As I mentioned in a previous post, I was in charge of the winetineraries for the Portland trip. Since we would be tasting Willamette Valley Pinot Noir for the majority of our two days in the valley, Bobes and I declared it to be a Pinotinerary!
With a little help from my father, and some suggestions from one of Bobes’ friends in New Orleans, I narrowed down our list to ten wineries, split over two days (though, the second day we decided to cut out two of them and carve out some time to go out to lunch – but I’ll get to that…).
Chehalem Mountain Pinotinerary
9:30am – leave Portland
10:30am – pick up picnic lunch at RED HILLS MARKET
11:00am – tasting at ARGYLE WINERY for sparkling wine
12:00pm – tasting at BERGSTRÖM WINES with outdoor seating
1:00pm – tasting and picnic lunch at TRISAETUM
2:30pm – tasting at VIDON VINEYARD (only open to people on mailing list
3:30pm – reservation for tasting at SINEANN
4:30pm – head back to Portland
Each winery was better and better as the day went on, and luckily I paced myself well enough that I could still taste the wines by the end of the day!
Argyle Winery is known for their sparkling wines, but they also make some delicious stills. Bobes and I each opted for the sparkling flight, sampling their 2010 Vintage Brut, 2009 Blanc de Blancs, 2008 Knudsen Vineyard Brut, and the 2009 Brut Rose (which is widely distributed). My favorite was the Knudsen Vineyard Brut, and I considered purchasing a bottle until I sampled the 2010 Black Brut. The Black Brut changes every year, but is a blend of Pinot Noir from several different Argyle Vineyards. It’s juicy and ripe, and would be the perfect match to grilled meats or a bowl of chile. I never can resist a red sparkler, especially at only $30 a bottle!
Outdoor patio at Bergstrom
We drove out to Chehalem Mountain for the duration of our Pinotinerary, starting with Bergström Wines. Bergström makes several different Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, of which we tasted four. We were able to sit outside on their beautiful patio, overlooking the estate. I enjoyed most of the wines, especially the Temperance Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir, but unfortunately it was only available to club members. While Bergström was a very elegant, elevated experience, their wines were a little pricey for my budget. Still, it’s a great place to bring a picnic, take in the view, and sip on some fancy Pinot Noir!
Our third stop of the day was at Trisaetum, a small winery with beautiful estate grounds. They also feature a collection of paintings and photography by James Frey, the owner and founder of Trisaetum. AND, they have a patio in the back of the tasting room that is perfect for post-tasting picnics, of which we took advantage with our delicious artisan sandwiches from Red Hills Market. And if that’s not enough to make you check it out, they have something other than Pinot Noir (though, their Pinots are fantastic). Our tasting began with a medium dry Riesling and a Dry Riesling, both of which were bright and delicious but I preferred the more dry of the two. As for the Pinots, my favorite was the 2011 Coast Range Single Vineyard Pinot Noir; a complex balance of acidity and vibrant fruit, and also one of the staff favorites!
Estate Vines at Trisaetum
Pinot Noir grapes, ready for harvest!
Art gallery at Trisaetum
We drove a little further down the road to VIDON, where we were lucky to get in for a tasting before they close to the public on October 1st – members still welcome by appointment. As we walked into the tasting room/winemaking facility/barrel room, we were greeted by Don (owner and winemaker) and Dave (tasting room manager), who were finishing up some pre-Harvest work. As we waited for Dave to finish up, Don started us off with some Rosé (only $10!) and told of stories of his tech days in Silicon Valley (we later found out he was a former Apollo engineer). Dave and Don switched roles and we were introduced to their line up of Pinot Noir: 2010 Chehalem Mountains 3 Clones, 2011 Chehalem Mountains 3 Clones, 2011 Brigitta Clone 777, 2011 Mirabelle Clone 115, 2011 Hans Clone Pommard. We also got to try a splash of the 2009 Chehalem Mountains Barrel Select, their most expensive wine at $80 and only available to members. All of the wines were not typical to the big, fruit-forward Pinots that we had previously tasted in the area, which I was grateful for. With such a small production of 1000 to 1300 cases annually, they are able to hand pick the Pinot Noir grapes from the estate and apply a hands-on fermentation process that larger wineries overlook. The result is an array of delicate wines with mild earth tones and bright fruit, with great aging potential. Inevitably, I decided to join the wine club so that I would not be deprived of any future visits or wine purchases. And since my father was the one to recommend the winery, I looped him in on the membership.
VIDON Pinot Noir tasting selection
VIDON estate grapes
Last, but certainly not least, was our visit to Sineann, an up and coming Willamette Valley winery offering a wide selection of varietals and vintages. We were lucky enough to do our tasting with the winemaker and owner, Peter Rosback, who let us taste about ten different wines – or everything that was open – including but not limited to their 2012 Sauvignon Blanc (made in Marlborough, NZ), 2012 Columbia Gorge Pinot Gris, 2008 McGinlay’s Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2011 Resonance Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2009 Wyeast Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2010 Champoux Vineyards Petit Verdot, 2007 Sugarloaf Mt. Vineyard Merlot, and 2006 Lazare Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon (sourced from Napa). It’s a good thing I took notes because otherwise I would not have remembered some of the details on these wines. Bobes and I both selected the Resonance Vineyard Pinot as our favorite, and I also took home a bottle of their Pinot Gris and 2006 Cab. I loved the low-key, dynamic vibe of this vineyard, down to the unique glass stoppers that they use for their wines. While I enjoyed the opportunity to taste estate-grown wines all day, I also appreciated Peter’s method of sourcing fruit from the finest vineyards available to him, including New Zealand where he travels twice a year to make Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. It was truly an enthusiastic and unique wine tasting experience, and a great way to end the day!
Me and Sineann winemaker, Peter Rosback
View from inside the tasting room at Sineann
It was without a doubt, the perfect day in Willamette Valley, and a wonderful introduction to Oregon Pinot Noir. But the trip wasn’t over, and Bobes and I had another full day of Pinot tasting ahead of us. Stay tuned!