Sokol Blosser is celebrating its golden anniversary this year. The 50-year legacy begins in 1971 when Susan Sokol and Bill Blosser planted vines on Oregon’s gold coast in Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley. I was invited to join the party where I had the opportunity to celebrate with the family. It was a party full of fun memorable stories, laughter and reflections on the past 50 years and what is in store for the next 50.
The party was hosted by Susan and Bill along with their children Alex and Alison, who are now the second generation at the helm of the winery. They all shared memories about how the winery has evolved and innovated over the past 50 years.
Sokol Blosser – Five Decades Of Winemaking
Susan and Bill were the early pioneers of Willamette Valley. They had no farming, winemaking or business background, but they had a vision and a passion to plant vineyards in Oregon. In the ’70s when many were looking to California for winemaking, Susan and Bill headed to Willamette Valley instead. Bill says he was intrigued by the Willamette Valley since it was the closest climatically to Northern Burgundy. They set out to plant Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and a handful of cool-climate varieties like Riesling and Muller Thurgau.
Their passion and determination were extraordinary since Oregon had no history of commercial success in grape growing and winemaking. Alison says it was remarkable and crazy what her parents did. Today 50 years later, Sokol Blosser has prospered as a family-owned winery and has played an integral role in shaping Willamette Valley’s prominence around the world.
Since he was a child, Bill Blosser always wanted to be a farmer. His passion for wine grew during his junior year of college where he spent a year in France. Bill says, “The universe lit up for him while spending time amongst the vineyards. My parents didn’t drink wine. It was a whole new experience in France, with the integration of food, wine and incredibly beautiful landscapes. Wine became a disease for me”.
Bill’s trip to France was very timely. When he returned to the States in the mid-60s, the wine industry was coming back alive after prohibition. This gave him encouragement and motivation to explore grape growing. Bill had many inspiring conversations with David Lett, Dick Erath, and Charles Coury, “they had a crazy pioneering attitude and he went along with it all.” Taking inspiration from them, Bill and Susan decided to come to Dundee Hills, and as they say, the rest is history.
The Second Generation
In 2008 Bill and Susan handed over the baton to their children, Alison and Alex. They both became co-presidents and the second generation to run the winery. Both siblings wanted to increase quality and also wanted Sokol Blosser to be known as a sparkling wine house.
From the beginning, they have always strived to implement sustainable farming practices in the vineyards. Sustainability plays a critical role in how they measure success at Sokol Blosser. In 2002 Sokol Blosser became the first US winery to receive LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.
As recognition of their commitment to sustainability and to provide a framework for becoming even more sustainable, they became B Corp certified in 2015. They are committed to being good stewards of the land and leaving it in as good or better shape for the next generation.
Sokol Blosser – Wine Tasting
Sokol Blosser Bluebird Cuvée Sparkling 2018
Every good party must start with bubbles. While sipping and tasting this wine, Alex reminisces about how they wanted Sokol Blosser to be known as a sparkling wine house. In 2010 they started working on sparkling wine. Today Sokol Blosser has a robust sparkling wine program with a range of bubbly offerings.
The Bluebird Cuvée is fresh zippy and delish. Alex explains that their house style is reductionist, where they are looking to make fresh wines with purity of fruit. The Cuvée is a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Muscat, Muller-Thurgau and Riesling. The blend is aromatic and expressive on the nose. With just one year on lees, the palate is intensely fruity and clean with zippy acidity. A delicious sparkling Cuvée with a long mineral-rich finish.
Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Oregon Estate Pinot Noir 2018
2018 was a great vintage for Oregon Pinot Noir. The Dundee Hills estate Pinot comes from a blend of 30 different picking blocks. This estate wine is crafted to be a true expression of terroir from their hillside vines and Jory soil, made from a low yield crop that is dry-farmed for quality and comprised of a variety of clones.
Nice ripeness of fruit, good tannins, and lively acidity are present in this Pinot Noir. Notes of dark cherries, pomegranate and red berries coat the palate along with silky tannins. The wine is charming, bright, and restrained.
Sokol Blosser Old Vineyard Block Estate Pinot Noir 2018
As a homage to those early days, Sokol Blosser has created a 50th-anniversary label inspired by the first label that started it all. Alison says for the 50th Anniversary they wanted to do a throwback label, a tribute to their mom and dad for all the risk they took, along with honoring all their successes.
The Old Vineyard Block is the original block that was planted in 1971, but later replanted due to phylloxera. The original section of the Estate vineyard has a
diversity of clones present. This wine has more concentration and density than the estate Pinot. This is an impressive Pinot Noir with notes of black currants, blueberries, and a hint of spice and cola. Old Vineyard Block is a generous Pinot that will continue to evolve with time in the cellar.
Sokol Blosser Goosepen Block Estate Pinot Noir 2011
Goosepen Block is one of their top blocks with only 3 acres planted to mostly Pommard. 2011 was a classic “old-time” Oregon vintage with a long, cool growing season and grapes with lower sugar and higher acid. Goosepen is known as their grand cru site on their estate in terms of quality. It produces its most compelling Pinot Noir. This block makes wines with amazing fruit, firm grippy tannins and zippy acidity.
The Goosepen Block has a fun family story. The block got its unique name when Susan decided to get geese to weed the grass in the vineyards. The geese had no desire to control the weed and were just social birds wanting to hang with people. The geese eventually ended up in the freezer and the feathers made their way into fluffy pillows.
The 2011 is part of their library collection and it was an honor to taste this wine. It has notes of cherries, plums, currants, violets and tobacco notes. There is great acidity, soft tannins and minerality on the finish. The bright acidity will allow the wine to age even further. This is truly an outstanding and elegant Pinot Noir. Hats off to the Sokol Blosser family for this incredible wine.
What’s In Store For The Next 50 Years?
Alison says quality is something that they are eternally striving for and are continuously looking for ways to improve. Sustainability is a key focus and they want to do more organic farming. They look for innovative ways that they can lessen their impact on mother earth.
They pride themselves on innovation and are continuing to push the envelope with their box wines. They have also invested in high-tech mechanical harvesting equipment. Their goal is to mechanize their harvesting without losing any quality.
Alison and Alex are keen to keep the third generation in the business. They view themselves as the stewards of the business. Their hope is to nurture Sokol Blosser and grow the business for the third generation. As part of the second generation, they hope to hand off the business to the third generation in better shape than when they took over.
Cheers to an incredible 50 years for Sokol Blosser!!