BY SUSAN G. HAUSER
Tony and Michelle Soter returned to their Oregon roots to make fine pinot noir, including the blend they're sampling in their Carlton vineyard, North Valley Rosé.
// Photo by Joseph Eastburn
When Tony Soter returned to his native Oregon with a few decades of high-end winemaking in California under his belt, the Portland-born winemaker was already recognized as one of the most talented in the U.S. But since he’s been back — part-time since 1997 and fulltime since 2007 — his reputation has been further enhanced by the exquisite pinot noirs he has produced at Soter Vineyards, a 20,000-case winery in Carlton.
His fine wines have garnered prizes and accolades. And since Soter’s stated mission in moving back to Oregon was to produce world-class pinot noir, it would appear his mission has been accomplished.
But that was before his ecological awakening, a dramatic shift in his worldview that ultimately resulted in a completely unplanned product called Planet Oregon.
“The idea of Planet Oregon,” says Soter, “is in part to take the values of guarding the ecology and doing the right thing and putting them in people’s faces.”
You might call Planet Oregon the People’s Pinot. Its purpose, besides making a top vintner’s pinot noir available to consumers for a relatively low price, is to educate consumers on just what it takes to produce an environmentally friendly bottle of wine and why it matters.
At $20 a bottle, Planet Oregon is a fraction of the price of Soter Vineyards’ top of the line, the 2008 Mineral Springs Pinot Noir, which goes for $85, an estate wine made exclusively from grapes grown at Mineral Springs Ranch, the home of the winery. “We aspire only for the absolute best and cost is no object for Mineral Springs Pinot Noir,” says Soter.