pinot country

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

James Frey’s stunning closeup of pinot noir grapes, seen here, was one of the many highlights of a day jammed with visits to wineries in Yamhill county. It was a favorite among the dozens of photographs and paintings on display and on sale at his art gallery/winery, Trisaetum.

Located a few miles outside of Newberg on Ribbon Ridge Road, Trisaetum opened to the public just a little over a year ago.My focus on this intensive swing through the northern Willamette is to see what an ambitious tourist might be able to squeeze into a full few days. The usual things that a wine writer does in wine country are not the same as what a wine tourist might do. But instead of putting my focus on tasting as many wines as possible, looking at barrels and tanks and presses and pumps, I’m thinking like a visitor might think.

So in order to maximize the time, it’s necessary to focus the itinerary, and to keep driving times to a minimum. There are many ways to do this.

For example, the stretch of wineries that occupy Calkins Lane, on the western edge of the Chehalem Mountains AVA, could fill most of a day all by themselves. I did not visit them all, but that was because I was covering other territory as well. If you were planning your own trip, keeping to one tightly-defined area would cut down on driving, provide the opportunity to taste a number of wines actually sourced from a single AVA, and give you a look at some of the newest, as well as oldest, wineries in the state.

At Adelsheim a massive, curving wine tasting bar can host large groups and special events. As is usually the case, members of one of their wine clubs taste for free; otherwise there is a $15 fee. Up to a dozen single vineyard offerings are available to tasting room visitors and wine club members. As I’ve blogged before, the new releases from this veteran winery are among the best I’ve tasted from Oregon in the past six months.

Just up the road is ArborBrook, ensconced in a bright red and thoroughly charming former walnut and hazelnut farm. Owners Dave and Mary Hansen have the enthusiasm of mid-life newcomers to the wine business. Their hands-on enterprise now includes a 12-acre vineyard, a tasting room in a century-old nut-drying barn, and case storage in what were once padlocks for the owners’ horses. Along with a pair of just-released 2008 pinots, they offered a 2007 ‘Sydney’ sémillon, late harvested and slowly barrel fermented Klipsun vineyard grapes. A really fun visit that captured the essence of wine country exploration.

Across the road is Lachini, another relatively new Pinot specialist, with 45 acres planted around an outdoor patio that has a sweeping view of the valley. A new tasting room is under construction and due to open later this year, but visitors will be hosted (by appointment) in the existing winery garage. Check the website for special events.

Bergström and DeLancellotti are next up the road; I tasted a warm and spicy DeLancellotti 2007 pinot at dinner, as the winery and restaurant (Farm to Fork) are owned by Kendall Bergström, whose brother Josh made the wine. Cutting across to Ribbon Ridge Road, I visited Trisaetum where, in addition to the dazzling artwork, some textural, Germanic rieslings were poured.

Earlier in the day a visit to Rex Hill introduced me to their “essence table.” It occupies the center of the inviting tasting room, with a couple dozen Riedel glasses arrayed in a circle, each holding a different herb, flower, spice, fruit, or other flavor component. Sniff away and you’ll find yourself identifying more wine tastes than you’d ever dreamed possible. Even more clever – wine club members have been invited to “blend” a pinot using JellyBelly candies – believe it or not, I was assured, they came up with a pretty good approximation. This is a fun place, and it seems as if there is always a clever contest or cooking event on the calendar.

Up a winding mountain road on the other side of the highway is the newly-constructed J.K. Carriere winery, the dream come true of Jim and Allison Prosser. Launched in 1999, these pinot specialists purchased 40 virgin acres on top of Parrott mountain and planted their first vines a year ago. The goal is “high acid, smooth tannin, built-to-age Pinots” – exemplified by their Provocateur bottling. “We set out to make wines that get better for the first five years,” says Jim Prosser, who has made wine in Burgundy and New Zealand as well as the Willamette valley.

The day concluded with a quick stop at Chehalem's Newberg tasting room, where owner Harry Peterson-Nedry poured his estate-grown gruner veltliner, another example of this winery’s ongoing commitment to European styling and crisp white wines. The Inn At Red Hills in Dundee hosted dinner at their Farm to Fork restaurant – a sensational beet salad and a crispy duck leg for me. Bill Hatcher brought three vintages of his own, very limited pinots, and we debated the future of pinot, Oregon and the world quite happily for the next few hours.

To be continued…

1 comment:

Mary Hansen said...

Paul, Thanks again so much for including us in your tour! We enjoyed meeting you very much! Best, Mary & Dave Hansen, ArborBrook Vineyards

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