As I left Giradet Vineyards and Winery the fog began to come over the mountains like a wave of the ocean and settle in the valleys and the temperature suddenly dropped. I visited Giradet because they produce a unique wine, the Boco Noir. My next winery, HillCrest Vineyard, was also chosen for their uniqueness – among other things, they are the oldest estate and continuously running winery in Oregon. They are also the first to in the state to produce Pinot Noir, which is increasingly becoming Oregon’s most sought after varietal of wine and they produce a couple unique wines, a white Pinot Noir and a Hungarian styled blend.
The winery was founded by Richard Sommers in 1961 with the help of Adolph Doerner, who’s family first planted wine grapes in the Umpqua Valley in 1888. Today Sommers is considered by many to be the father of Oregon winemaking world. When visiting, you might notice the “BW 44” notation here and there — it’s a reference to the fact that HillCrest Vineyard was the 44th bonded “alcohol producer” in Oregon and the first winery bonded after Prohibition. After selecting the estate site, Richard planted over 35 varieties, many of which had never been planted or produced before in Oregon.
In 2003 Dyson and Susan Demara, along with their three children Hanna, Parker and Tucker, became the next generation to further Richard Sommers’ pioneering legacy by continuing to produce premium wines from the estate with an annual production of around 1400 cases.
HillCrest Vineyards has some unique wine making practices, such as using patented concrete red wine fermentors and they have the Umpqua Valley’s most sustainable vineyard practices using the state’s oldest naturally farmed vineyards. All of this is performed without using any outside the family employees. So, from planting their own vineyards, to bottling and managing the tasting room, only their family’s hands touch these wines.
When I arrived nobody was in the tasting room and I was greeted by two friendly dogs. After hearing them bark Susan Demara came out from their adjacent home to pour the wines and while she was pouring she was making various arrangements for the kids over the phone… but THAT is what it is like visiting a family owned and run winery! Nothing too fancy schmancy, just real people making real honest wine with mom working as both the household and tasting room manager. Like, most of the wineries in Southern Oregon that are really small production (under 3,000 cases) HillCrest Vineyard is are family-owned and run rather than being just one of many belonging to a huge conglomerate. In comparison, most of the larger wineries in the Napa Valley are no longer owned by the family that founded them as they have been bought out by multi-winery corporations such as Constellation Brands and Diageo.
Due to the weather conditions and the temperature of the room tasting the wines evaluating the wines accurately was a bit of a challenge so didn’t take any extensive notes and I am hesitant to make any dogmatic conclusions about them. Tasting a wine in a tasting room can be challenging enough as there are so many environmental influences that one has to be aware of, but on a really cold day (around 42 degrees) in a very cold tasting room that was barely heated the wines are not being shown at their best. So, I look forward to tasting the wines I purchased again from the comfort of my home.
While most wineries tend to serve their white wines first, the truth is if they have sufficient acidity a good white wine will actually cleanse the palate and therefore should be served AFTER tasting red wines. While visiting I first tasted five red wines and then two white wines. The red wines were the 2006 Right Bank (St. Emilon inspired Meritage blend of 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc), the 2007 Phenom Cabernet Sauvignon which comes from their “Old Vine” estate vineyard planted in 1964, the 2007 Nonihc Cabernet Franc, the 2008 “Bulls Blood” a Hungarian style blend (which I bought but is not currently listed on their web site), the 2009 “Le Pig” Barbera (which I also bought but is not currently listed on their web site) followed by the 2009 “Les Charmes” Chardonnay, and the 2010 Pinot Noir “Inside Out” Blanc. This was the first time I ever tasted a white wine made from Pinot Noir, it seemed to me to be way too light and definitely not a winter drinking wine. Of all these I liked and purchased a bottle of the Barbera and the “Bulls Blood” because it was unique.
When I arrived at the winery the fog had settled in, making it near impossible to see from one side of the estate to the other so taking pictures was a bit of a challenge. So after sampling their wines I drove up into the surrounding mountains to get a bird’s eye view of the clouds in the valley below.
To visit or for more information:
240 Vineyard Lane
Roseburg, Oregon 97471