Sunday, April 11, 2010

North Willamette Vintners Wine Trail Weekend

It's finally spring in the Willamette Valley and winery events are coming fast and furious. The weekend of April 10th was full-up with events and we had to make some choices. The North Willamette Vintners was holding its wine trail weekend where member wineries offer wine tasting, snacks, and activities or tours for a single ticket purchase. Saturday was also the 3rd annual Calkins Lane event, an open house of the 5 wineries on Calkins Lane, home to some of the best Pinot Noir in Oregon. Finally, we were invited to a party at Deux Vert vineyard. Decisions, decisions! In previous years we've really enjoyed the Calkins Lane event, but this year they changed the format a bit so that you paid a separate tasting fee at each winery rather than one price for all 5. So, rather than seeming to be a single coordinated event, it was just as if a few of the wineries that didn't have regular tasting room hours were open for the day.

We finally decided to focus on the north Willamette event, but drop in at Deux Vert and visit one of the Calkins Lane wineries. We brought along our recording GPS unit, and after running it through my Automatic Memories software, it gave us a detailed record of our weekend:

4/10/2010 11:06:46 AM
Dave and Rachel arrived at David Hill Winery.

We left the house just before 11am on Saturday and headed toward David Hill Winery, a short 6 minute drive up the hill from us. They were ready for us in the tasting room and we picked up our wrist bands, wine glasses, maps and schedules. The tasting was going to be across the parking lot in the actual winery, but as we entered, Sean the assistant winemaker was frantically trying to get things ready. It seems that Jason had overslept and things weren't quite ready for us. Fortunately Jason walked in and they quickly started pouring. We tasted some barrel samples of the 09 Chardonnay - one from a neutral oak barrel and one from a stainless steel tank. Both were nice with a hint of oak in the barrel version. We then sampled the 08 Blackjack Pinot Noir from 2 different French barrels. One had a longer finish, while the other had a much better mid-palate. Both were very nice.

4/10/2010 11:51:26 AM
Dave and Rachel arrived at Patton Valley Winery.

We have visited Patton Valley once before and also tasted their wines when they've come to Forest Grove First Wednesday. Today they were tasting a PN Rosé (crisp and not too sweet), their 07 Estate Pinot Noir (nice), and their 07 West Block PN (darker and earthier). They were also doing smellavision where they had samples of odors that one was supposed to identify. Personally, I thought all of them smelled synthetic, not like the real thing, and the only one I correctly identified was cat pee (Sauvignon Blanc, anyone?).

4/10/2010 12:02:46 PM
Dave and Rachel started driving.

We headed back down the hill past a house with a cool castle and chicken coops in their yard.

4/10/2010 12:17:21 PM
Dave and Rachel arrived at Kramer Winery.

We arrived at Kramer and found Trudy pouring Pinot Gris. She looked up at us and said "Finally, a friendly face!" I thought everyone tasting wine was a friendly face, but perhaps she just meant that she was glad to see someone she knew. We tasted through the Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Heritage Pinot Noir (one my favorites) and got to barrel sample the 08 and 09 Rebecca's Reserve PN and the released 06 Rebecca's Reserve. It was fun to taste the variations in the years and barrel times.

4/10/2010 12:46:21 PM
Dave and Rachel started driving.

We next headed out toward Hillsboro.

4/10/2010 1:11:01 PM
Dave and Rachel arrived at J. Albin Winery.

We've wanted to try J. Albin wines for a while, but since they aren't usually open, we hadn't had the chance. They taste from their house right next to their vineyard. Along with the wine, they had food catered in from a Lake Oswego restaurant that was very good (too bad I can't remember the name of the restaurant!). We tasted a sparkling PN Rosé (nice and crisp, interesting and not too demanding), a Pinot Gris (nice, simple, but not enough acid), their 07 estate Pinot Noir (very smooth, complex, and structured, good nose, earl grey tea), and a Pinot Noir dessert wine (wow, very nice and balanced, good acid, depth of flavor. 18% RS, 10% abv).

4/10/2010 1:32:31 PM
Dave and Rachel started driving.

We kept heading east to pick up a couple more wineries that were tasting at Smith's Berry Barn.

