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:
16800 NE Calkins Lane
Newberg, Oregon 97132