Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Somm Select and Roots Wine Company, Willamette Valley Oregon

Over the past few years I have become a Pinot Noir fanatic. In pursuit of great Pinot I have traveled up and down the California Coast and have visited numerous wineries and tasted countless wines from Malibu, Santa Barbara County, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, the Santa Cruz Mountains, Los Carneros, the Russian River, Sonoma County and Mendocino. Of all the California Pinots, I have to say that I tend to prefer those from the Russian River.

Although I have yet to travel to Burgundy I’ve also enjoyed numerous wines from there as well. I have found that the best of them have a distinctive earthiness that is unmatchable and a complexity of fruit, spice and mushrooms that is absolutely enchanting.

Two years ago I traveled through Oregon and sampled wines along the way. I have come to fall in love with their Pinots, the best of which have one foot in the Old World and the other in the New World with the earthiness of France and the fresh fruit of California. But, these traits aren’t always in Oregonian Pinot Noirs. The problem is if you live in California and you are looking for Pinot Noirs from the Willamette Valley that have the fruit-earthiness that I love they are not typically found in grocery stores or even in the larger chain beverage stores. You have to hunt for them at the better wine shops and they can be very pricey.

Yet I know there are many wineries in the Willamette Valley that make more affordable Pinot Noirs but they tend to be small production and they do not distribute very widely, if at all. So the only way to buy the wines is to know about them and order them online directly from the winery. Or, as I prefer to do, actually visit the winery, taste the wines where they are grown and then bring them home. But that takes a lot of time and money and not everyone can take such wine adventures.

This is where Somm Select comes in….

Somm Select

Somm Select was founded by Ian Cauble and Brandon Carneiro who met in 1999 while studying at Sonoma State University. I first heard of Ian when I saw the movie SOMM, a documentary which follows the lives of a group of Advanced Sommeliers in their pursuit to become Master Sommeliers. Shortly thereafter I met Ian while going through the Intensive Sommelier Training at the International Culinary Center when he became an instructor.

In 2014 Ian Cauble (MS) and Brandon created Somm Select which provides members of their mailing list access to selected wines. These are not wines that you will find at your local wine shop and many of them are in very limited supply and sold for below retail cost. While Pinot Noir and Burgundies frequently make the list, there are numerous other wines and varietals that are make the daily e-mail list that are hard-to-find and not available in any wine shops in the S.F. Bay Area. But not only does Somm Select provide access to great wines, they also provide great information about the wine, the region and the producer so every e-mail is an education in wine.

One of the mailings I received was for a Pinot Noir from Oregon. When I received the e-mail I hesitated in buying the wine and the following day when I went to place the order the wine was completely sold out. So, I told myself, “The next time SommSelect offers an Oregon Pinot I’m going to jump on it!” Shortly thereafter they offered the 2012 Roots Wine Company Klee Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley Oregon and I immediately ordered ½ case.

Roots Wine Company

The Roots Wine Company was founded in 1999 by winemaker and winegrower Chris Berg when he planted seven acres of mostly Pinot Noir on the 20-acre property near Yamhill in the Yamhill-Carlton District of the Willamette Valley. 

In 2002, the Bergs picked their first harvest of a three tons of grapes, which were made into 72 cases of Pinot Noir. Today they now crushes approximately 3,800 cases annually cases a year. The seven-acre vineyard contains mostly Pinot Noir with a couple rows of Pinot Gris. Pinot Noir clones include 114, 115, 777 and are planted in Willakenzie soil and with a southwest slope. Wines include our flagship estate Pinot Noir, as well as several single vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs, sourced mostly from neighboring vineyards in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Other wines include an estate Pinot Gris, Melon de Bourgogne, Viognier, Riesling, dessert Riesling, Syrah and a Méthode Champenoise sparkling wine named after their son Theo.

The Wine

The 2012 Roots Wine Company Klee Pinot Noir is named after one of Chris Berg’s favorite artists Paul Klee and it is one of Roots Wine Company’s largest productions with 2,000 cases made annually. The artwork for the label is their own adaptation of a Klee painting.

