Years and years ago in a different chapter of life, my ex-husband and I owned an Italian restaurant in TX. He was big on wine so I learned a thing or two about California Reds and Chardonnays. We often went to Napa for tours and tastings. That was ONE fun thing about owning a restaurant, can’t say there were too many others. We had a handful of interesting regulars, one being the infamous CEO of Enron, Ken Lay. So many stories to share about that experience – too bad I can’t share em with the world. lol. Maybe in a book down the road.
Anyhoo, the real purpose of this post is to keep a list of Oregon wineries to visit once we’re there. My knowledge of Oregon wines is close to nil. Most wine connoisseurs know this Northwest region of the states produces some of the best Pinot Noirs in the world. All I know is that every time bottle of Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley is cracked open, it’s delicious. I’d like to be able to look at a bottle and know a little bit about the vineyard.
The most commonly planted varieties in Oregon are Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, though winemakers across the state are working with many experimental plantings including Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Gewurztraminer, Viognier, Riesling and more. The map of the region is depicted below in orange. I estimate it’ll be about 3 hour drive for us to get to the red bits.
There are soooo many options it’s overwhelming. My eyes glaze over when I see 100 different unfamiliar labels. So, in order to narrow down the options and begin to build a decent foundation, I’ve tapped into the brains of some discerning friends for their list of favorites. Here they are. All images and descriptions were pulled from the winery websites unless noted otherwise.
This particular vineyard in Dundee Hills only produces a small amount of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay so I have a feeling these will be difficult to find. The rolling green vines of this place are just too much – so gorgeous!!
“Shea Vineyard was first planted to wine grapes in the late 1980s. Today Shea Vineyard is a 290-acre property with 155 planted acres. 149 of these acres are planted to Pinot noir vines and the balance is planted to Chardonnay. Roughly 20% of the Pinot noir fruit produced each year by Shea Vineyard is used by Shea Wine Cellars for its releases. The other 80% of the Pinot noir fruit is sold to some of the finest winemakers in Oregon and California.”
“Being stewards of the land we farm is an important responsibility to us. With that in mind, we farm Shea Vineyard using sustainable methods as prescribed by LIVE. From the LIVE website: “Since 1999, LIVE has independently certified the sustainable practices of winegrowers in the Pacific Northwest, using the latest in university research and internationally accredited standards. We provide regional education to preserve the human and natural resources of the wine industry.” We have been farming by these principles for more than 10 years but have now made the decision to pursue formal certification from LIVE. We expect to receive certification for the 2020 vintage.”
One of the things that intrigues me about this winery in Yamhill-Carlton is that it looks like they have a delicious restaurant on site. Their philosophy is very much geared toward creating a culture of inclusivity, accountability, and personal development for all of their employees. I love that. Besides, the view below does not suck. I’m sure their Pinot Noirs, Sparkling wines, and Chardonnays don’t suck either.
“We invite you to join us at Mineral Springs Ranch, a 240-acre Biodynamic farm, vineyard, and tasting room in the heart of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Our wines, food, and hospitality are a reflection of the intention to convey place and purpose as an essential character in everything we make. We offer compelling tasting experiences focused on educating, inspiring, and nourishing you. Whether you’ve just discovered wine, or are a certified expert, our service is tailored to you.
At Soter Vineyards, the combination of respectful farming and craftsmanship as well as our ancient soils and temperate climate result in wines that are layered, nuanced, and seductively captivating. Whether you’re enjoying one of our distinctive Estate Pinot Noirs, one of our complex Chardonnays, or one of our beloved Sparkling wines, quality is paramount.”
It takes this winery in Dundee Hills about three years to farm, ferment, age, and finish every single bottle before they bring the wine to market. That sounds like A LOT of care and feeding to produce some pretty amazing Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and Syrahs. This is a very family oriented winery with the mantra, “1,000 days of effort”. Makes me want to join them for Thanksgiving dinner.
“Bergström Wines consists of five estate vineyards totaling 70 acres that span across three of the Willamette Valley’s best appellations: The Bergström Vineyard, Le Pré du Col Vineyard, La Spirale Vineyard, Silice, and Winery Block. Each estate vineyard is farmed without the use of harsh chemicals, systemic or fertilizers, and the winery produces approximately 10,000 cases of ultra-premium and extremely sought-after wine each year, including two Chardonnays, nine different Pinot Noirs, and three Syrahs.”
“Our dedicated farming team stewards 70 acres of ecosystem across 5 unique estate vineyard properties in the Dundee Hills, Chehalem Mountains, and Ribbon Ridge American Viticultural Areas (AVA’s) in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. From the inception of our vineyards in 1999, our estates have been farmed without the use of herbicides, pesticides, insecticides, or systemic chemicals. We also prefer composting and treating with homeopathic herbal and mineral teas, rather than using synthetic fertilizers. Each year, we build hundreds of tons of our own compost piles with local and organic cow manure, local and organic straw and grasses, all of our previous harvest’s fermented grape skins, seeds, stems and winter vine-prunings, as well as curative herbs like chamomile, yarrow, valerian, dandelion and stinging nettle. When added back to our vineyards each spring, this compost helps build rich, fertile complex soils with better structure, water holding capacity, and vitality.”
This particular vineyard in Dundee Hills consistently produces Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays that frequently land on the Wine Spectator’s top 100 list. If you make it to the top 100 of Wine Spectator, pretty sure it’s got to be good.
“Alexana’s 80-acre Revana Estate Vineyard is situated in the heart of the Willamette Valley within the pristine Dundee Hills AVA. It is one of the most geologically diverse vineyard sites in North America if not the world with 55 planted acres on 18 different soil types. The vineyard is dry-farmed and sits between 320 feet and 650 feet elevation. Our farming practices are LIVE Certified sustainable and are applied to cultivate ultra-premium fruit that includes 11 different clones of Pinot noir, two different clones of Chardonnay, and one clone of Pinot Gris.”
The image below makes me want to be in Eola-Amity Hills YESTERDAY. It looks like they have some good-looking Chardonnays and Rose’s! YUM! Once again, the people part of this vineyard is just as important as the wines they produce – sign me up for a visit.
“BETHEL HEIGHTS is one of the oldest vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills, an independent hill chain in the center of the Willamette Valley. It is a geological/topographical mosaic of rocky south-facing benches and slopes. Its volcanic soils were formed over many millennia from innumerable distinct lava flows. We did not fully appreciate the true geological complexity of these soils until we started making wine here, and discovered surprising differences between wines made from blocks just a few feet apart.”
This list is just the tip of the iceberg. The one thing I consistently hear is that this wine region is not as pretentious as our California counterparts and seems to be a more collaborative environment. Meaning, they recommend other wineries to try as many of them are friends. I so appreciate the importance of community.
Sean and I have talked about participating in the grape harvest in September/October at some point. We’ll see! I always thing of Lucy stomping grapes in Italy. If you remember this episode, Lucy gets into a fight with the other woman in the image below. The other woman didn’t realize the fight was scripted and as a result she wound up actually beating the hell out of Lucy (IMDB). Good lord. Funny, not funny.
If anyone has some recommendations, please send em on – always open to new experiences.
Let the Oregon wine exploration commence.
…i choose this…