our community. Or go to Safeway, or Fred Meyer. Whatever. This isn't religion, just trying to promote some common sense about promoting our community and state.

  • NNW (unverified)

    "The point is not forcing anybody to buy anything. The point is having the opportunity to buy local in our public institutions, which we often don't have. Certainly you're not oppossed to that?"

    That's an interesting take, but don't you think it hurts Oregon companies to not be a a part of the booming economies in SF and Seattle - the points you make are great, but to promote the idea of not buying Washington or California products doesn't make since - maybe non-union oversea's products... but it only hurts Oregonians not to be a part of those markets...

  • TL (unverified)

    I used to think that there were many varietals that you just had to go out of state for a decent value. I no longer believe this. There are awesome and reasonable wines of all kinds to be had from Oregon. The main issue I think is that Oregon wines are not well known within state. If people knew how what a good value OR wines are, we wouldn't be exporting a drop out of state.

    Although good wines are will cost you, great values can be found for under $15. You just have to find them. Harrass your neighborhood grocery if they have a poor selection of OR wines. Ask them if/when they will be having any free wine tastings so you can sample the product before you buy. Join a wine club like Pacific NW Wine Club, OR Pinot Noir Club, or others.

    I agree with the original poster. There should be OR wines available prominently on every restaurant menu where wine is served, at the Schnitz, etc. etc.

    <h2>Full disclosuer: My spouse works for a wine distributor specializing in OR wines and I am a happy member of PNWC.Com</h2>
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