I'm no wine expert, but I know what I like. Which at this very blogging moment is a glass of Oregon's Kings Ridge Pinot Noir 2006.
It's a fine wine. That's how my crude palate would describe it. A more refined description is "scads of flavor, character, and really good mid-palate layering."
I also like Measure 49. It's a fine ballot measure that Oregonians soon will be voting on. Today a Portland Oregonian editorial offered up a refined oenophile argument for voting "Yes" and fixing Measure 37 – which could destroy our state's wine industry.
Measure 37 was supposed to bolster the property rights of people who bought their land before the land-use rules took effect. But it completely ignored -- and bulldozed -- the property rights of everybody else, treating them as if they didn't exist. Some are newcomers, some are old-timers, some may even be from France. But they are property owners, too, and should be treated fairly.
In hindsight, Measure 37 looks like an attempt to capture fairness in a bottle, as if only one vintage of ownership matters -- not neighbors, not farmers, not future generations. Yet as every winemaker knows, you can't just stop with one vintage and call your winery a success. You have to keep growing grapes year after year.
If voters approve Measure 49, Oregon winemakers won't even have to taste this year's pinot to know for certain. They'll know instantly: For their industry and for our state, 2007 will be a very good year.
My wife and I are leading our neighborhood's fight against a Measure 37 subdivision on groundwater limited high-value farmland. Recently road construction was started illegally on the property.
Any grape grower or Pinot Noir lover who drove by before Marion County shut down the un-permitted work would have thought, "What a crazy thing to do."
Crazy, because these rolling hills are perfect for a vineyard. Almost 99% of the 217 acres is composed of high value soil (Class I-IV). And nearly all of that soil is Nekia Silty clay loam.
Which a few minutes of Googling revealed is what another vineyard in the Salem area is growing Pinot Noir on. The Carter Vineyard web site says:
The soil is a shallow silty clay loam known as Nekia. It's a well drained soil frequently found in foothills and rolling uplands. Under the top 30 inches of soil is fractured decaying basalt, a relic of Oregon's violent volcanic past. The shallowness of the soil forces the grapes to struggle a little for survival by digging their roots down in the crumbling basalt. As the basalt deteriorates, it releases minerals that are taken up by the plants and reflected in the flavors of the grapes.
Leroy Laack, the Measure 37 claimant, likes to talk about how unfarmable this EFU (exclusive farm use) property is. Yet at one of the many hearings on his subdivision plans, a local farmer testified that he had put some Willamette Valley acreage up for sale and got a phone call from a Californian.
The man said, "I'm not interested in the flatland you're selling. But do you know of any available farmland in the south Salem hills?" He wanted to grow grapes here, like so many other people.
The farmer said that he guessed the Measure 37 property was worth $10-15,000 an acre to a grape grower. Two hundred eleven acres could be sold for $3,000,000 or so. Under Measure 49 three lots of two acres each also could be sold for home sites – with development rights unavailable under Measure 37.
All at little cost to the four owners of the 217 acres. No expensive road building. No marketing of forty-two lots in the face of furious neighborhood opposition and signs surrounding the subdivision that would say: "Don't buy here! Very limited water! Call XXX-XXX-XXXX to learn more."
So vote for Measure 49.
It's good for Oregon. It's good for neighbors like us who risk having our wells and springs go dry because of the subdivision. It's good for Measure 37 claimants who won't have to worry about the uncertainty spawned by the ambiguity of that poorly written law.
And it's really good for Pinot Noir lovers.