Kate Norris, Winemaker and Co-Founder of Division Wine Co. Gives Us The Scoop on What to Drink
Warmer weather is on the horizon, and it’s time to mix up what’s in our glass. There’s nothing like a crisp white or light red when the weather starts to turn. We tend to turn to the wines we know, like a Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay, but this season it’s time to mix it up.
We sat down with Kate Norris, Winemaker and Co-Founder of Division Wine Co. and the Southeast Wine Collective in Portland, Ore. Kate learned winemaking in the famed French regions of Beaujolais, Burgundy, and Loire, so she’s no stranger to wine and food. She now creates wines with the fruit of Oregon, much of it from nearby Willamette Valley. So we thought, who better than Kate to fill us in on what we should be drinking this spring, along with a few great food pairings.
Don’t be overwhelmed.
Kate’s first rule: “Wine is just really fun. It’s important to demystify it and enjoy it in the moment.”
Here are some of her recommendations and pairings to try.
You may be thinking that Pinot Noir is too familiar, especially Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs, but these particular Pinot Noirs are made differently. Carbonic wines are most often made in the Beaujolais region, which makes sense given Kate’s training. We all know that spring can be a total mystery when it comes to weather, so this is a great wine to bridge cooler temps and a spring warm-up.
Carbonic fermentation for Pinot Noir allows the winemakers to use younger vines and still make a very bright Pinot Noir. There is no yeast to start the fermentation. The grapes actually start the process themselves, “each grape becomes its own wine bomb.”
“It gives great texture and pop,” Kate says, “It allows Pinot Noir to be fresh and fruity and a chillable red for springtime.”
Yes, she suggests throwing this red into the fridge to chill it and bringing it out to pair with a grilled romaine salad or even a grilled steak. And make sure to pour it in a red wine glass that has titanium-reinforced stems!
Producers to check out:
The Marigny Carbonic Pinot noir, Division Winemaking Company "Méthode Carbonique Pinot noir,” Day Wines "Vin de Days" Rouge, Fossil and Fawn "Do Nothing."
If Kate could pick a wine to take onto a deserted island, Gamay would be it. Given her training, it’s no surprise that this is the wine she drinks daily.
It’s also the one that most often uses carbonic fermentation, but unlike the Pinot Noir, this variety is a little heartier, with “a pepperiness, fruit-forwardness,” says Kate.
This wine can be chilled or room temperature depending on what you most enjoy, and it’s a great drinking wine for both those that love a heavier red or a lighter red.
“One of the most interesting grapes, it truly absorbs the flavors of what’s planted around it,” she says. “So in the Willamette Valley, with more volcanic soil, you can get this pine and cedar taste mixed in with flavors of strawberries and red fruit.”
Pair this wine with a snap pea salad with goat cheese and fresh strawberries, Kate suggests, and add in crispy prosciutto if you eat meat. Try serving the salad in one of our side bowls.
Producers to try: Brick House, Cooper Mountain, Hundred Suns, Evening Lands, Division Winemaking Company "Les Petits Fers Gamay Noir."
(photo courtesy of Janis Miglavs)
This lesser-known white wine is considered to be the second white grape of the Burgundy region.
“It’s the little sister of chardonnay – it’s what the winemakers drink,” Kate says. “Fruit forward with a beautiful salinity.”
This is a great wine to drink on its own and makes a great aperitif while you start the grill on a warmer spring day. You can mix it as the base of a Kir cocktail or even pair it with oysters or salmon.
Make it the perfect pour in our white wine glasses.
Producers to try: Walter Scott, Minimus/Craft wine Co, Lumos
No matter which wine you choose to try, they’ll all give your wine stash a much-needed refresh this spring. You’ll be able to impress friends and family with your expert pairings, too.