Pacific NW: Willamette Valley, day 2

We met our friend from college, Nate Wall, at Day Wines for a tasting and tour. Got to try a bunch of different wines and have a great conversation about wine making methods.

orange wine @ Day Camp  gourds!

Our next destination was Sweet Oregon Berry Co, for their delicious hand pies. Eric got raspberry and I tried the seasonal pumpkin hand pie, and both were great. Our timing was good too, as this was the last weekend they would be open for the season!

Re-fortified we continued to Carlton to visit Cana’s Feast, a winery that had caught our eye on the 2016 trip with some unusual white and red varietals. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any whites open for tasting, only one rose and several reds. My favorites were the “Rhone” style wines, the Syrah and Joie de Vivre. Eric wound up buying a bottle of the Arneis white we wanted to try as well. As a side note, they have a big patio that is quite inviting.

Cana's Feast tasting room

On our way to the Argyle tasting, we passed by the new Dominio IV tasting room and stopped in to search out my favorite tempranillo, the Technicolor Bat. They didn’t have any in stock but we picked up a 2015 Viognier and a 2011 Tempranillo that was drinking well, according to the wine manager.

The last stop of the day was our members tasting at Argyle.  We were greeted at the door with a sparkling rose and once the group was assembled, our host Tim led to the Spirit House tasting room where we tried the 2014 Argyle Vintage Brut, 2007 Argyle Extended Tirage Brut (Eric’s fave), 2015 Argyle Riesling Spirithouse, 2015 Argyle Pinot Noir Nuthouse and the 2015 Argyle Pinot Noir Cowhouse. After the tasting we got a tour of the facilities, including the RD bubbles and magnums. All in all, a great member’s tasting experience and awesome perk for being a wine club member.

member's tasting @ Argyle

Argyle Winery

We headed back to the hotel room and watched the sunset with a glass of wine on the back lawn before heading to Dundee Bistro for dinner. I enjoyed a half dozen of oysters and an olive pizza with a De Ponte Melon de Borgonoune, while Eric ordered the butter lettuce salad and a margherita pizza alongside an apricot ale.

After another full day we went back to the room to watch Stranger Things season 2. :)

Pacific NW 2017: Willamette Valley, day 1

Our flight into Seattle landed at 10pm, so fortunately our friends Dave and Jake who offered to host us for the night live just a few minutes from the airport. Of course we stayed up talking and hanging out with them and their three crazy dogs for a while.

filling breakfast @ Shelly'sThankfully we were able to sleep in until 9am. After a quick re-pack of the car we headed to a filling breakfast at Shelly’s, where I had a salmon benedict and Eric had an omelet with huge chunks of ham and crispy potatoes. My benedict had WAY too much hollandaise sauce but was otherwise good and the coffee was solid.

Completely stuffed we started the drive south through Tacoma, Olympia, and Portland – took a little over 3 hours – not bad! About halfway the clouds suddenly parted and we had beautiful blue skies and sunshine for the rest of the trip.

We had a 3pm appointment for tasting at Erath, and with an hour to kill we wanted to try another nearby winery. Unfortunately our first choice was closed so we decided on Hyland Estates. They are located behind our B&B so we first checked in and dropped off our luggage, hoping to find a tasting card and sure enough! Complimentary tasting for 2 plus 10% off a purchase when buying a single vineyard pinot noir.

Our tasting with Paulina at Hyland Estates was very nice. We arrived at the same time as an older couple so we all did the tasting together. She was very knowledgable about the wines and I had no trouble understanding her even with her French accent. We tried a Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, their standard Pinot Noir and two single vineyard Pinot Noirs, Clone 117 and Coury Clone. Our favorites were the Gewürztraminer and the Clone 117. We overheard the manager tell another group that the Gewürztraminer was buy two get one free so we got the same deal plus a bottle of Pinot. Came out to be $100 with the B&B discount.

Only five minutes away, our next stop was Erath, one of our favorite places in the valley, and where we have been wine club members for years. Dixie was our entertaining server and we chose to sit out on the patio while she brought us wine after wine in a very relaxed experience. She also mentioned that their penny shipping deal was still going on (!!!) so we selected two cases to have shipped home to us in NC. My only complaint was snacks were not offered (except off the paid menu) – as our last few member tastings came with a small cheese plate. We didn’t ask after it and it wasn’t a big deal.

yellow vines @ Erath

For dinner we chose to walk to the Babica Hen Cafe. Less than a five minute walk from our B&B, it was fine in daylight but a bit tricky after dark  as there are no sidewalks. Dinner started out a bit bumpy as a few of the beers on the menu weren’t available,  but after a few false starts Eric ended up with a tasty Pale Ale and I found a Pelican Export Stout (not listed on the menu) that was very good. I had the Mad Beaver burger with horseradish aioli, crispy onions and blue cheese (cooked perfectly medium) and Eric had the Texas pulled pork sandwich with fried jalapenos, both with curly fries. Everything was delicious.

