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