Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tasting in the Willamette Valley-Day 1

I just returned from four days of tasting, primarily pinot noir, in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, just south of Portland.  I last visited the area in the summer of 2008 when we tasted primarily 2006 wines and I was looking forward to revisiting some of the wineries we enjoyed during that trip and to explore other wineries that were new to me.  Oregon is making some of the finest pinots in the US and this trip did not disappoint.

Day 0 (July 14, 2010)
After driving 10 hours from the San Francisco Bay Area, I checked into my hotel and relaxed for a bit before going out for a glass of wine.  I ended up at Press a Wine Bar in Dundee with Mark at the tasting bar who, as it turns out, gave us a nice tour of Domaine Drouhin during our last trip.  I ordered a flight of three pinot noirs and sought some recommendations from Mark about places we should visit.

Day 1 (July 15, 2010) - With John and Erik
I had made appointments at a couple wineries that we were disappointed to have missed on our last trip.  We started at Beaux Freres (owned by Robert Parker, Jr. and his brother-in-law who runs the operation).  Because we had the first tasting appointment of the day, some of the wines had been stored in the refrigerator overnight and were slow to open up as they warmed.  We tasted four pinots, then headed into the vineyards with Rebecca, our host, with a promise of retasting when we returned.  We were able to see vineyards that have been newly planted (phylloxera seems to be an issue in a number of areas we visited) as well as established vineyards while Rebecca explained the winery's winemaking practices.  Heading back to the winery we visited the barrel room, then retasted the wines which had returned to an appropriate temperature and were showing better.   Beaux Freres is doing a really nice job with Pinot Noir.

Our next appointment was at Brick House, which was the first Oregon Pinot Noir I ever tasted, about 10 years ago.  Alan was a great host and he was tasting a 2007 and 2008 chardonnay which were quite different in style, as well as two pinots, both delicious.  We were then treated to a barrel sample of 2009 gamay noir (Beaujolais) which was delicious and which I intend to purchase upon release.

Just up the hill from Brick House was Trisaetum, owned by an artist whose art is on display in the tasting room.  The winery is fairly new and rather opulent, doubling, as I mentioned, as an art gallery.  Our primary reason for visiting Trisaetum was to try their Riesling, which was good, not great, and their pinots were not particularly to our liking.

Next we headed to Vidon, owned by Don Hagge, a real-life rocket scientist.  Vidon was one of our more memorable visits on our last trip, partly because of Don's down-to-earth attitude and his enthusiasm for what he's doing.  On our first visit we had welcomed us as if we were guests to his home, pouring the 2005 and 2006 wines on his tasting menu and then taking us into his barrel room to taste his 09 single clone samples.  He's making very nice wines at affordable prices and is one of the nicest guys in the business.

After leaving Don, we stopped at Penner-Ash, the antithesis to Vidon.  The tasting room is opulent and pretentious and the wines were unremarkable (though some have received good ratings from the press) and pricey.  It was getting late and we may not have been at our peak, but this is a winery I will not need to revisit.

A view from Anderson Winery
Upon Don's recommendation, we called Anderson Winery to see if we could visit and taste.  Despite the time of day (4:00) Cliff invited us to come by.  Owners by Cliff and Allison Anderson, both of whom were in the tasting/barrel room for our visit, made no effort to hurry us as we sampled their wines and talked about their winemaking practices (minimal intervention), barrels and cooperage, soils, vineyard exposure and clonal selection.  Their whites and pinot noirs were well-made and enjoyable and their pricing philosophy (sell wines to customers at wholesalers' price) is unique in the industry, as far as I know.  This was a great culmination to a very enjoyable day.

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