Oregon: Eola-Amity Hills AVA

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Driving southward towards the Mid Willamette Valley I spent a couple of days touring wineries in the Eola-Amity AVA (about an hour south of Portland). The AVA is anchored in the Southeast by the state capital of Salem and contains over 33 wineries.

A distinguishing characteristic of this AVA is the Van Duzer Corridor. The corridor is a gap in the Western coastal mountain range of the Willamette valley which lets the cool Pacific Ocean maritime air flow into the AVA. Besides making for many breezy days, the winds help dry out the vineyards which controls mildew and rot. It also drops the nighttime temperatures about 28° F. which helps the grapes to retain acidity.

 

Cristom Vineyards  6905 Spring Valley Rd

Family run winery with the estate wines named after the family matriarchs, Dustin in the tasting room provided an excellent tasting experience the day we visited.

2014 Pinot Noir “Mt Jefferson”: A blend of grapes from each estate, medium purple, barnyard on the nose, silky black fruit with mint notes, a good grip and silky tannins on the finish.

2013 Pinot Noir “Estate”: Combines barrels from all four of their estate Pinot Noir vineyards, Medium red, sour cherry, dark chocolate and menthol on the nose, moderate fruit, dusty tannins and good balance.

2014 Pinot Noir “Eileen Vineyard”: Medium purple, pretty nose of barnyard and dark chocolate, silky pretty fruit of red licorice and dark chocolate, great balance, long finish.

2014 Syrah: Dark red to black with a purple rim, black leather on the nose, big mouthful of roast meat, slate on the dark fruit, great balance.

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Van Duzer Vineyards  11975 Smithfield Rd

2015 Pinot Gris: Medium gold, tropical fruits on the nose, crisp with big lime notes on the finish.

2013 Pinot Noir “Dijon Blocks”: A blend of six Pinot noir clones, medium to light purple, barnyard and menthol notes on the nose, chewy black licorice, tight red cherry fruit.

2012 Pinot Noir “Bieze Vineyards”: Medium purple, sweet red licorice on the nose, red licorice fruit followed by crisp red fruit on the finish.

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Saint Innocent Winery  5657 Zena Rd

Winery had a “sip and savor” wine tasting option where 3 very tasty appetizers are served with wine pairings.

2015 Pinot Noir “Villages Cuvée”: A blend from five vineyards, medium purple, cherry jam on the nose, red cherry fruit, moderate tannins and acids.

2013 Pinot Noir “Zenith Vineyard”: Light brick, perfume of sour fruit, bright red cherry fruit, moderate acids.

2013 Pinot Noir “Freedom Hill”: Medium purple, walnuts on the nose, bright dusty fruit, crisp finish.

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Bethel Heights Vineyards  6060 Bethel Heights Rd

Winery established in 1977, all wines produced from estate owned vineyards.

2014 Chardonnay “Justice Vineyard”: Medium gold, big nose of tropical fruits, pineapple and oak with creamy lemon custard on the fruit and roasted nuts on the firm finish.

2013 Pinot Noir “Justice Vineyard”: Medium to dark brick with stewed plums and crushed black fruit on the nose, tight black cherry fruit followed by firm tannins.

2014 Pinot Noir “Flat Block”: Medium purple, pencil shavings on the nose, juicy plums on the fruit, minerals and red licorice on the finish, balanced.

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Willamette Valley Vineyards  8800 Enchanted Way SE

The vineyard is a few minutes south of the city of Salem, just outside the AVA boundary, huge building on top of a hill with many tasting rooms, a restaurant and nice views.

2013 Pinot Noir “Dundee Hills”: Brick in color, barnyard and sour cherry notes on the nose, black licorice on the fruit, moderate acids and a long finish.

2013 Pinot Noir “Chelahem  Mts”: Brick in color, pretty perfume of tree bark and black licorice, silky fruit with earth notes, chewy red leather and a bright finish.

2015 Pinot Noir “Founders Reserve”: Medium red, plum and menthol on the nose, silky, chewy black cherry and leather fruit, bright acids at the end.

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Oregon: Dundee Hills AVA

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The Dundee Hills AVA is about 28 miles southwest of Portland. Some of the first vineyards in Oregon were planted in the iron-rich, volcanic soils of the region and many of the states most famous wineries are located in this AVA. Over 40 wineries are here. Since it is close to Portland, the weekends will be crammed with day-trippers.

 

Domaine Drouhin  6750 NE Breyman Orchard Rd

This winery is probably the most famous vineyard in the state. The Drouhin family purchased land here in 1987 which is at the same latitude of the Burgundy region in France. Kellie, the Hospitality Concierge was a gracious hostess. They are releasing a second label called ” Arthur”.

2015 Chardonnay Estate “Arthur”: Medium yellow with green herbs and oak notes on the nose, white chocolate on the fruit with good structure.

2014 Pinot Noir “Dundee Hills”: Dark purple, crushed dark fruit and green herbs on the nose, concentrated, plum notes with a silky finish.

2013 Pinot Noir “Cuvée Lauréne”: Medium amber with a pretty nose of violets and earth, sweet red leather fruit, firm, long finish.

2008 Pinot Noir: Brick color, barnyard on the nose, tight and tannic.

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Stoller Family Estate  16161 NE McDougall Rd

We had an appointment and they did not disappoint with a private tasting.

2015 Pinot Noir “Reserve”: Medium purple, dried herbs and red fruit on the nose, tight, red silky fruit.

2014 Pinot Noir “Helen’s”: From 2 acres of land, medium purple, roasted meat on the nose, chewy, black licorice fruit, great grip, black olives on the long finish.