After a full day we retired to our room to enjoy some of the Hyland Gewürztraminer and plan our Friday.

Leandra’s 40th: wine tasting in Willamette Valley

Wine tasting in Willamette Valley is one of our favorite activities in Oregon, and one of the main reasons I wanted to go for my birthday trip. Staying in Newberg for the weekend gave us easy access to many old favorites and some new ones as well.

Saturday

wine tasting @ Dominio IVTrisaetum Winery – We were the first people to arrive and the wine tasting experience with Jasmine was pleasant. I opted for the Red & White flight while Eric got the White only flight. They have a LOT of Rieslings (one of the main reasons we choose this place) but Eric definitely preferred the 2014 Ribbon Ridge (baked apple and lemon with some mineral) over the five other choices. I found their Pinots to be a bit on the light side and also pricey.

Arborbrook Vineyards – An old favorite of ours (we used to be wine club members), we stopped in to buy a few bottles of the Pinot Gris but decided to do a wine tasting as the fee was waived with the purchase of the bottles. Eric picked up a few of the 2014 Croft Pinot Gris and I couldn’t resist two bottles of the delicious 2014 Coury Clone.

Lachini Vineyards – Located within sight distance of Arborbrook and suggested by the staff there, we made this small tasting room our next stop. Their website touts their wines as ‘premium’ and while we thought everything was good (especially the rose), the real value was the Grape Republic label at $25 for a perfectly drinkable Oregon Pinot Noir. Ashlyn was a great hostess and another lively group tasting with us provided plenty of entertainment. The tasting room was warm given the outside temperature, but we had an enjoyable tasting nonetheless. On a cooler day their patio area would have been a beautiful spot to sit.

Dominio IV – This small tasting room in McMinnville was also a revisit for us. The tasting experience was rather impersonal until the end when it was bolstered by the appearance of the winemaker, Patrick, who chatted with us for a few minutes about the wine. The Syrah and Pinot Noirs were good, as usual, but I was less impressed with the Tempranillo on this visit and Eric thought the Viognier had a slight bitterness to the finish this year.

Sunday

member tasting @ ErathErath – Because we are wine club members, we were able to secure a reservation for a private tasting out on the shady front terrace overlooking the vines. Theresa was our pourer (she also hosted me when I had the girls out two years ago) and she did a wonderful job of keeping our glasses full. We receive regular shipments from Erath throughout the year, but this tasting was helpful so we know how our existing bottles are tasting, plus notes on several of the other wines they have available. Our favorites were the 2015 Knights Gambit Rose, 2014 Leland Pinot Noir and the 2013 Le Jour Magique (White Pinot Noir).

Argyle Winery – Noticing the sign coaxing visitors to “end your day with bubbles!” (open until 7pm), we decided to stop here before heading back to the room. I was here two years ago, and since then they have built a beautiful new modern tasting facility behind the small house they previously used for tastings. Eric tried the special “Cool Whites for Summer” tasting and I got a glass of the Knudsen Vineyard sparkling to sip while he took tasting notes. :) Eric found two wines he liked on the list (2014 Spirit Hill Chardonnay and 2014 Nuthouse Riesling) and we let ourselves get talked into joining the wine club because it meant free refrigerated shipping on our first shipment, plus a free bottle of their standard sparkling since it was my birthday month!

Monday

Carlton Winemakers Studio – This place is a little further out but I wanted to go back since I remembered the tasting being good several years back. Christine did not disappoint with her energy and good humor but I was less than impressed with the Portfolio flight offerings. The price points were good but the wine just wasn’t to my liking – this is likely due to the wet 2013 season, which left me unimpressed at nearly all the wineries. Plus you have to buy six bottles to waive the $15 tasting fee. Our favorites were the 2013 Merriman Chenin Blanc and the 2014 Lazy River Estate Pinot Noir.

Carlton Winemaker's Studio

Argyle Winery (part two) – As we were now wine club members, we figured we should stop in and try some of their other options! This time Eric got the flight of bubbles and I tried the Pinot Noirs. I fell in love with the 2014 Nuthouse Pinot Noir and luckily was able to add two more bottles to our Sunday order, leaving room in our shippers for Cascade beer later in the trip.

argylewineflight

As usual, we enjoyed our tasting experiences. In general, we noted that prices are definitely rising in Willamette Valley, and that we preferred 2014 & 15 to the 2013 vintages.

