Last week was the first time that I had ever set foot in the state of Oregon. I have spent a good deal of time in Washington, mostly the Seattle area, but I've never managed to make it to visit Washington's neighbor to the South. When the opportunity to leave a couple of days early for the Wine Bloggers' Conference and hit up the Willamette Valley presented itself, I eagerly altered my travel plans. I flew into Portland, where I met up with Tamera Belgard of Sip With Me fame, followed by Joe Herrig from Suburban Wino, and then we met up with a group consisting of The Wine Brat, Brix Chix Liza, Ryan Reichert from the Oenophile blog, Mary Cressler from Vindulge, Lynette Shaw from Soléna Cellars, as well as several others the next day. Our travels for the day would take us to three different wineries, where we would taste some of Oregon's great Pinot Noir.
Our first stop was Soléna Cellars, and they really rolled out the red
carpet for us. Not only did we get to taste some really nice Oregon
wines, we were treated to a truly delicious lunch, and winemaker Laurent
Montalieu, and his wife Danielle were kind enough to spend a good deal
of time talking with us about their wines.
Soléna has a truly unique back story. Laurent and Danielle bought
each other an 80 acre estate for their wedding, which kind of makes the
gift of pearls I gave my wife for our nuptials look lame by comparison.
Instead of registering for gifts at Target, they gave their guests the
opportunity to purchase vines for the property. There is a definite
romance to this story that enhanced the stop, but I have to say that
their wines really needed no help. I found everything that I was poured
to be very enjoyable, and was very impressed with the way they performed
at the dinner table. My favorites of the tasting were their 2007
Domaine Danielle Laurent Pinot Noir, as well as their 2008 Late Harvest
Riesling. We were also treated to some barrel samples that really
demonstrated the diversity of expression that you can find in Oregon
Pinot Noirs, ranging from more fruit forward Pinots, to the forest floor
style earthy examples of the variety.
The next stop on the trip was Soter Vineyards, who also spent a good
deal of time talking with us, and put together a very nice tasting. As we drove up to the winery on our bus, I was struck by the beauty of the location and facility. The winery is nestled among the trees and rolling hills of the valley. Winemaker Tony Soter shared extensively about the local terroir, the vines, and the Soter winemaking. There was an interesting conversation regarding age worthiness of the wines, and whether we are looking for good quality wines, or if it's just important that they age well.
The tasting at Soter started off with a very nice sparkling brut rosé, which I heard affectionately referred to several places as Soter Pop. The rosé is made from 52% Chardonnay and 48% Pinot Noir. We were also poured a selection of Pinot Noirs from 2006 to 2008, and a red blend.
The last stop of the day was at Anne Amie Vineyards. The tour of the winery at Anne Amie was incredibly thorough, and we had another opportunity to engage in some barrel sampling. Winemaker Thomas Houseman personally lead the tour, and was a really awesome source of information.
Anne Amie definitely had the most interesting variety of wines. Of the wineries in Oregon, Anne Amie ventured the furthest from the Pinot Noir theme. We tasted a Muller Thurgau wine, a Pinot Gris, and a couple of different Pinot Blancs, as well as the Willamette staple Pinot Noir. We were even treated to some library selections that were pretty interesting. I look forward to seeing how the current wines age, as Anne Amie has started exclusively using Stelvin closures, and seem very passionately convinced of the superiority of this type of closure.
Each winery that I visited in Oregon offered something different. I tasted many wines that were a real treat to the palate, and several that I found to be a good value. There were certainly wines that didn't seem to be good values, but it would be hard to argue with the overall quality. Even the 2007 vintage that we consistently heard being discussed as a tough vintage provided some really outstanding wines, in fact, some of my favorites that I tasted. If you get a chance to make a trip out to Oregon, I would recommend that you make it a point to stop by Soléna Cellars. The quality of the wines, and the beauty of the location make stopping here a must.