This is an opaque red wine, dark ruby at the core to clear magenta at the rim with moderate variation and just a slight tint of garnet around the edge with moderate viscosity and slow running tears. When first poured the nose is clean with moderately intense aromas of fresh black cherries, strawberry preserves, plum, and spice with underlying notes of dried dusty earth, mushrooms, and just a hint of clove and black pepper. After about 30 minutes the wine had additional aromas of dried cinnamon and forest floor. On the palate it has medium- tannins, medium+ acidity, medium body, moderate alcohol and a medium length finish. This is a complex wine that needs some time to breath to fully develop and it finishes with absolutely delicious spicy notes and a lingering hint of cherry vanilla. This wine retailed at the winery for $30 (before it sold out) and SommSelect offered it at $20 per bottle with a limit of 12 bottle maximum purchase and free shipping if you purchased more than 3 bottles. I bought 6 bottles and I regret not buying an entire case as I have never had a Pinot this good for only $20!

I HIGHLY recommend getting on the e-mailing list and if there is a wine you would like to buy, don’t wait too long because they tend to be in short supply.

For more information about SommSelect and Roots Wine Company check the following links:

Monday, July 30, 2012

Grand Finale of the 2012 Summer Oregon Tour - Adelsheim Vineyard in Newberg, Oregon

After visiting Domaine Drouhin and Vista Hills in the Dundee Hills I headed over to visit the final winery of my 2012 summer tour through the Oregon wine country. Adelsheim Vineyard was founded 40 years ago by David and Ginny Adelsheim in 1972. They began with 15 acres of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling in the Chehalem Mountains. Six years later in 1978 they had their first commercial release of 300 cases of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris from the estate vineyard along with Semillon and Merlot. All of which was made in their cramped basement winery with a simple crusher, wine press and 20 Burgundy barrels. 

As Adelsheim Vineyard continued to grow, they needed a new production facility so in 1982, four years after their inaugural release, they built their 6,000 square foot winery adjacent to the Adelsheim’s home. Later a 19 acre vineyard across the street from the original vineyard was leased. Then in 1989 a 52 acre site, now named Calkins Lane Vineyard, was purchased and became the home of the current winery. 

In 1994 Jack and Lynn Loacker became co-owners Adelsheim Vineyard and began planting a 120-acre site on Ribbon Ridge, the source of much of the Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris grapes since 1998. 

In 1997, a new 35,000 square foot state-of-the-art winery with underground barrel storage was built at Calkins Lane Vineyard. This 40,000 case capacity facility entails a two-level, gravity-flow fermentation room which allows for gentle grape movement and four underground barrel caves utilize pre-cast concrete arches and temperature-controlled floors to provide optimal temperature and humidity for slow, cool aging of their Pinot noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. 

In 2001 David Paige took the reins from David Adelsheim to become the head winemaker, bringing with him twelve years experience in working with Pinot Noir. In 2008 the production continued to expand so an extensive addition to the winery on Calkins Lane was added which enabled them to bring in more fruit, use two sorting tables, and add additional fermentation space to handle the increased harvest demands. 

In the fall of 2006 Viticulturist Chad Vargas, who has BS and MS degrees in Crop Science and Plant Pathology, joined the Adelsheim Vineyard team. Under his leadership Adelsheim’s estate vineyards became certified under the LIVE program (Low Input Viticulture and Enology).


In April 2009 Adelsheim Vineyard opened their new tasting room was opened which includes an extended tasting bar and immediate access to the back patio where visitors can leisurely enjoy their samples of wine while viewing the vineyards on the surrounding hills. 

Adelsheim now farms 190 acres on eleven vineyard sites in the Willamette Valley with a total production of 42,000 cases of wine annually. Beginning in 2011, Adelsheim began to release a “Best of Vintage” Pinot Noir. The inaugural release was from the 29th harvest and was given the name, “Vintage 29.” It was crafted from 3½ barrels of Pinot Noir ($140 a bottle). Vintage 31 and Vintage 32 are also available from the winery. 

