by Fred McMillin
What state started the observance of the first Monday of September as a legal holiday called Labor Day? Answer: Oregon, in 1887.
The Rest of the Story
So our Labor Day wine must be from Oregon, and have required an unusual amount of labor to produce. The wine is an Oregon Pinot Gris. The extra LABOR was due to the decision to raise quality by thinning the Gris (gree) vineyards as many as four times. That is, the less promising bunches of grapes were cut from the vines by hand, REQUIRING MUCH LABOR.
The Principle—The first prestigious Western vintner was St. Martin of Tours on the Loire. Author Desmond Seward tells us "legend credits his donkey with the invention of pruning in Europe. Left tethered in a vineyard, the brute ate everything in reach, leaving only grapes which grew below the level of its knees. Much to their astonishment, its master's despairing monks then made the best wine of their lives!" Lower yields had produced higher quality.
Today, the concept is even incorporated in French and Italian wine laws, which limit grape yields for certain catagories of wines. For example, in 1984 the limit on Chianti vineyards was lowered from about 5 tons per acre to 3. How did the principle do in Oregon?
In the past five years, only twice has a Pinot
Gris won Best White of the tasting. The first
was on Dec. 28, 1996 and the second was in our
last session. In both cases the winner was
produced by the King Estate of Oregon!
Although St. Martin didn't know it, centuries before his time the Romans had learned that generally lower yields of grapes meant higher quality of wine. That is, they found the low- yield hillside vineyards tended to make better wine than more fertile valley floor soils.
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