On the first week of April I took a road trip to the Willamette Valley in Oregon to meet some colleagues for a week of wine tasting, visiting the various AVA’s. It was the first time for me visiting the Pacific Northwest. The wine country of Willamette Valley is about 150 miles long with 500+ wineries specializing in Pinot Noir with Pinot Gris as the predominate white grape though Chardonnay is starting to make a comeback. Some producers made some Riesling and Viogner as well and for many wineries I visited, the pet project for many wine makers was producing a cool weather Syrah.
The Willamette Valley became an AVA (American Viticultural Area) in 1983 and was further divided into six sub-AVAs in the early 2000’s.
My first day of the Oregon wine crawl began in the Chehalem Mountains AVA (established in 2006), the appellation has the highest mountains in the Willamette valley and 31 wineries and it’s about a 45 minute drive south of Portland. The McMinnville AVA (established in 2005) is further south with fewer wineries about 10 minutes south of the town of McMinnville.
Wine country around here is beautiful rolling green hills, fresh air and hospitable people, and at this time of year, cool, misty weather. It reminded me of Umbria in Italy except without the hillside, Medieval towns.
Coeur de Terre Vineyards (McMinnville) 21000 SW Eagle Point Rd.
A real Mom & Pop operation started from scratch with passion and hard work by Scott and Lisa Neal. A drive on dirt roads to the hilltop winery, I was lucky to have Lisa Neal on hand to explain the wines that day.
2013 Pinot Noir Oregon: Their restaurant “wine by the glass” wine. Light red with red cherry and barnyard notes on the nose, cherry licorice on the fruit, easy drinking.
2012 Pinot Noir Heritage Reserve: Medium red, menthol on the nose, silky tannins on the red cherry fruit.
2012 Pinot Noir “Tallulah’s Run”: Dark red, toast and crushed black fruit and violets on the nose, concentrated and silky fruit with silky tannins on the firm finish.
2013 Pinot Noir “Abbey’s Block”: Medium red, sweet red fruit and minerals on the nose, concentrated red cherry fruit, good grip and balance.
2012 Pinot Noir “Sarah Jane’s Block”: Medium to dark purple, stinky barnyard on the nose, concentrated and silky fruit ending with firm tannins.
2012 Pinot Noir “Renelle’s Block”: Medium red with a pretty perfume of violets, red flowers and fresh herbs, chunky red fruit with silky tannins and a nice grip the end.
Bergström Winery (Chehalem Mtns) 18215 NE Calkins Ln.
A drive into the hills brings you to a minimalist tasting room overlooking the vineyards.
2014 Chardonnay “Sigrid” Medium gold, toast, lime and petroleum on the nose, the fruit is lighter than the aroma with tropical fruit notes. Very complex nose.
2015 Pinot Noir “Gregory Ranch”: Medium red with a purple rim, green herbs on the nose, tight silky fresh herbs on the fruit. Good balance and structure.
2015 Pinot Noir “Shea”: 85 acres planted, medium purple with a pretty perfume of crushed red fruit and tea.
2015 Pinot Noir “Silice”: Light purple, earth, slate and black fruit on the nose, tight green herbs and tannins showing through on the fruit, balanced.
Rex Hills Vineyard (Chehalem Mtns) 30835 North Highway 99W.
Winery located just outside the town of Newberg, gateway to the Willamette Valley and a sister property of A-Z Wineworks.
2016 A-Z Rosé: Made from Sangiovese, very light red, ripe strawberry and watermelon on the nose, light strawberry jam on the fruit, nice balance.
2014 Rex Hills Chardonnay: Light yellow, toast and butterscotch on the nose, tight with oak notes on the finish.
2014 Rex HIlls Pinot Noir “Willamette Valley”: Medium red with bacon grease and black fruit on the nose, tight with pine notes on the fruit, firm finish.
2014 Rex Hills Pinot Noir “Jacob-Hart”: 36 acres of biodynamic vineyards, clear, medium red, roast meat and crushed black fruit on the nose, silky concentration with great balance and a long finish.