4/10/2010 1:48:46 PM
Dave and Rachel arrived at Smith's Berry Barn.

Neil Frederickson owns a vineyard very close to Purple Cow and Apolloni north of Forest Grove, and I've gotten to know him as we picked grapes together in Jon's vineyard. He now has his own label, Provincial Vineyards. The wine is made by Alfredo Apolloni. We'd just tasted his wine at Urban Decanter the week before, but thought we'd drop in again. We tried his Pinot Gris (nice) and his 07 Pinot Noir (good, but with a slightly bitter edge).

Also tasting at the Berry Barn was Gresser, a label out of Forest Grove that we hadn't tried before. They were tasting their 06 and 07 Pinot Noir.

4/10/2010 1:56:16 PM
Dave and Rachel started driving.

We next left the North Willamette Vintner's tour and took a side trip onto Calkins Lane

4/10/2010 2:23:01 PM
Dave and Rachel arrived at DeLancellotti Vineyard.

Paul de Lancellotti is Josh Bergstrom's brother in law and farms a vineyard right next to the Bergstrom winery. He makes just a single wine, his estate Pinot Noir and it is VERY good. We tasted his 07 Pinot Noir and were impressed by the dark and earthy notes. It tasted like Calkins Lane.

4/10/2010 2:47:16 PM
Dave and Rachel started driving.

4/10/2010 3:02:01 PM
Dave and Rachel arrived at Deux Vert Vineyard.

We first met Mike and Patty Green at Crumbled Rock winery over the Valentine's Day weekend and took an instant liking to both them and their wines. They had invited us to a Tapas in the Vineyard party, and we arrived not knowing quite what to expect.

They have a beautiful house right next to the vineyard and we felt very welcome as we entered. Mike met us with a glass of Macindoe Family Cellars Melon made from his grapes, along with a salmon appetizer. We mingled for a while and enjoyed both the wine and the food, as well as the vineyard view from their deck. Patty was pouring her Tempranillo which is also very nice (especially the 2008). We would have liked to have stayed longer, but we still had other wineries to visit, so wethanked our hosts and headed off again.

4/10/2010 3:34:16 PM
Dave and Rachel started driving.

4/10/2010 3:47:01 PM
Dave and Rachel arrived at Adea Wine Co.

We were hoping that Marcus Goodfellow would be pouring at Adea, so we stopped in. Sadly he wasn't, but we did taste through a vertical of "Deano's Pinot" from Adea - 05, 06, 07, and 08. All were pretty good; we thought the 07 was the best.

4/10/2010 4:02:01 PM
Dave and Rachel started driving.

4/10/2010 4:14:16 PM
Dave and Rachel arrived at Montinore Winery.

Montinore was on the way home, so we thought we'd stop here too. Sadly, while the main tasting room was still open, they had finished with the North Willamette Vintner's event at 4:00. We decided that we'd return tomorrow.

4/10/2010 4:17:31 PM
Dave and Rachel started driving.

4/10/2010 4:34:01 PM
Dave and Rachel arrived at Dave's House.


4/11/2010 10:47:26 AM
Dave and Rachel started driving.

We decided to start out day by heading north.

4/11/2010 11:01:36 AM
Dave and Rachel arrived at Tualatin Estate Vineyards.

We arrived at Tualatin Estate Vineyards just as they opened and were greeting in the parking lot by someone who seemed familiar. It was Rob Herb whom I'd gotten to know at Purple Cow. It's funny how you don't recognize someone at first when you see them in a different environment than you're used too. He and his wife Renee are now working at Tualatin Estate - pretty cool.

Sadly, I didn't take any notes on Sunday, but I do remember they poured some very nice semi-sparkling Muscat and several nice Pinot Noirs.

4/11/2010 11:19:21 AM
Dave and Rachel started driving.

We left Tualatin Estate and took the back roads north toward highway 6.

4/11/2010 11:31:26 AM
Dave and Rachel arrived at Purple Cow Vineyards.

We arrived at Purple Cow and it was great to see Jon, Wendy, Matt, and Cheryl. Jon was tasting the new Muscat (just a hint of RS) along with one of his 07 Pinot Noirs, Gabriella red blend, and a couple of his trademark Tempranillos. He also took us out to show us a little about field grafting.