While visiting I sampled the following wines: 

My first pour was 2010 Caitlin’s Reserve Chardonnay. On the nose I picked up sharp tart apples, orange peel, dried pineapple and a hint of white flowers. On the palate it is crisp with medium (+) acidity and it has a prolonged finish. Overall a really nice non-oaky style Chardonnay that is Chablis-like, minus the minerality. But, this wine is not priced competitively at $45 a bottle. I know of many similar California Chards in the $30 range. 

The second wine was the 2009 Elizabeth’s Bluff Reserve Pinot Noir. On the nose this wine is very fruit forward with aromas of vibrant fresh cherries, faint hints of cola, black cherries, anise and spice. On the palate the wine has lively with medium (+) acidity and a prolonged finish that reminds of me of California Russian River Pinots. A beautiful wine but it does not have the “I’m from Oregon” signature that I am looking for in a Pinot. This wine sells for $55 a bottle, but comparable Russian River Pinots go for about $35-$45. 

The third pour was the 2009 Boulder Bluff Pinot Noir. On the nose it has dark plums, hints of anise and cola and a layer of forest floor. On the palate it is silky and complex, with good backbone and structure, it is well balanced and it has a medium (+) length finish. It is a very fine wine but not competitively priced at $68 a bottle. 

The fourth pour was the 2009 Temperance Hill Pinot Noir. The grapes for this are sourced from an expansive site located in the Eola Hills and they supply grapes to other wineries including Belle Vallée, Chehalem, Elk Cove, Evesham Wood, J.K. Carriere, Mystic, Panther Creek, R. Stuart and Co., and St. Innocent. On the nose I picked up bright cherries, licorice with a distinct black cherry cola finish. It is young, powerful, well structured and tannic (medium +) and has potential for ageing. A really nice Pinot but at $68 a bottle I’d head back to the Dundee Hill’s and buy another at Domaine Drouhin or Vista Hills. 

My final wine of the line-up was the 2009 Bryan Creek Pinot Noir. On the nose I picked up root beer, cola, Bing cherries and a hint of earth. On the palate it has medium (+) acidity, medium tannins and is supple and silky in the mid palate transition followed by a medium (+) length finish. This was the only Pinot in the line-up that I thought had the distinctive Oregon characteristics I desired. But it sells for $75 a bottle! 

Overall, Adelsheim Vineyard is a beautiful place, they produce very fine wines and their service was excellent. But the price of their wines when compared to their Oregon peers is not competitive. 

 To visit or for more information: 

Adelsheim Vineyard 
16800 NE Calkins Lane 
Newberg, Oregon 97132 
Telephone: 1-503-538-3652 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Vista Hills Vineyard – A Tree House Winery in Dayton, Oregon

After visiting Domaine Drouhin I headed to the top of the Dundee Hills to visit Vista Hills Vineyard. They are a neighbor of Domaine Serene which I had visited the previous day Visiting all three of these wineries is a Pinot Noir lover's delight for they not only produce supreme Pinots but they do so in very distinctly different styles. Domaine Drouhin, for obvious reasons, has the strongest French influences. Domaine Serene seems very French and yet with definite Oregonian influences. Vista Hills Vineyards produces very bold, kick-ass, intense and rich Oregonian Pinots that will pair well with either a delicate salmon or barbequed steaks. Yet they are not Syrah-like and still maintain their grape varietal characteristics. If you are a Pinot lover like I am, I highly recommend visiting all three of these wineries!

Vista Hills Vineyard and Winery is a family owned business founded by John and Nancy McClintock. It started as a small vineyard in 1995 and today it consists of 45 acres of Pinot Noir and 8 acres of Pinot Gris planted on the 65 acre estate. The vineyard rests atop a hill, providing ample sun exposure on varying slopes, which descend predominantly to the southwest. The grape vines are planted in densities varying from 1,200 to 2,200 vines per acre. The Dundee Hills American Viticulture Area (AVA) is one of the most highly regarded appellations in the Willamette Valley. Blessed with volcanic Jory soils, the rolling slopes of the Dundee Hills range from 300' to 1,000' above sea level. Vista Hills’ elevations range from 500' to 800', ideally situated to maximize the intensity and complexity of the picky Pinot Noir grape. The vineyard is LIVE (Low Input Viticulture & Enology) Certified and Salmon Safe.

