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Bow & Arrow Wines
Forty-eight years ago, David Lett of Eyrie Vineyards planted the Willamette Valley's first Pinot noir vines. A handful of others were close behind and it wasn't long before the world recognized that these Oregon wine pioneers were on to something. Many of them studied winemaking and viticulture in California, but when it came to planting Pinot, they looked to Burgundy as their role model. At the time, California was producing mostly simple table wines in bulk and it was widely believed that there was not a cool climate suitable for cultivating Pinot noir in the United States. Lett and other ambitious students trudged on, landing in Oregon (and specifically the Willamette Valley) but not by chance; they finished their studies and sought the climate they felt would be most well-suited for making the kinds of wines they liked best. Those wines were from Burgundy (and Alsace - Lett also planted the country's first Pinot Gris), and the place they settled on was Oregon.
It was a huge leap for those early settlers to select a grape as fragile as Pinot noir, which should, but may or may not, thrive in a climate as cool and wet as Oregon. It was a gamble, but the Oregon/Burgundy connection caught on quickly and achieved early success. Eventually, not only were winemakers flocking to Oregon to make "Burgundian" Pinot noir, but Burgundians themselves soon settled into the Willamette Valley too (the Drouhin family). It seems fair to say that Oregon Pinot noir has earned its reputation and the wines shine on their own merit, but the Oregon wine industry, at just under 50 years old, is still young. The Missoula Floods came barreling through Eastern Washington and Oregon 15,000 years ago, uprooting parts of Montana and Washington at up to 80 MPH and depositing rocks, huge boulders, glacial lake deposits, sediment, loess and basalt, forming the floor of the Willamette Valley. What it didn't leave behind was instructions on what grapes to plant in its soil or how to grow them.
Instructions aren't provided when it comes to doing something that's never been done before... but, then again, nothing is ever truly new. (How does the quote go - "there's no such thing as an original thought"?) It does, however, take an original mind to see something in a different light or to deviate from the crowd. David Lett and his contemporaries (Charles Coury and Dick Erath carved their own paths to Oregon at nearly the same time as Lett) were visionaries of their time. Today, nearly fifty years later in Oregon, there is a new wave of original minds including one bright duo making wine with one foot in Oregon's near past, thus, Burgundy, one foot in a different French region's present, and two hands in Oregon's future. Meet Scott and Dana Frank of Bow & Arrow Wines.
Winemaker - Scott, and Voice of Reason - Dana, are two of the most passionate wine people we know. We can say that because we've known them for awhile, as peers, and we've tasted many'a wines with them. From retail to restaurants to wholesale to wineries, they have engaged in nearly every facet of the wine business while honing their palates and building their knowledge of wines from everywhere. When they told us they were going to embark on a small winemaking project we knew it had all the potential to be something great, and we were not surprised to hear that their concept was a little outside the box... and right up our alley: the Loire Valley.
You could say it takes somewhat of an expert, or at least a pretty well-informed geek, to even know that it's not exactly uncommon to find Pinot Noir....wait, wait, wait, SUPER DELICIOUS Pinot Noir in the Loire Valley. When the Oregon wine pioneers planted Pinot noir in Oregon, that was exactly why they came: to plant Pinot Noir in Oregon. They could have chosen any grape variety and they could have gone anywhere, but they chose Oregon and they established the Willamette Valley as a bona fide American Viticulutural Area. Pinot noir turned out to be a good match for Oregon and Burgundy a good example to strive to, but after a short fifty year history, something else good conceived by someone else equally impassioned was bound to come along. Although the palette (not palate) is the same, David Lett and Dick Erath's Pinot noir muse was Burgundy, while Scott and Dana Frank's is the Loire.