Steamboat Inn, on the North Umpqua river east of Roseberg, Oregon, is a beautiful and remote fly fishing area. It is also the birthplace of the annual Steamboat Pinot Noir Conference, which was founded in July of 1980. This conference originally brought together colleagues within the Oregon wine industry for a week of sharing and problem-solving like no other gathering did. In an impressively cooperative effort, they met year after year, bringing samples of their wines to share with their counterparts, and learning from each other how they could make better Pinot. The tradition and collaboration continues, with the 31st annual Steamboat Pinot Noir Conference took place the last week of July. http://www.steamboatpinot.com/
Today, winemakers from all over the world come to Steamboat to compare winemaker notes, share trouble wines, discuss vineyard and winery practices, and develop relationships that keep the exchange of ideas going throughout the year. The focus is Pinot noir, but many discussions go beyond that varietal and benefit all. Every region of the world benefits from each other as different experiences bring new ideas to light. For example, in Australia, they started using whey as a substitute for sulfur in the prevention of mildew, and now many of us in the Willamette Valley are doing the same. The examples go on and on.
While the wine industry in Oregon is quite young, our learning curve has been much steeper than that of old world countries due to our cooperation and communications. It has always been a belief here that it is bad for everyone in the region if one producer makes a bad wine. Conversely, if we all make good wines, we all benefit. That has happened in spades for Pinot noir in the Willamette Valley. And it is pioneers like Stephen Carey of Yamhill Valley Vineyards and Myron Redford of Amity that have kept that spirit alive in a formal way at Steamboat.