Portland: Willamette Valley wine tasting

Arborbrook – One of our favorite Oregon wineries, we made this our first wine-tasting stop on this trip. Even though the tasting room has expanded since our last trip, the friendly wine maker was still pouring wine and sharing stories about wine production. Solid pinot noir and pinot gris, highly recommended.  We bought a mixed case to supplement our wine club shipments.

dominio

The Eyrie Vineyards – This little tasting room was mentioned by a few people because of the legend of David Lett. His son took over the vineyard after David’s death a few years ago and in addition to making wines in his father’s style, he is also branching out under the BlackCap label. Sorry to say that we weren’t terribly impressed with the price points on the wines we tasted but we did like the BlackCap series better than the standard wines. We bought two bottles to hit the $60 minimum to waive our shared tasting fee.

Dominio IV – We enjoyed several wines from this winery on our last trip at the Carlton Tasting Room, so we were delighted to find the tasting room open and a five minute walk from Eyrie. They were having a wine club pick-up weekend, so there were several couples enjoying the mild weather out on the patio area when we arrived. Heather was a lively (if not a bit harried) hostess and more or less everything we tried was delicious and held up to our memory! Our favorites were the viognier and syrah and we couldn’t leave without grabbing a few bottles of each.

St Innocent – On our second day of wine tasting we decided to venture further south to an area we had not been before, and St Innocent came highly recommended by several sources. Our tasting experience was pleasant but my palate was pretty tired after sampling eight slightly different pinot noirs from single designate vineyards. I feel like they would be better served by blending a bit and creating some truly great wines rather than offering so many similar choices. Eric wasn’t impressed with their two whites.

stinnocent

Bethel Heights – Needing to find a place with a few whites for Eric to enjoy, we left St. Innocent and drove up the hill to Bethel Heights. This tasting was half and half and although the wines were good, I found the reds to be overpriced ($50 vs $35 at most other places). Our hostess was English and very friendly and we even got into a conversation with two couples visiting from Atlanta (we would run into them again at Sokol Blosser the next afternoon). It was fairly foggy during our visit, but the views from the tasting room would be spectacular on a clear day. We left with the 2011 Gewurztraminer and the 2012 Pinot Blanc.

Cristom – Yet another place that falls victim to the single designates that don’t have a lot of individual personality. The one token white was just meh and while the reds got better as we went down the list, at $50 and up it was definitely not a value for your money type of place. They take pride in the fact that they use whole cluster fermentation but I didn’t find the woody/bitter notes in the wines to agree with me.  The setting is very pretty though with vines right by the parking area and the pours were generous but, unfortunately, we just didn’t like the wine that much. The only place where we didn’t purchase at least a bottle.

wine grapesBrooks – I was getting a little burned out with all the reds so our last stop of the day was Brooks on our way back to the B&B. Known for their Rieslings, Eric was delighted a see a great variety of well-priced whites on the tasting list. We really enjoyed our tasting here,  especially as the chocolate and interesting wines came out when we were the last people in the tasting room! Bradley and Devin were great hosts and we picked up a few whites and two reds to bring home (with a nice complimentary tote bag). [Eric note: I will definitely drag Leandra back here on future visits.]

Sokol Blosser – The Sokol Blosser tasting room is lovely but at $15/tasting, easily the most expensive of our visits. Thankfully, our friends had given us free tasting cards so we decided to add this place to our itinerary for the last day. Eric was good host and while we liked the whites enough, the standout favorite was the rose. The intro reds were just okay and though I liked the higher end reds, I didn’t want to spend $60-$80 per bottle so I just enjoyed the tasting we had of those. Strangely, while looking over the wine club info, they only offer one level of membership and the club included easy-to-get wines from their well-known Evolution series. Why would I join a wine club that is going to send me things I can buy at Whole Foods? We left with three bottles and a shipper box.

Sokol Blosser vines

Four Graces – After picking up another fruit pie (blackberry for me!) and chocolate chip cookie for Eric we stopped in at Four Graces.  Their tasting room was in an old house with a homey feel, and while we didn’t visit it, a nice garden area for enjoying a glass. Wines were solid, with the Dundee Hills pinot noir being my favorite by far, but a bit pricey. The tasting fee was only waived on 3 bottle purchase but we decided to only take one bottle of my favorite for $45.

Erath – Another place that we revisited from our last trip, we had a wonderful tasting with Pat. We tried many wines both on the main list and otherwise and wound up joining the wine club to have access to some of their special releases. Although you can find their flagship pinot in many places, the winemaker also does a lot of small case production reds and whites that you can really only get through the vineyard. The value and quality makes this one of our favorite vineyards in the area.