4/11/2010 11:57:21 AM
Dave and Rachel started driving.

We made the very short drive across the road to Apolloni Vineyards.

4/11/2010 12:00:36 PM
Dave and Rachel arrived at Apolloni Vineyards.

Again, no notes today, but we tasted their Pinot Grigio and then headed back into the winery where Chuck barrel sampled several Pinot Noirs by clone. It was interesting to taste the difference the various clones make in the nose, finish, fruit level, etc. We finished up with a tasty super-Tuscan blend.

4/11/2010 12:22:36 PM
Dave and Rachel started driving.

4/11/2010 12:32:06 PM
Dave and Rachel arrived at Banks Chevron.

Time to gas up!

4/11/2010 12:33:51 PM
Dave and Rachel started driving.

4/11/2010 12:54:36 PM
Dave and Rachel arrived at Helvetia Winery Tasting Room.

We'd tried Helvetia wines at Newport but never been to the winery itself. The first stop was at their house to try a couple of their finished wines. I remember at least a Gewurztraminer among them.

4/11/2010 1:02:51 PM
Dave and Rachel started driving.

We then made the short drive down the road to the actual winery.

4/11/2010 1:05:51 PM
Dave and Rachel arrived at Helvetia Winery.

Here, they were tasting barrel samples of Pinot Gris (very crisp and nice) which was about to be bottled, as well as several Pinot Noirs. We also got to sample fresh caught salmon prepared in a variety of tasty ways.

4/11/2010 1:26:21 PM
Dave and Rachel started driving.

4/11/2010 1:40:51 PM
Dave and Rachel arrived at Garden Vineyards.

North of highway 26 and further east, we came to Garden Vineyards. This is a huge, well-manicured property with quite a mansion on it. The owners, a younger couple, were tasting wine in the house itself. The wine was very nice, and included a sparkling wine made in the traditional method, a very interesting white table wine, and a couple of enjoyable Pinot Noirs. The food was excellent and we had a nice chat with the owners.

4/11/2010 2:05:04 PM
Dave and Rachel started driving.

We headed back on the long drive toward Forest Grove.

4/11/2010 2:43:04 PM
Dave and Rachel arrived at A Blooming Hill Vineyard.

Our next stop was A Blooming Hill Vineyard. We'd met Holly and Jim at several events in Forest Grove and really liked their wine. They have a white blend called Mingle that is a blend of Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris that really tastes like summer. The 08 Pinot Noir is quite good and is better every time we taste it. Jim gave us a quick tour of the winery itself - a very small facility in his barn. It's exactly the size I'd like to have some day. He also sampled his 09 whites - the same varietals that are in the Mingle, but they will be bottled separately this time. All are crisp and floral - good examples of their varietal. Can't wait to get some after they've been bottled.

4/11/2010 3:15:34 PM
Dave and Rachel started driving.

4/11/2010 3:27:34 PM
Dave and Rachel arrived at Montinore Winery.

Our final stop of the day was Montinore. We've had such mixed reaction to them over the years, although recently they've been pretty consistently good. They were tasting in a little building away from the main tasting room. It wasn't hard to find if you followed the sound of the jazz group that was playing. They're food was some of the best of the weekend, made by their hospitality director. We sampled a couple of very nice Pinot Noirs also, before one of the winemakers walked in and asked if anyone wanted a cellar tour. Um, yes!

The tour was led by the 2 main winemakers: Ben Thomas and Stephen Webber. It was interesting and informative. While down there, we tasted a vertical of their reserve Pinot Noir, and I was honestly quite impressed. Rich, deep flavors with a nice finish on all of them. We were especially taken with the 2008 and bought a couple of bottles.

4/11/2010 4:15:04 PM
Dave and Rachel started driving.

4/11/2010 4:33:04 PM
Dave and Rachel arrived at Dave's House.

It was really fun to re-visit old friends close to home as well as try a couple of new places. We usually just head south to the Carlton and/or Dundee area, but this event reminded us that we have some really nice wine close to home too. I wish I had taken notes on Sunday, but perhaps I was just enjoying the wine too much!