Saluté, santé, slainte, salud… Across the spectrum of languages, when one raises a glass to make a toast, it typically involves a drink to good health. Since wine and the quest for good health have been linked for centuries (if not millennia), it’s only appropriate that the Oregon wine industry joined hands with Tuality Healthcare to make a giant step towards meeting basic health care needs by providing services to Oregon’s migrant farm workers as well as their families through the ¡Salud! program and its mobile wellness clinics.
According to the ¡Salud! website and an article in Wine BusinessMonthly, the ¡Salud! Organization, celebrating its 20-year anniversary this year, was founded by Dick and Nancy Ponzi of Ponzi Vineyards in collaboration with Tuality Healthcare physicians, and has made a difference to the tune of over $8 million since its inception. The most effective and far-reaching program of its kind in the United States, Oregon vintners and healthcare providers have shown both their commitment to and respect for their seasonal vineyard crews. In the words of Nancy Ponzi (recipient of this year’s Legacy Award), “Without them, our wines would not be possible.”
Only a select number of the most prestigious wineries are invited to join the ¡Salud! “Vintner’s Circle” each year. Participating wineries craft a cuvée of their most premium barrels and create a wine to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. The money raised provides cholesterol and diabetes screening, blood pressure checks, wellness information, including cancer awareness, flu and tetanus vaccinations, vision and dental screenings, classes and certifications as well as major medical and referrals as needed for workers and their families from over 200 participating vineyards.
On a wow and rare occasion, I had the opportunity to taste several of Adelsheim Vineyards’s prior vintage ¡Salud! cuvees, they crafted specifically for the annual ¡Salud! auction. For the first time ever, and to help promote ¡Salud! and its 20-year anniversary, Adelsheim poured ¡Salud! wines from their library to a select group of Oregon wine connoisseurs from the upcoming 2010 vintage (to be auctioned this year) as well as wines from the year’s 2004, 2003, 1999, 1998 and 1994. Just a handful of these rare bottles remain in existence today, and I was fortunate enough to be able to see how these wines aged as well as gain an understanding for how the wineries selected their finest blends. The 2010 is showing tremendous promise with a glassful of already-balanced fruit, acid and structure, and it was fun to taste the 17-year-old 1994, but the 1999, featuring fruit from the Goldschmidt Vineyard in the Dundee Hills (which is now the Winderlea Estate), and still showing beautiful notes of strawberries (though a bit more like cooked strawberries than fresh ones at this point) was the clearly star of the show.
Even with the tremendous success of the ¡Salud! program, it currently only reaches only 40% of the Northern Willamette Valley vineyards and workers… leaving considerable room for growth. The 20th Anniversary Auction and Dinner are scheduled to take place the weekend of November 11th and 12th at Domaine Drouhin and the Governer Hotel. Tickets for this worthwhile cause are $395 and available through www.saludauction.org