We have all of our tasting notes from this trip, so if you have any questions about any wines we tried, please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help!

Oregon wineries, day 2: Anne Amie, Carlton Winemakers Studio, Lemelson, Erath

See the wineries we visited on the first day, Oregon wineries. day 1: Montinore, Kramer, Arborbrook, WillaKenzie.

Anne Amie Vineyards—Fruit flies were competing with us for the wine here, but we still managed to sneak a few samples in. The woman pouring the wine was very nice and we got to hear all about her family vacation to Mexico with teenagers—thankfully that won’t be a challenge for us anytime soon! Eric had the advantage here as the regular $5 tasting only included one Pinot Noir while the rest were whites.

Our favorite was the ’07 Cuvee a Müller-Thurgau, so we got a bottle. The runner up was the ’07 Pinot Gris with notes of pear and cream. I thought the Pinot Noir was nicely fruity but overpriced. Tasting fees are waived if you spend $50 or more (I think this is per person, too). One item to note: the tasting room is set up on a ridge with a beautiful view that would make for a great picnic spot on a nice day.

Purchased: ’07 Cuvee a Müller-Thurgau


(overlooking the drive up to the tasting room and the Anne Amie vineyards)

Carlton Winemakers Studio—This tasting room is unique because it’s a co-op group of several small wineries that use the facility to produce their wine. Having several winemakers there meant we got to taste two flights of wine (one each) all from different labels. The fees for the flights are charged even with a purchase, but we weren’t charged for two additional samples he poured us, and we got a $5 discount for purchasing 6 bottles.

My favorites from the red flight were the ’06 J Daan Pinot Noir (smooth with coffee and ripe fruit) and the ’06 Lazy River Estate Pinot Noir (tropical perfume, rich tannins). I also sampled the ’05 Dominio IV “Old Man Looking East” Syrah which was very peppery with rich cardamom and lovely cherry notes. Eric enjoyed all of his whites, the ’06 Carlton Winemaker’s Studio Pinot Gris (melon, light, but full-flavored), ’07 Andrew Rich Wines Croft Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc (light peanut, great body, slight vegetal notes) and the ’07 Dominio IV “Still Life” Viognier (peaches and cream, very nice).

Purchased: ’06 J Daan Pinot Noir, ’06 Lazy River Estate Pinot Noir, ’07 Dominio IV “Still Life” Viognier, ’06 Dominio IV “Technicolor Bat” blend, ’06 Carlton Winemaker’s Studio Pinot Gris


(my tasting flight of reds)

Lemelson Vineyards—The tasting for the vineyard was appointment only on Monday, so we scheduled our visit here in advance and worked the other places around it. Laura was a great host and we got to sample a total of eight wines with a mini tour of the facility in between whites and reds.

All three of the whites were nice, we tried the ’07 Tikka’s Run Pinot Gris (green apple with a mild creamy finish) and ’06 Reserve Chardonnay (roasted wood and nutty, aged 18mo in French Oak) but the ’06 Dry Riesling (slate and plastic nose, very Alsatian-esque) was Eric’s favorite. We sampled five estate-grown Pinot Noirs from 2006 and it was very interesting to see the differences a specific patch of land makes on the final product. All had a very nice herbal quality that ranged from mace to cumin to smoked tea. We liked the ’06 “Meyer Vineyard” Pinot Noir (smoky black cherry with a long finish) and the ’06 “Chestnut Hill” Pinot Noir (meaty and herbal with sweet earth tones) best.

Purchased: ’06 Dry Riesling, ’06 “Meyer Vineyard” Pinot Noir, ’06 “Chestnut Hill” Pinot Noir


(the Lemelson Vinyards engraved gate)

Erath Winery—Our very last winery of the trip and it was a beautiful venue to relax and enjoy the warm sunshine. This tasting room has a group of tables outside of the tasting room that overlook vineyards in the Dundee Hills- a beautiful way to end the day! Oh, and the wine was good too, especially from a value standpoint. We both tried the complimentary tasting flight and split the Winemaker’s Choice flight.

In general, I found the whites to be a little better than the reds, although everything we tried was very drinkable. The ’06 Gewurtztraminer (very floral with sweet start and dry finish) is a great value at $12. We only had enough room for one bottle, but we may be ordering more since they don’t distribute the Gewurtztraminer like they do with their Pinot Noir (light strawberry and currant) and Pinot Gris (toasty citrus, very crisp).

