Friday, July 20, 2012

Southern Willamette Valley’s Oldest Winery - LaVelle Vineyards in Elmira, Oregon

My final stop on the third day of my wine adventure was at the oldest winery in Oregon’s Southern Willamette Valley, LaVelle Vineyards. The winery is secluded at the end of a winding dusty road in the forest covered hills of Elmira, 15 miles west of Eugene. Once you make your way through the trees the tasting room and winery is half way up a steep hill just below the vineyards.

The winery was previously named Forgeron Vineyard which was founded by Lee and Linda Smith in 1972. The estate has of 16-acres of vineyard which sits on a southwestern slope approximately 300 feet above sea level on the western side of the last ridge in the coastal range near the southern end of Oregon's Willamette Valley. When the estate vineyard was originally planted it included Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet sauvignon, Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, and Chenin Blanc. 

Two decades later, due to economic struggles the winery was closed in 1992. It was then purchased in 1994 by the current owners, Doug and Susan LaVelle. Four years later they grafted over approximately six acres of the original plantings to varietals that were more conducive with the terroir, namely Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Riesling. 

While visiting I did a tour of the vineyard and taken up to the top of Demming Ridge above the vineyard and winery. From there, looking to the east, you can see Fern Ridge Lake and the floor of the Willamette Valley. You can also see beyond the foothills of the Cascade Mountains the peaks of the Three Sisters Wilderness Area.

While visiting I sampled the following wines:

The first pour was the 2011 Pinot Gris. On the nose it has aromas of fresh apples, canned pears and on the palate it is fruit forward, crisp with medium acidity followed by a medium length finish. This wine sells for $22 a bottle.

The second wine was the 2011 Riesling. On the nose this wine is grapey with notes of fresh red apples. On the palate it lacks crispness with a  medium(-) acidity. This wine also sells for $22 a bottle.

The third wine and first red wine was the 2009 Whyra Vineyard Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley Oregon. This is a BIG earthy wine with aromas of fresh black cherry that push through the earthiness followed by medium tannins and well balanced acidity, with pronounced spice and oak on the finish. This wine sells for $26 a bottle.

The final wine was the only one I found worth buying, the 2008 Matthew’s Reserve Pinot Noir. This is a major step up from the previous Pinot with notes of Black cherry, Dr. Pepper and anise with underlying earthiness and oak. On the palate it has medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, is really well balanced with a prolonged finish. I took a bottle home for $48.

To visit or for more information:

LaVelle Vineyards
89697 Sheffler Road 
Elmira, Oregon 97437
Phone: 1-541- 935-9406

You can also sample their wines at:

LaVelle Vineyards Tasting Room at the Historic 5th Street Market
296 E. 5th Street Suite #25

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