In November 2007 the unique 6,000 square foot Tree House Tasting Room opened which extends out from the side of the hill into the Douglas Fir and White Oak treetops overlooking the vineyards below. 

While visiting the tree house and enjoying the views I sampled the following wines:

My first pour was 2011 Tree House Pinot Gris. The nose of this wine is very aromatic with a pronounced bouquet of floral and tropical notes followed by orange peel, honeydew melon and pineapple. It was served a tad bit too warm and it seemed a bit tart on the palate, but it was rather crisp with medium (+) acidity and it had a prolonged finish. This wine sells for $18 a bottle.

The second pour was the 2009 Tree House Pinot Noir. On the nose this wine exudes smoked bacon, mocha and coffee which then transitions into dark black cherries, cola and a hint of pepper and spice. There is a certain quality to this wine that is in your face, “KABLAM!” This may seem a bit overwhelming to some Pinot Lovers who are looking for a wine with subtlety and finesse. This wine sells for $28 a bottle and I bought two of them but opened one with dinner later that night and paired it with a Filet Mignon – AWESOME!

The third pour was the 2009 Marylhurst Pinot Noir. On the nose this wine displays Dr. Pepper, dark cherries, a hint of smoke and spice. On the palate it has excellent structure and backbone with medium tannins and well balanced acidity. This wine sells for $36 a bottle and I brought two of them home.

The fourth wine was the 2009 Rollins Pinot Noir. On the nose I picked up cola, hints of smoke, black cherries and a hint of anise and spice. This wine is similar in profile to the previous Pinot but with more balanced and harmony and all of its attributes are well integrated. This wine sells for $44 a bottle.

The fifth pour was 2009 Tusculum Pinot Noir. This wine seems like a more mature and well balanced version of the Tree House Pinot Noir with notes of cola, smoke, black cherries and spice. It is similar in aromas and flavor but the profile is more well-balanced, restrained and well integrated. This wine sells for $44 and I brought two of them home.

My final wine of the line-up was the 2009 Skyraider Pinot Noir. Another fabulous wine with notes of blackberries, cola, cassis and spice with more pronounced fruit characteristics than the previous wines which were earthier. This wine sells for $60 a bottle.

To see more pictures of Vista Hills Vineyards, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:

To visit or for more information:

Vista Hills Vineyard
6475 NE Hilltop Lane  
Dayton, Oregon 97114
Phone: 1-503-864-3200

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Domaine Drouhin Oregon – A Taste of France in Dayton, Oregon

On the fifth and final day of my adventure through the Oregon wine country I returned to the community of wineries in the Dundee Hills. My first stop was at Domaine Drouhin Oregon (DDO), a French owned winery that produces great Pinot Noir from the best of the New and Old Worlds – Burgundy and Oregon. 

Domaine Drouhin is a daughter-winery of Maison Joseph Drouhin, a French wine producer based in Burgundy that was founded in 1880. The estate owns vineyards in Chablis, the Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune and Côte Chalonnaise, as well as in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Drouhin is also one of the major négociants of Burgundy, and produces wines made from purchased grapes grown in different parts of Burgundy. Today both Maison Joseph Drouhin and Domaine Drouhin Oregon are owned and operated by the great grandchildren of Joseph Drouhin.

Domaine Drouhin Oregon (DDO), a gravity-fed winery, is in the Red Hills of Dundee AVA. It was built in 1988 for $10,000,000 by Maison Joseph Drouhin and it is the first four-level gravity-flow winery built in Oregon. 

At the very heart of their 225-acre estate are the 85 acres of high density vineyards; 70 planted with Pinot Noir and 13.5 acres with Chardonnay. They also source grapes from other growers grown on the Hill’s Red Jory Clay, as well as on the Willakenzie soils of the flatter areas. Another 50 acres of the Drouhin property remain to be planted and are destined for more Pinot Noir. These vineyards share a nearly identical climate, latitude, and aspect with their counterparts in France.

