At the recent sixth annual Cascadia International Wine Competition, an Oregon winery called Plaisance Ranch entered its estate Mondeusé, an obscure red Rhône variety native to the region of Savoie, in eastern France.
How it ended up being planted in Southern Oregon's Applegate Valley is pretty fascinating. The grape is arcane enough that our judges reached for their smartphones, getting advice from Google on its characteristics. The balance achieved by grower/winemaker Joe Ginet led his Mondeusé to earning a gold medal.
What makes this especially worth noting is that Mondeusé is one of nearly 100 wine grape varieties grown in the Pacific Northwest: from Albariño to Zinfandel, including enigmatic grapes such as Island Belle, Schönburger and Xarello (a white Spanish variety).
The mere fact that our corner of the continent now can claim 100 different grape varieties carries a number of lessons:
At least two of the grapes on our list could be indigenous to the Pacific Northwest.
This is what I most like about all these 100 grape varieties being grown in the Pacific Northwest: As a wine journalist, I’m fascinated by the story each of these vines has to tell, and that story changes from region to region, from winery to winery, from winemaker to winemaker, and from vintage to vintage.
ANDY PERDUE is the wine columnist for The Seattle Times and the founding editor of Wine Press Northwest.