Paper, Planes & Pinot

In Other Words… Stationery, Travel, and All Else that Matters

Travel Thursday – Willamette Valley Wineries

In case you could not tell from the title of my blog, I am a pinot noir lover.  My relationship with pinot started the summer after I graduated college.  It was around the same time that I started earning steady paychecks and could afford trying out new wines opposed to buying whatever was less than $5.00.

If you too are a pinot lover, then you MUST visit the Willamette Valley right outside of Portland, Oregon.  Most wine tastings anywhere else will have an assortment of whites and an assortment of reds to taste.  Since the Willamette Valley makes such amazing pinots, most tastings will have 1 white and 3 or 4 pinots (rather than an assortment of reds).  It is AMAZING, and thus a new happy place for me.

For your reading pleasure Michael will be providing some tasting notes.  As he was the DD for this trip, he did not drink un-responsibly like I did.  He was able to have a stream of consciousness while at these wineries to provide you with better notes than I can.  You can say that we balance each other quite nicely!

Bergstrom Vineyard

This was our first stop of the day.  Pulling up to the winery you have an amazing view immediately when you step out of the car.  The Yellow Bergstrom barn is surrounded by grape wines.  Walking up to the door you go through a path with tons of flowers; it is just beautiful.  The beau and I were happily greeted when we walked in by the staff and a sweet black lab that lives on the property.  We were asked if we would like to enjoy our tasting inside or out on the porch area.  We opted for inside as it was still 10:00AM and still a bit chilly outside.

01-Bergstrom

Our tasting started off with a rosé made from pinot grapes (pictured below), which was followed by 4 pinots, then a chardonnay.  Everything was amazing.  To be honest, I usually do not buy bottles at tastings unless I am going to enjoy them then and there.  At this particular vineyard, we ended up getting a bottle of the 2012 Silice Pinot Noir which was a bit over our price range.  It was so good that we could not imagine leaving without buying the the bottle.

02-Bergstrom

Michael’s Tasting Notes: This is a tiny tasting room that packs a serious punch.  Although pinot noir is not my favorite varietal, I find that I can seriously enjoy pinot’s that are juicy with well balanced medium acidity.  Frankly, I was bored with the rosé and found the Shea and Gregory vineyard pinots a bit dry for my taste.  Then we got to the bonus tasting, the Silice.  The Silice was quite possibly one of the best pinot noirs I’ve ever tasted.  It was followed by an their outstanding Sigrid chardonnay.  If I was going to pay $85 for a chardonnay this would be it.  Nearly flawless, from the color to the nose and the taste (higher level of acidity than most chardonnay’s but still very well balanced). I found it amazing that it grew so well in the Willamette valley.

Erath Winery

03-Erath

You have probably seen Erath’s pinot at Total Wine, World Market or at a restaurant when out for dinner.  To be honest I have seen Erath pinot at dinner, but once again I am cheap and I usually go with the cheapest pinot (most likely not an Erath).  This tasting had one white, and then we had 5 pinots.  Once again, everything was amazing.

04-Erath

Erath took my wine shipping virginity.  Once again I could not imagine leaving without some wine, and since I was on my way to tipsy town, I thought that it would only be appropriate to go BIG with ordering a shipment to enjoy back at home.

Michael’s Tasting Notes: I feel like most people will avoid this winery because the Erath Oregon Pinots are found everywhere.  Few people have tried their estate and private selection which is out of this world.  Given how wide their distribution is, I found their tasting room strangely minimal, which I sort of liked.  Naturally the tasting started out with the Oregon Pinot Noir which is just about average for a pinot noir.  Then we got to taste the reason why I wanted Kaye and I to visit, the estate selection pinot noir.  The Arizona Inn had this wine on the menu when I worked there and I remember it tasting amazing then even with my (still) unsophisticated palette.  Although it wasn’t as good as I remember it is still a very good pinot noir and an extreme value at only $35 a bottle.  You can mostly find it in restaurants.  We then got to taste two of their single vineyard wines and this is where the tasting really took off.  We received a very interesting lesson on the Dijon grape clones while trying the 775 and 115 single vineyard wines.  Both were excellent pinots and while Kaye preferred the longer finish of the 115, I appreciated the quick burst of the 775.  If you are ever in Oregon I highly recommend the spending quite a bit of time at Erath.  Their tasting is at the perfect pace and their sommeliers will make you feel at ease while educating you in a non-elitist manner.

