portland travel log 1: selected wineries

If you’re at all a lover of Pinot Noir, you’ve likely tasted Oregon wine.  Like most other regions, the wineries are in river valleys, and Oregon is no exception.  We toured a few wineries in the northern Willamette (wil-LAM-it) valley which was incredibly scenic.  It’s impossible to say one is far superior to another; everyone has different tastes.  If you’re a wine drinker, there are tons of lessons to learn from visiting the winery.  Typically the staff is really interested in educating you as much as you’re willing to listen, and they’re really passionate about their product.  In Tennessee, there’s a winery about 20 minutes south of Nashville, along with a few scattered in more rural areas.  Missouri has several vineyards that we never had a chance to visit.  Georgia has several in the Dahlonega area that are really scenic and have reasonable products.  The biggest lessons we learned were:

  • Terroir is as important as ever.  The flavor of the wine isn’t just a product of the fermentation and aging; the earth the grapes grow in is important as well.
  • The more specific the label is, the more select the product.  If the wine just says Willamette Valley, but doesn’t specify, then the grapes come from some collective of multiple vineyards.  Quality control becomes more difficult, and this is typically a lower end wine, not necessarily bad.  If the label specifies a region within the Valley (Dundee Hills), the grapes are more carefully selected.  Labels to show only specific vineyards are more highly selected.  If they are reserve for the vineyard, then that’s at the higher end.  At the Erath Winery, we saw the breadth of this variety.  From Oregon Pinot, to Estate Selection from Dundee Hills, and finally ending with single vineyard selections (Prince Hill Pinot Noir).  The price and Wine Spectator rating increases accordingly.
  • You’d think that everything you can get at the winery, you should be able to find at your favorite liquor store, but sadly that’s not the case.  Laws and alcohol importation practices vary from county to county so the best you can do is move to a state that allows you to order by mail (TN only recently repealed this prohibition and it’s not universal), or ask the folks at the winery what’s available in your area.

 
We visited Rex Hill, Erath, Sokul Blosser, and Cooper Mountain. All unique in their own ways, and there was something for everyone.

From BDE exports

The aroma table at Rex Hill. Many of the classic aromas in wine were represented from pencil shavings (for me classic Pinot aroma), salt/mineral, allspice berries, rosemary, chocolate, currant, orange peel, hazelnuts.

From BDE exports

Tasting counter at Erath. This was one of our favorites, and the staff were super friendly and answered our questions. Note the outward flare in the Riedel Pinot Noir glasses at the lip.

From BDE exports

Hazelnut trees in Dundee Hills on the way down the hill from Erath. I was interested in how much it looked like South GA pecan groves. Consider filberts when pairing wine from this region.

From BDE exports

Vineyard in Dundee Hills

From BDE exports

Wine Barrel at Cooper Mountain

From BDE exports

Cooper Mountain lineup

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