The fourth generation of Drouhins now works in Beaune and Oregon:  Frédéric is General Manager of Maison Joseph Drouhin (, Philippe manages the estates in Burgundy and Oregon, Laurent is a regional commercial director, and since its first vintage in 1988 Véronique Drouhin has continued the family tradition as the head winemaker of both Maison Joseph Drouhin and Domaine Drouhin Oregon. Véronique travels frequently between her home on the estate in Oregon and her home in Beaune. She and her husband have three young children, for whom the wines Arthur, Laurène and Louise are named. The fifth generation of Drouhins is still quite young, but there is no doubt that Joseph Drouhin’s great-great grandchildren will one day take their place in the family business.

Visiting Domaine Drouhin Oregon is a truly unique wine tasting experience. When you taste one of their Pinots from Oregon and another from Burgundy you are receiving a very unique and special wine education – the opportunity to experience the differences and similarities of the terroir of an old and new world wine made by the same winemaker. They produces three Pinot Noirs which have Burgundian counterparts: the first is the Willamette Valley Cuvée (Village level), the second is the Cuvée Laurène (Premier Cru level), named after Veronique’s first daughter, and the third Cuvée Louise (Grand Cru level), named after Véronique’s youngest daughter.

While visiting I sampled the following wines:

My first pour was the 2010 Arthur Chardonnay. On the nose I picked up aromas of freshly cut apples, citrus and lemon zest with a subtle underlying floral component. On the palate the wine is tart and tangy with pronounced (medium ++) acidity and a lengthy finish. It seems a bit austere to me, definitely not your California-style Chard. This wine sells for $30 a bottle.

The second sample was a French Chardonnay, the 2008 Chablis Premier-Cru. This wine is a blend of various Premier Cru parcels from the Joseph Drouhin Domaine in Chablis (Roncières, Mont de Milieu, Montée de Tonnerre, Moireins). They are located on either side of the Serein River, harvested and vinified separately, then assembled. On the nose I picked up dried pineapple, ginger, lemon meringue, a faint hint of butter, toasted nuts, some green vegetal notes and orange peel with a hint of wet stone on the tail end.  On the palate this wine is similar to the previous one but with more complexity and it is silkier in texture with a longer finish. This wine sells for $32 a bottle and if I were in the market to buy a Chardonnay I’d pay the extra $2 and buy this one.

The third sample was the 2011 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Edition Rosé. Made in the saignée method, this wine is salmon pink in color and displays fresh aromas of pink grapefruit, sour cherries and melon. On the palate the wine is dry and somewhat tart, very crisp and vibrant with a very long (medium +) length finish. This wine sells for $20 a bottle.

The fourth pour was the 2010 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley. This wines exudes floral aromas of dried roses followed by black cherries, vibrant cherries, a hint of cedar and spice. On the palate it has medium acidity and a medium (+) length. This wine could easily be mistaken for a California Russian River Pinot Noir. A really nice wine but it wasn’t what I was looking for in Oregon. This wine sells for $40 a bottle.

The fifth wine was the 2009 Joseph Drouhin Santenay (Pinot Noir), Grand Vins De Bourgogne AOC. Santenay is a charming village, at the southern end of the Côte de Beaune, below the Mont de Sène. On the nose this wine displays what you expect to find in a Burgundian Pinot – black fruit, black cherries, pomegranate followed by earth, mushrooms and a hint of barnyard. The tannins are soft and the acidity is vibrant (medium +) and it has a prolonged finish. This wine sells for $27 a bottle and I brought two of them home to do a Burgundy/Oregon wine side-by-side comparison with friends.

The sixth and final pour was 2008 Laurène Cuvee Pinot Noir. Named after Véronique Drouhin's elder daughter, Laurène this is DDO’s flagship wine, and is produced entirely from Pinot Noir grown the estate in the Dundee Hills. The wine is absolutely superb and is the treasure that Pinot hunters are looking for in Oregon. The wine exudes black cherries, spice, smoke and bacon and a fresh earthiness that can’t be found in California. On the palate it is rich and sensuous with supple tannins, vibrant acidity (medium +) and a prolonged finish. This wine is a bit pricy at $65 a bottle but I had to bring at least one home to share with friends.

