Readings offer look into Oregon winemaking

Susan Sokol Blosser points out how her political opponent’s low-blow tactics are actually helping to sell her book “At Home in the Vineyard,” which she read excerpts from in a winemaking talk with fellow writer Brian Doyle on Oct. 21 in Nicholson Library. Megan Myer/Online editor

Two authors provided a behind-the-scenes look at local winemaking as part of the “Readings at the Nick” series Oct. 21 in Nicholson Library.
Winemaker Susan Sokol Blosser read from her memoir “At Home in the Vineyard” and was followed by readings by author Brian Doyle.
Sokol Blosser, co-founder of Sokol Blosser Winery, is widely hailed as a pioneer of the wine industry in Yamhill County. “At Home in the Vineyard” explores Sokol Blosser’s personal and business accomplishments in the industry.
“My story should give hope to all budding entrepreneurs,” Sokol Blosser said. The odds seemed stacked against her in 1971, when she planted Sokol Blosser Winery’s first vines with no business or agriculture training and in an area with no wine industry.
“The fact that we are still here in business, that the second generation is now running the show, that we are distributed internationally … [it] shows you that miracles can happen,” Sokol Blosser, a Stanford University graduate, said. “And it proves that you can do anything with a liberal arts education.”
When prompted by an audience member, she explained that protesting activities at Sokol Blosser Winery went so far as trespassing in a move she called “below the belt.” People protested because they accused her of hiring illegal immigrants, which Sokol Blosser admits may have happened without her knowledge.
Sokol Blosser is also running as a candidate in the Oregon House of Representatives District 24 race.
Sokol Blosser joked that she was “happy to be at a literary event and not a campaigning event.” Sokol Blosser is also a familiar face to the campus as a subject featured in the “Bringing Vines to the Valley” exhibit currently displayed in the library.
“[This reading] goes hand-in-hand with the exhibit,” said Library Director Susan Barnes Whyte.
Sokol Blosser’s readings touched on topics such as sustainability in agriculture, the role of the International Pinot Noir Celebration in growing the Oregon wine industry, the birth of her winery and how she “came to love the vineyard.”
“[Working in the vineyard] gave me a sense of oneness with the land and a fulfillment I never imagined,” Sokol Blosser said.
On sustainability, Sokol Blosser said she gained “a sense of the interconnectedness of everything” and integrated into her business an emphasis on what she calls a triple bottom line: people, planet and profit.
Following Sokol Blosser, Doyle, author of nine books and editor of Portland Magazine at University of Portland, read various pieces of his work, including passages from his book “The Grail.”
“The Grail” follows his story of a year spent at Lange Winery in Dundee, Ore., where he pinned down the nuances of creating the perfect pinot noir.
Doyle also read from his new novel “Mink River,” which was published this month.
Doyle’s readings ranged from comedic, such as in his “rules for the bathroom” as told to his young sons, to touching, eliciting tears from speaker and audience members alike, as in his account of the bittersweet moment of a parent cutting the apron strings and sending his child off to college.
“It seems like I’m not a writer any more; I’m a listener,” Doyle said. “I wander around listening to stories.”
The result of his listening is an eclectic assortment of literary odds and ends, expressed in his reading, which include teaching the audience to curse in Gaelic, recounting his experience of getting glasses and seeing the world clearly for the first time and the story of a former homicide detective who became a father of triplets.

Gabi Nygaard/Staff reporter
Gabi Nygaard can be reached at

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