2014 Syrah: From one acre of land planted, dark purple, roasted meat and bacon drippings n the nose, deep concentration with silky dark cherry fruit.

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Domaine Serene  6555 Hilltop Ln

2014 Chardonnay “Cote Sud”: Medium gold, mango, tropical fruit on the nose, tight fruit, balanced finish.

2014 Pinot Noir “Yamhill Cuvée”: Medium purple, pretty perfume of black olives, silky red fruit, still young, tannins need to smooth out.

2014 Pinot Noir “Evenstad Reserve”: Medium purple, spicy, Asian spices on the nose, juicy, black licorice and red cherry fruit followed with crisp acids.

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Sokol Blosser Winery  5000 Sokol Blosser Ln

2013 Pinot Noir “Goosepen Bock”: From 2.5 acres, brick color, barnyard on the nose, silky, tarry notes and leather on the fruit, finishes with black pepper notes.

2013 Pinot Noir “Legacy Cuvée”: Brick in color, tart, barnyard nose, juicy, chewy black licorice fruit, firm finish.

2014 Pinot Noir “Bigtree Block”: Light brick, barnyard and red cherry on the nose, red cherry fruit, firm finish, peppery.

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Soter Vineyards  10880 NE Mineral Springs Rd

Ok so technically, this vineyard is just west of the Dundee Hills AVA in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA but close enough. Modernistic tasting room with a big kitchen and 32 acres planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Wine host met us in the parking lot with glasses of rosé in hand.

2015 North Valley Chardonnay: Their non estate Chard, medium gold with green tints, dried white flowers and green herbs on the nose, tight and dry with lime and tropical fruit notes on the finish.

2014 North Valley Origin “Yamhill-Carlton”: Medium purple, light barnyard and red cherry on the nose, silky red fruit, nicely balanced.

2014 Soter Pinot Noir “Mineral Springs Ranch”: Dark purple, closed nose of crushed black fruit with a hint of rosemary, black licorice on the tight fruit with firm, dusty tannins at the end. Still young.

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The Four Graces  9605 NE Foxfarm Rd

2014 Pinot Noir “Willamette”: Medium purple, crushed plums and slate on the nose, silky red cola on the fruit followed with some astringency at the finish.

2014 Pinot Noir “Reserve”: Medium purple, barnyard, crushed black fruit and crushed rock on the nose, with bright red fruit and firm tannins and acids.

2014 Pinot Noir “Lindsay’s Reserve”: Medium purple, green herbs, red licorice on the nose, chunky red fruit with mouth coating tannin at the finish.

2014 Pinot Noir “Foley Family Estate”: Medium purple to brick, barnyard notes on the nose, juicy red licorice fruit, balanced finish, silky tannins.

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Roco Winery  13260 NE Red Hills Rd

This is a small winery on the northern border of Dundee HIlls.

2014 Pinot Noir “Wit’s End”: Light red to brick in color, closed nose with some stinkiness with bright red cherry fruit.

2014 Pinot Noir “Private Stash #12”: Light red, red licorice and leather on the nose, bright cherry fruit, moderate to long finish, firm acids.

2014 Pinot Noir “The Stalker”: Light brick, tree bark and black licorice on the nose, medium to light juicy fruit with good acidity.

2014 Pinot Noir “Fossil Block”: From a single block of vines, medium red, black licorice and smoke on the nose, concentrated, silky, firm with a long finish.

 

 

Oregon: Chehalem Mtns & McMinnville AVAs

 

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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 (McMinnville21000 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.

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Bergström Winery (Chehalem Mtns18215 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.

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Rex Hills Vineyard (Chehalem Mtns30835 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.

 

 

 

Wine On The High Seas

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Just got back from a cruise vacation. I took a week off and ended up at the port of Miami boarding the Norwegian Cruise Lines ship the “Escape” for a week long cruise that took me to the  U. S. and British Virgin Island and Nassau, Bahamas.  The Escape is a state of the art mega-ship launched last year, at over a 1,000 feet long with 4,000+ passengers and a 1,700+ crew, it’s a mini city on water. To accommodate all of those guests are 28 Bars and Restaurants including a wine bar. That wine bar is  “The Cellars” a Michael Mondavi family wine bar. It’s a small nook on the bar floor of the ship where I spent some time chatting with Rodrigo, the Wine Steward while drinking some juice. They also had one of those wine pouring machines in the café if you wanted a glass of wine with your buffet.

 

Some of what I drank during my cruise:

2014 Marques de Riscal Verdejo (Rueda)

2010 Godelia Mencia (Bierzo). Dark red with a purple robe, roasted meat and bacon with camphor on the end, concentrated with slate notes on the fruit and chewy tannin.

2013 Estancia Pinot Noir (Monterey). Medium red, strawberry jam and black cherry on the nose with some earth notes, strawberry fruit with crisp acidity.

2013 Estancia Meritage (Paso Robles). A Bordeaux blend, dark red to amber with a perfume of crushed dark berries and camphor, silky mint notes on the fruit with firm acidity.

 

I attended a seminar on Riedel glasses and how wines are enhanced with the proper glass.

Pinot Noir glass served with the 2012 Louis Jadot Pinot Noir (Burgundy)

Syrah glass served with the 2013 Spellbound Petite Sirah (California)

Cabernet Sauvignon glass served with the 2013 Wente Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon “Southern Hills” . (Livermore Valley).