Purchased: ’06 Gewurtztraminer


(a view of the Dundee Hills on the way to Erath)

You’ll notice that I haven’t printed the prices for all the wines we tried here, but if you are interested in any of the bottles we mentioned or bought, we’ll keep all the tasting notes and prices, so just send us an email. :)

Oregon wineries, day 1: Montinore, Kramer, Arborbrook, WillaKenzie

After several miles of hiking to some beautiful waterfalls on our first day in Oregon, we headed south into the Willamette Valley to spend two days wine tasting. The weather could not have been more perfect, mid-sixties and sunny the entire time. Plus, the vineyard leaves had all changed to a stunning yellow, which made the wineries even more picturesque.

Montinore Estate—This winery was recommended by our friends at Wine Authorities here in Durham and since it was furthest north of the places on our list, we made it our first stop. We had the large tasting room to ourselves and the women helping out were full of knowledge about the vineyard and wine making process. The tasting fee was $5 for 5 samples and when we bought 6 bottles of wine, only one of the tasting fees was waived.

Eric enjoyed the Reserve Pinot Gris and the Gewurtztraminer, but the Reserve Gewutz was the winner among the whites. I thought all the Pinot Noirs were very nice here, although the ’07s could use a few years in the cellar. The ’06 Graham’s Block 7 was a little too mossy and tart for me and the ’07 Reserve Pinot Noir had a ripe and fruity flavor but I felt the ’07 Pinot with it’s black pepper nose would be very nice in a year or two. The port was just plain yummy and a good price.

Purchased: ’06 Reserve Gewurztraminer, ’07 Pinot Noir, NV Pinot Noir port

Kramer Vineyards—We ended up here via a recommendation from the lady at Montinore because we mentioned that we were looking to visit places that had some whites as well as reds. As we pulled up we were greeted by the winery’s friendly black lab and escorted us into the kitchen-esque tasting room. The atmosphere was very homey but the place was harried because they were expecting a limo with at least 10 people to show up shortly after we arrived. (Thankfully the group was late and we just finished our tasting before things got crowded!)

I choose the reserve tasting option for $5 (paid upfront) while Eric had plenty of whites to try on the complimentary list. She started us off with a sparkling wine which we both liked. Eric’s favorites of the whites where the ’05 Barrel Select Chardonnay (clean, nice fruit with light oak on finish), the ’05 Kimberley’s Pinot Gris (crisp and creamy) and the NV Quad Rose (spicy and fruit-rich). I found most of the reds to have a bit of evergreen and fir notes to them, which worked in most of the wines. My favorites were the ’05 Estate Pinot Noir (wintergreen and light fruit, well balanced), ’05 Cardiac Hill Pinot Noir (high fruit, mild acidity and earth) and the ’06 Carmine “Big Red” (ruby colored, Italian-style with meaty nose and slightly sweet).

Purchased: NV Sparkling Rose, ’05 Kimberley’s Pinot Gris

Arborbrook Winery—We liked these wines so much that we joined their wine club! The wines we purchased below are for my dad’s cellar :) The winery owner, Dave, was pouring the wine for us, so it was nice to hear details about the specific Pinot Noir clones grown in his vineyard. We enjoyed each of the four wines we tried and the $10 tasting fee was happily waived when we placed our order. Eric tasted pear and citrus notes in the Pinot Gris and I thought all the Pinot Noirs had a lovely smoky earthiness that matched the fruit well. Plus, tasting the difference between the ’06 and the ’07 Estate Pinot Noir’s was a great treat. Clearly, he has a fantastic winemaker.

Purchased: ’07 Heritage Cuvee Pinot Noir, ’07 Estate 777 Block Pinot Noir, ’06 Estate 777 Block Pinot Noir

WillaKenzie Estate—This was our last stop of the day and I’m glad because my palette was done after four wineries! This tasting room was by far the busiest of the four and consequently we had to remind the pourer twice which wine we were tasting. The only information we received about the wines was from laminated sheets spread out over the tasting bar counter. Overall, we thought the wines were fine, the ’07 Pinot Blanc (grapefruit, medium acids, sauvignon blanc-like) and ’06 Pinot Noir (brown sugar and cherry) stood out from the rest. Their wine club pricing is much more reasonable than their retail pricing. We were not charged a tasting fee when we bought the one bottle, although that could have been a mistake.

Purchased: ’06 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley

A beautiful weekend for wine tasting

We’ve been touring around the Willamette Valley visiting a number of wineries and vineyards and we haven’t visited a bad one yet. The weather has been near perfect- sunny, upper 60’s- and the fall colors are beautiful. This photo of Lemelson Vineyard is a good representation.

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