It’s Oregon Wine Month and we’d like to share a bit about another talented wine professional on the New Deal crew. You might recognize Melaney Schmidt as half of the duo behind Landmass Wines. They focus on energetic sparkling wines from high elevation sites and produce a small selection of thoughtfully made whites and pinks. We met Melaney when she came to us for her fermentation internship while studying at Chemeketa Community College in their viticulture and enology program. We found that not only is she a lovely person and talented winemaker, but she also has an endless supply of cocktail knowledge from her background as a bartender and beverage director. She has helped us with countless cocktail development projects, was a key player in our line of house-made cocktail syrups, and was an invaluable collaborator on vermouth recipes for our Driftwood Libations ready-to drink bottled cocktails. She is beyond talented and we are so glad Melaney chose us for her internship.
Maybe you’re wondering why a winemaker would want to do an internship at a distillery? Well, spirits, wine, and beer all begin as agricultural products (be it grain, fruit, or hops) and all undergo the fermentation process. You’d be surprised at how much they intersect and Melaney was curious to see our take on fermentation at the distillery. As for her thoughts on local agriculture and the similarities and intersections of wine, beer, and spirit makers here in Oregon, Melaney says it best:
“As a winemaker most of my attention for the bounty of the PNW is centered around grapes, but I am also excited by all of the incredible other fruit we grow here in Oregon. Every spring, after the cold winter has finally subsided, our Oregon farms, vineyards, and orchards begin bursting with blossoms that serve as a visual promise of future fruit to be harvested for the upcoming vintages of wine, cider, and brandy.
Knowing very little about brandy production and having to participate in an internship to complete my viticulture degree, I sought out local spirits producers who were known for crafting spirits using PNW ingredients. I found New Deal Distillery and saw their commitment to celebrating local agriculture and knew their vision and mine aligned. The team welcomed me in for 12 weeks in the winter of 2017 and shared their craft with me. I was invited to be fully hands-on with them, making wheat mash, crushing ginger, and my favorite task above all else: grinding fresh pears for their amazing pear brandy.
Their generous invitation and support opened up a new side of harvest for me outside of the vines and vineyards I narrowly knew. My eyes were opened to a completely new area of agriculture just 80 miles outside of Portland – The stunning orchards of the Columbia River Gorge.
One local orchard grows a fruit so aromatic and delicious I anticipate its harvest each year, just as I do for my grapes: The Bartlett pear. These pears are juicy, subtly sweet and incredibly fragrant, just begging to be eaten right off the tree.
Grown in beautiful Hood River County by Pearaday Orchards, and picked fresh each season, these pears are brought in to New Deal Distillery where, just like grapes, they are processed and fermented. Floral and woody aromas fill the entire warehouse as yeasts consume the pears’ sugars and in return, give beautiful and nuanced fruit wine which is then distilled gently to retain all of its subtle and delicate aromas. New Deal Pear Brandy is an absolute staple in my homebar and I use it for a multitude of cocktails. If you ever find me not sipping Oregon wine, you’ll know it’s because I’m sipping Oregon pear brandy.”
You can find Landmass All Eyes Sparkling Rosé, Landmass Willamette Valley Brut, and Landmass Chardonnay in the New Deal Bottle Shop. These wines are truly lovely and if you aren’t a fan already, you will be. If you’re curious about Melaney’s cocktail recipes, one of our favorites is the Pear Rickey and some recent delicious additions include the Ginger Pineapple Daiquiri, A Better Buck, and the Dew Drop Rosé Cocktail.
Photo credit: Jordan Hughes