Friday, August 31, 2012

Oregon Wine Country Discovery Tour

Five wonderful days in Oregon Wine Country.


Phelps Creek Vineyard
Photo: Phelps Creek Vineyards view.


There's a treasure trove of wine across the Columbia River. While I've preoccupied myself with my Washington wine pursuits, I've ignored a wealth of wine next door. I'm referring to Oregon Wine.

This month I spent five enlightening days in Oregon, sampling the best of Oregon wine. The fifth annual Wine Bloggers Conference was hosted in Portland, Oregon. I was fortunate to attend.

There are not enough words for me to express how affected I was by my experience in Oregon. Oregon winemakers are creating and expressing true wine passion. You can tell by the exquisite wines they are making. Oregon is an environment where sharing and inspiring each other is the norm. Environmentally aware, Sustainable, Organic and Bio-Dynamic are natural topics of conversation in Oregon wineries.

Northern Oregon wine country is minutes from the vibrant city scene of Portland. I visited wineries and vineyards in the Willamette Valley, the sub AVA of Chehalem Mountains and the Columbia Gorge AVA. These AVA's are surrounded by evergreen trees, rolling hills and mountains. A stark contrast to the desert wine country I live in.


photo wine and sweets
Photo: Oregon Pinot pairing.
I had the honor of tasting an impressive array of Oregon wines. Naturally Pinot Noir featured prominently. It was a glorious experience. Never have I enjoyed such a range of styles. Oregon Pinot Noir can be light, delicate, and sublime. It can also be unexpectedly wicked funky, like your favorite cousin. Oregon Pinot Noir can also blow you away with flavor and complexity. I was shocked to taste Pinot Noir as big and as rich as a robust Cabernet Sauvignon. Really.

Photo: Lovely Oregon white wine.
But it was the Oregon white wines which most intrigued and impressed me. Oregon Riesling and Pinot Gris were a secret I knew nothing about, which I consider a wonderful discovery. It was hot, hot, hot in Oregon when I visited, so the Oregon white wines were an extra pleasure and comfort.


Photo: Viento winemaker Rich Cushman.
Honestly, I knew nothing...nothing about Oregon wine before my 5 day visit. Nothing. It may shock some of you when I admit that I have ignored wine from the State next door. Even though it's only a 30 minute drive to Eastern Oregon from home, in Oregon the grapes and wine are on the west side of the state. That's a longer drive of about four hours. That's my excuse. Now that I am more familiar with Oregon wines, I will be making appointments to visit Oregon wineries on my next trip to Portland.

Photo: Robert (Bob) Morris of Phelps Creek Vineyard.
After five intense days of Oregon wine, on Monday morning when I went to load my luggage for the drive home, I found my car dead. It was “bricked” and completely unresponsive, no chirp, no lights. Nothing worked. At the time, it seemed to me as if Oregon was preventing me from leaving. In my mind I heard the spirit of Oregon wine speaking to me, “Wait, don't go, you've only begun to know us, there's so much more for you to learn.” A call to Les Schwab, a quick battery jump, and I was on my way. Fond memories of Oregon wine and a desire to return persists.

Photo: Winemaker Rob Stuart sharing barrel samples of his Pinot Noir.
Yesterday, I went looking for a bottle of Washington wine, I returned home with a bottle of Oregon wine. Yes, Oregon wine country will do that to you. Thank you to all the Oregon winemakers who shared their wonderful wines, the friendly winery and restaurant staff for fellowship and the Oregon Wine Board for an exceptionally executed venue. And thank you to Zephyr Adventures who made it all happen in Oregon.

Some of my favorite Oregon wines, listed alphabetically by winery.

Alexana Winery: 2011 Pinot Gris Dundee Hills

Anam Cara Cellars: 2011 Gewurztraminer Nicholas Estate, Late Harvest

Benton Lane Winery: 2011 Pinot Gris

Brooks: 2009 Ara Riesling

Cathedral Ridge Winery: 2009 Chardonnay

Chehalem Winery: Dry Riesling, Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Noir

Cooper Mountain Vineyards: 2011 Reserve Pinot Gris

Cowhorn Vineyards: Spiral 36, Syrah, Reserve Pinot Noir, Viognier

Dobbes Family Estate: Grenache Blanc, Joe Pinot, Patricia's Cuvee Pinot Noir

Garden Vineyards: 2009 White Table wine

Hawks View Cellars: Pinot Gris, White Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir

Johan Vineyards: 2009 Chardonnay Reserve

King Estate: 2010 King Estate Riesling Vin Glace

Lenne: Any of their Pinot Noir, especially 2009 Lenne Estate, 2010 LeNez and 2010 Lenne.

Montinore Estate: 2010 Pinot Gris, 2011 Rose, 2010 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir

Naked Winery: 2010 Oh! Tempranillo

Phelps Creek Vineyard: 2008 Cuve Alexandrine

The Pines: 2010 Old Vine Zinfandel

Ponzi Vineyards: 2009 Chardonnay, 2009 Pinot Noir Reserve

R.Stuart & Co.: 2009 Autograph, Big Fire Pinot Noir, 2011 Pinot Gris, Rose, Vignette

Raptor Ridge: 2009 Harbinger Vineyards Pinot Noir Chehalem Mountains

Viento Wines: 2010 Gruner Veltliner

Cheers!