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Oregon winery turns 800 cases of tainted Pinot into BBQ sauce

With wineries increasingly exploring creative ways to repurpose smoke-tainted grapes, db speaks to one Oregon producer which transformed its spoiled crop into BBQ sauce.

Following the 2020 wildfires that ripped through Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Durant Vineyards in Dayton was left with around 800 cases of smoke-tainted Pinot Noir.

Sadly, Durant is far from alone in this, with many Oregon producers left trying to figure out how to salvage their 2020 harvest and recoup some of their costs.

In January, the drinks business reported that Patricia Green Cellars had salvaged its smoke-tainted 2020 harvest by distilling tainted grapes into two whiskey/brandy blends, marketed under new name Patty Green. The producer managed to make 172 bottles of the spirit in total, charging between US$80-$200 per bottle, depending on their length of ageing.

However, Durant Vineyards chose to go down a different route.

“Initially, we thought about making brandy from the impacted wine, which we could still do. However, that’s not our area of expertise, whereas culinary development is something we truly excel at,” Paul Durant, owner and CEO of Durant Vineyards tells db.

While Durant had an inkling that a BBQ sauce could work, it took around two months and “various trials and tastings” to land upon the perfect formula.

“We worked with Paradigm Foodworks in Lake Oswego to scale up the recipe to a large batch,” he says. Paradigm, which makes a wide array of condiments including jams, jellies, and mustards, pioneered the Pinot BBQ sauce under the watchful eye of Eric Bartle, Durant Vineyard’s culinary director.

The final product is designed to highlight the fruit-forward notes of the Pinot Noir, as well as the subtle smoky undertones from the wildfires, and features “hints of allspice and clove with the slow burn of smoked chipotle chilis and black pepper”.

“It was intentionally developed to be tangy and savoury,” explains Durant. “We didn’t want it to be overly spicy, so that it can be paired with a broader variety of foods like grilled salmon and veggies as well as ribs or pulled pork sliders.”

“It’s our way of making the most out of a challenging situation.”

So just how much BBQ sauce can you make from 800 cases of wine?

“We made about 5,000 bottles of sauce in this first run, and we have enough to make about another 15,000 bottles,” says Durant, who reveals to db that the innovation “should allow us to recover virtually all of the wine production costs.”

What’s more, 5% of the proceeds made from the BBQ sauce will be donated to the Dayton Fire District, with the funds to be used for its Emergency Medical Technician – Basic (EMT-B) training course.

“I’m just glad we found a use for the wine and it is a fun pivot after what was a very stressful event in 2020,” says Durant.

“The 2020 wildfires had a huge impact on wineries across Oregon. For us, the fires were purely a smoke-related event – we were not put at risk directly from the flames while so many others lost their homes and even their lives and wellbeing. I count myself to be fortunate in that regard and my thoughts often turn to those who lost so much more.”

Durant Pinot Noir Barbeque Sauce is available in 12-oz bottles for US$12 each via the producer’s website and select local retailers.

In May, db reported that more than 30 wineries in Oregon are suing PacifiCorp for US$100 million for negligence surrounding the 2020 wildfires. The wineries claim that the energy firm’s decision not to shut off power during a windstorm in 2020 contributed to the devastating wildfires that subsequently swept through the area, causing smoke taint to vintners’ grapes.

PacificCorp is owned by parent company Berkshire Hathaway Inc., chaired by money magnate Warren Buffett, and the company has indicated that it’s committed to settling “all reasonable claims”. PacificCorp has already been ordered by several Oregon juries to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars in other cases related to the 2020 fires during trails held over the past year.

More than 1,875 square miles (4,856 square kilometres) were burned in the 2020 fires, and more than 5,000 homes destroyed in the blaze.






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