To see more pictures of Domaine Drouhin Oregon, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:

To visit or for more information:

Domaine Drouhin Oregon
6750 Breyman Orchards Rd.
Dayton, Oregon 97114
Phone:  1-503-864-2700

For details on their French wines:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Domaine Serene – The Dundee Hills of Dayton, Oregon

After visiting Willamette Valley Vineyard on the fourth day of my trip I headed west across the valley to Dayton where I made my second and final stop of the day at Domaine Serene. They are located in a community of wineries in the Dundee Hills. Perched above the valley floor visitors can taste fabulous wines and get a breath taking view of the valley below. 

The winery was founded in 1989 by Ken and Grace Evenstad who named it after their daughter, Serene Evenstad Warren. Initially the estate consisted of 42 acres on a west-facing slope that had been cleared of the trees by loggers. The cleared land then became the Estate vineyards named Mark Bradford, Fleur de Lis and Etoile all of which were planted to Pinot Noir

They now own 462 acres of land in Yamhill County with 150 acres of the land planted to vine, 95% of which is Pinot Noir with the remaining planted to Chardonnay and Syrah. This includes the Evenstad Estate Vineyard that totals 142 acres named Mark Bradford, Fleur de Lis and Etoile all of which were planted to Pinot Noir. It also includes 41 adjoining acres with east facing slopes named Grace, Clos du Soleil and Gold Eagle Vineyards, as well as south-facing slope of 59 acres planted to Pinot Noir and 4.5 acres to Dijon clone Chardonnay named Côte Sud Vineyard. They also own 90 acres on Jerusalem Hill, 55 of these east-facing slope acres are planted solely to Pinot Noir. They also have a second label called Rockblock that features Rhone varietals made with sourced fruit harvested from the Seven Hills Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley appellation of Northeastern Oregon.

The architecture of the winery and tasting room is absolutely beautiful. It is a 50,000 square foot Tuscan-style building with yellow clay walls, a red-tiled roof and 20-foot ceilings. The facility is a multi-level gravity-flow winery with five levels that contain four fermentation rooms, four barrel cellars, a sorting line, corking operation, tasting room and restaurant. 

The ambiance of the tasting room is beautiful. Visitors can stand at the tasting counter lounge or lounge in a comfortable sitting area near the fireplace. But, weather permitting, the most scenic place to sample the wine is on the patio where you can enjoy the fantastic vistas of the vineyards and valley below.

While visiting I sampled the following wines:

My first pour was the 2009 “Etoile Vineyard” Chardonnay. This wine exudes delicate aromas of butterscotch, caramel, pears and golden delicious apples. On the palate it is creamy without being heavy weighted and it has refreshing crisp acidity and a really prolonged finish. An absolutely fabulous wine and one of the best Chards I have had in a long time. However, at $49 a bottle I know of other comparable California Chards in the $30-$35 range.

The second sample was the 2009 “Yamhill Cuvee” Pinot Noir. This wine is fruit forward with fresh aromas of cherries, strawberries, and cherry-vanilla. On the palate it has medium acidity and a lengthy finish. This wine is very California-like and in a blind taste test I would have guessed it was from Carneros in the Napa Valley. It is a very nice wine but it isn’t what I am looking for in Oregon. This wine sells for $45 a bottle.

The third pour was the 2008 “Evanstad Reserve” Pinot Noir. This wine is deeper ruby and garnet in color and it has fruit and earthy aromas of black cherries, cola and forest floor. On the palate it has well balanced acidity (medium +), medium tannins and a lengthy finish. This is an absolutely phenomenal wine but at $65 a bottle it isn’t competitive with many other similar Oregon Pinots that I tasted elsewhere.

The final wine was the NV (Non-Vintage) Rockblock “SoNo” Syrah. On the nose this wine is jammy with pronounced aromas of blackberry jam, cocoa, and oak. On the palate it is silky smooth with a hint of sweetness and a medium length finish that suddenly comes to a dead stop. The nose of the wine is better than on the palate. It is way too soft, lacking structure and backbone and at $35 a bottle I’d definitely say, “Pass.” 


To see more pictures of the Domaine Serene, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:

To visit or for more information:

Domaine Serene
6555 N.E. Hilltop Lane
Dayton, Oregon 97114
Phone: 1-503-864-4600

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Willamette Valley Vineyards – Turner, Oregon

On the fourth day of my adventure through the Oregon wine country I headed further north to the northern end of the Willamette Valley. My first stop was at Willamette Valley Vineyard, conveniently located on top of a huge hill just off the east side of the freeway. 

