One of our favorite wine areas is the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Many reasons keep it one of our favorites: friendly tasting rooms, many folks who still consider themselves farmers, real dedication to the craft, science, love, magic and luck of making wine – and a beautiful area to discover wine!
So, this started as a semi-serious blog about the great Willamette Valley and their incredible wines – and great wine rooms and tasting experiences. And then it turned into a snooze fest.
Let me share our favorites with you below and get into some details in another post.
Would like to share that the 2012 vintage – which is being at the poured at tasting rooms now – is said to rival the 2008 wines. And the 2008 were record-breaking great. The 2012 vintage is equal to – or better than – that year. What caused this greatness/potential greatness?
While many parts of the country labored in abnormally crazy-weird temps, Oregon experienced days and weeks and months of picture-perfect 80-85-degree weather. Every day was sunny, clear and warm, but not hot. A somewhat unusual Oregon summer, but dynamite weather for growing Pinot Noir. The winemakers say that “…as the summer moved into September, it was clear that a vintage with enormous potential for both excellent hangtime (what?) and easy ripening was quite possible. A light early October rain provided some needed water to slow things down and give the plants a final boost to take the grapes across the finish line. Grapes were, in general, in as picture-perfect a condition as one could hope for.”
Our first visit to the Willamette was in the late 90s – many tasting rooms were located in the vintner’s house or garage. And these were fairly well-known labels: Erath, Adelsheim, both making great wines. While many tasting rooms may still be found in a fairly basic outbuilding (and one of our favorites is in an outbuilding – more on that below) many wineries have lovely tasting rooms with great staff to help you experience their grapes!
Shockingly, we have expanded our list of current favorites and I would like to share those with you here —- We started our most recent tasting day at Patricia Green Cellars. We had a great tasting of their Savignon Blanc – a rarely found treat here in the Valley as most whites are Pinot Gris. The SAV Blanc is just as good as their terrific variety of Pinots. Speaking of Pinots, Jim (partner with Ms. Green and our tasting ‘tour guide’ that day) poured us a Stellar tasting of eight of their Pinots. All – all(!)- were terrific. Patricia Green wines receive very high ratings from wine critics with good reason – they are fanantics about their grape sources, wood sources, coopers. Every detail in the process is scrutized to the nat’s a@@ (my second use of that word here…). The majority of Ms. Green’s labor is focused on Pinot Noir however – and we are thankful for that huge effort! This is one of our favorite wineries & tastings. Call for an appointment and then go. If you are a Pinot fan, you will love it.
Another tasting we did on this trip was at the great Soter Vineyards. Soter is 180 degrees out from Patricia Green Cellars – both wineries pour great wines just offer a very different experience. Patricia Green offers their tasting in their workspace as a stand-up tasting. The Soter Vineyard tasting is a seated & hosted by a member of their tasting room staff – our visit was hosted by the vivacious Kat. Soter starts their tasting with a sparkling Rose, followed by a Chardonnay followed by three Pinots. All wines are very, very good. And a great sparkling Rose is not easy to find in the Valley.
We were also lucky enough to attend Soter’s Solstice celebration held at their property on a Friday night. And their property is one of the best – the tasting room houses the Soter family living space – living, kitchen, dining. Your tasting is held in the Soter dining room – the night of the Summer Solstice party, the dining & kitchen area were set up for serving with seating area outside for over 200 people. Games were set up on the lawn with prizes of wine and wine discounts offered for winners. The great dinner was followed with freshly baked cookies surrounding a huge bonfire, some mores and sparklers. Kinda like camp with Sparkling Rose instead of fruit punch!
A final favorite to note is Four Graces. We had a great tasting with the fun staff at the Four Graces. They started with a Pinot Gris followed by six Pinot Noirs. And, of course, all were great. Four Graces has a farm-style home for their indoor tasting space accompanied by a great outdoor space – and the staff is happy to bring your tasting to the outdoor patios. We had a fun time talking to the tasting room staff, lead by Emily the tasting room manager. We hope to return for their July wine dinner which should be a fun night.
Oh! Wait! I almost overlooked our new very favorite tasting room (another very favorite…I know). We joined Willakenzie Estates last year and love each time we return – both by ourselves and with friends. We have brought quite a few friends to their lovely tasting room with beautiful views overlooking the vineyards. They offer a lovely tasting room and encourage you to bring lunch and offer light courses for purchase.
Best of all, the ladies (Sherry & Mary!) who work there are fun and happy to share the beautiful wines made at the property. We were lucky enough to attend their winery picnic last year and will attend again this year. We learned a lot about wine at that event, supported by great food and wine and thoroughly enjoyed it.