Winderlea Vineyard and Winery

05-Wonderlea

This is probably one of the most contemporary looking vineyards that I have been to.  While Bergstrom and Erath had buildings that were made out of wood and very rustic looking, Winderlea was made out of steal.  The building opened up to a beautiful porch by form of garage doors, not regular doors.

After buying/consuming more wine after the Erath tasting, I unfortunately was not on my wine tasting game at Winderlea.   I remember lots of pinots, therefore I am sure that I was in pure bliss.

In case you are not aware, I am fond of photo ops.  This fondness grows exponentially with every drink I have.  With this being said Winderlea has tons of photo op options with the beautiful scenery… which I took full advantage of!

07-Wonderlea

Michael’s Tasting Notes:  It’s a modern tasting room but it definitely works from an aesthetic standpoint.  The view is good and the room is big enough and comfortable enough to accommodate the crowd.  The tasting notes are well thought out and informative.  The noses on the wines are some of the best in the region, the colors are spot on, the wine just tastes…off. It’s hard to put my finger on.  The acidity levels seem to be the main culprit here ranging from super low to medium low.

06-Wonderlea

Ponzi Winery

First, about the tasting… if you are traveling with people that are not as in love with pinot I would definitely make this a stop.  This is because Ponzi they features other wines besides pinots.  I believe we only had 2 pinots at this stop and the rest of the 3 wines were of other varietals.

By far this was the most beautiful stop.  The inside tasting area was open, yet inviting with comfortable seating.  There was a wrap around porch with patio tables/chairs, or once again couch seating around a fire pit.  There were also 2 bocce ball courts with a great view!

08-Ponzi

Michael’s Tasting Notes:  As Kaye alluded to, this is a brand new, Napa style tasting room: big, modern, with sweeping views.  It was the most expensive tasting, but unfortunately had the fewest number of wines.  Ponzi wines exhibit quite a bit of their Italian heritage, being highly acidic and dry.  If you are a fan of Italian Pinot’s (I am not, but others may be) and drive an expensive BMW, you’ll fit right in here.

09-Ponzi

Kaye’s information contribution

I know that in this post Michael has provided you with the more valuable information.  I would like to provide you with some facts as well…

If you noticed the glasses above you will see that each of our tastings were with tulip shaped wine glasses.  These glasses are especially  made for pinot noirs, and are found at all pinot vineyards in the Willamette Valley.

FACTS:

  • The large bowl allows the pinot to breathe and develop
  • The tulip top gathers all of the smells to emphasize the fruitiness of the pinot

Here is the most important fact… An entire bottle of wine can fit in one glass.

BOOM.  There… I just provided you with 10x more knowledge than the beau.

Now for planning your trip to where pinot dreams come true.

Unlike Napa and Sonoma, I do not believe that it is easy to bike from vineyard to vineyard in the Willamette Valley.  I am sure that experienced bikers can do this, but there are no bike lanes in most areas of the Willamette Valley and the vineyards are spaced out. Even in Napa when we were close to the end of our self guided winery bike tour I was barely making it back to the bike rental store, let alone staying in the bike lane.

For this trip we decided to rent a car, but I did see small buses taking groups to vineyards.  We chose to rent a car since we knew what vineyards we wanted to visit.  We did not want a tour company to dictate that part of the trip for us.  Choose whichever floats your boat or in this case, spins your wheels!

So, how did we decide where to go? Drumroll please. . .this is my favorite part.  We first took a trip to Total Wine and checked out the pinot section.  We looked at what notes were there then brought home some of the pinots that looked interesting to us.  Then while at home doing research on Willamette Valley vineyards we drank the wine and decided where to visit.   SO.  FUN.

This is all for now, I will update you on the rest of the trip to the Pacific Northwest in later Travel Thursday posts.  If you had any questions about visiting the Willamette Valley, leave a comment or shoot me an email at paperplanesandpinot@gmail.com!

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One comment on “Travel Thursday – Willamette Valley Wineries

  1. Pingback: Travel Thursday – Portland, OR | Paper, Planes & Pinot

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