The Jory family, who were the previous owners, had planted the land to thin-skinned plums that they then dried and sold as prunes. In 1983 the land was sold to Jim Bernau who cleared the plum orchard and blackberry vines off of the ancient volcanic, iron-rich soil and then planted 50 acres of Pinot Noir (Pinot Noir Dijon clones 667, 777, Pommard and Wadenswil), Chardonnay (Dijon Clone Chardonnay 76 and 96 and Espiguette) and Pinot Gris. 

This unique soil of this vineyard is from an ancient volcanic flow is red from its oxidized iron content and is well-drained. It is similar to the red clay soil found in the Grand Cru Pinot Noir vineyards of Romaneé-st-Vivant in Burgundy. The vineyard site rises from 500-750 feet in elevation with seven to twelve degree slopes tilted toward the sun. As a result, the vines get excellent air exposure, drainage and they are above the frost line. At this elevation and slope, the temperature is approximately ten degrees warmer than the valley floor during the day.

Behind the tasting room is a viewing deck where you can enjoy your wines while viewing the vineyards below. While visiting I did a tour of the winery that included the production area and the barrel room. I then climbed up the spiraling staircase of the viewing tower that provides a spectacular 360° view of the valley and the vineyards below. If you visit the winery, be sure to bring your camera!

While visiting I sampled the following wines:

My first pour was the 2011 Whole Cluster Pinot Noir. In the entire line-up this wine has the most pronounced aromas of pepper, followed by vibrant notes of cedar, cherries, strawberries and raspberry. On the palate is light bodied and mildly fruit forward with a lingering pepper finish. This wine sells for $22 a bottle.

The second sample was the 2009 Vintage Pinot Noir. This wine is very light ruby red with aromas of sour cherries, cedar and cigar box. On the palate it is crisp with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins and a medium forward finish. This wine sells for $30 a bottle.

The third pour was the 2009 Bernau Block Pinot Noir. This wine had more intense characteristics than the previous wines with fruit forward aromas of raspberries, blackberries and a hint of smoke with medium acidity, tannins and a lengthy medium (+) length finish. This wine sells for $45 a bottle.

The fourth wine was the 2009 Elton Pinot Noir. This wine displays a complex variety of pronounced aromas of cherries, cinnamon, a touch of anise, and cedar which combined remind me of a scented Christmas candle. On the palate the fruit and spice profile is well integrated with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins and a fairly lengthy medium (+) length finish. A really nice wine which reminds me of California’s David Bruce Estate Pinot which sells for $55, yet this one sells for only $45 a bottle.

The first four wines were good but they lacked the “WOW” factor that I was looking for and the distinctive qualities that can only be found in Oregon Pinot Noir. However, the rest of the line-up was a dramatic step up as they all had the profile that announces, “I’m from Oregon!”

The fifth pour was my favorite in the line-up, the 2009 Tualatin Estate Pinot Noir. This wine comes from vines that were planted in 1974 and the maturity of the vine is reflected in the wine. This wine is deeper ruby and garnet red than the previous wines displaying aromas of dark red fruits, black berries, a hint of caramel apple, followed by underlying notes of earth and black olive and spice. On the palate it has velvety tannins, medium (+) acidity and a lengthy finish. This wine sells for $45 and I brought one home to add to my growing Oregon Pinot collection.

My final wine of the line-up was the 2009 Estate Pinot Noir. This wine is a blend of the three previous Pinots. It was the only one in the line-up that had distinctive notes of cola, followed by hints of anise, pepper and spice. Underlying the spice are fruit aromas of cherry and wild black berry. On the palate the fruit and spice is supported by refreshing acidity (medium +), and a lengthy (medium +) finish. Another great wine, I brought one home for $45.

To see more pictures of Willamete Valley Vineyards, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:

To visit or for more information:

Willamette Valley Vineyards
8800 Enchanted Way SE
Turner, Oregon 97392
Phone: 1-800-344-9463