A Short Jaunt through Oregon’s Willamette Valley Wineries

In just a few days I’ll be jetting across the country to Portland, OR for the 2012 Wine Blogger’s Conference. I’ll spend the first three days exploring Portland on my own before meeting up with over three hundred other bloggers. After we will all spend a few days exploring wineries, tasting new wines, learning and spitting.

This isn’t my first trip to the RoseCity, my husband and I married in Portland at VooDoo Doughnuts in 2009. This is however my first trip to the city on my own and I plan on getting the most out of the Pearl District, where I’ll spend my first three days.

As I think about Oregon wines my mouth is watering for those wonderfully crafted Pinot noirs. While Oregon may be best known for Pinot noir, that is certainly not their only wine cash crop. There are over four hundred wineries in the WillametteValley alone so this post won’t even make a dent on coverage. But if you happen to find yourself in the area, here are a few wineries I was able to visit in 2009 and truly enjoyed.

Ponzi Vineyards
Founded in 1970 by Dick and Nancy Ponzi the winery has earned worldwide accolades for producing some of the finest Pinot noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and White Riesling, Arneis and Dolcetto.
Since its start the vineyards have led the way for Oregon’s viticulture revolution while staying course in their commitment to traditional winemaking.  Second generation, winemaker Luisa Ponzi now carries on that tradition using classic Burgundy methods.
The winery is still family owned and contracts with growers matching the varietal to the terroir and climate. The valley offers a moderate climate and provides ideal sites for the culture and cultivation of cool climate wine varietals.
My husband and I liked this one so much we joined the wine club and receive shipments four times a year. Many wineries offer several levels of wine club membership and are a great way to try wines you may not normally be drawn to or have access to.

Argyle
Two words, Black Brut. This has to be one of the prettiest wines in a glass I’ve ever set eyes on and tastes pretty darn good too. While well vested in sparkling wines, they are well known for their Pinot noir wines.
Founded by Brian Croser and Rollin Soles, Argyle Winery has produced world renowned methode champenoise Sparkling wine, barrel fermented Chardonnay and elegant Pinot noir since the late 1980’s.
Argyle sources grapes from three vineyards located in Dundee Hills. Knudsen Vineyard, Stoller Vineyard and Lone Star Vineyard. Planted in 1972 and 1974 the Knudsen Vineyard’s high elevation provides the perfect elements for sparkling wines. Stoller Vineyards planted in 1995 produces their well known Pinot noir and Chardonnay.
Lone Star Vineyard was purchased in 1996 and is primarily made up of Dijon clones of Pinot noir

Erath
Erath wines have been around for over 40 years, longer than any other winery in the Dundee Hills area. Dick Erath, engineer turned viticulturist began winemaking in 1965 when he re-located his family from California to the Dundee Hills area of Oregon. Using an old logger’s cabin as his home on 49 acres of land he planted 23 varieties of grapes, the first wine grapes in Dundee Hills. The region is similar to France’s Burgundy with its iron rich soils, cool nights and warming sunshine giving Dundee the perfect climate to perfect Pinot noirs, the wine this area of Oregon is most well known.
Lucky for all of us, Erath is carried in stores across the nation.

Wondering what puts Oregon Pinot noir above so many others in the US? The magic’s in the iron rich soil and warming sunshine of a marine climate, providing the area the ability to produce phenomenal Pinot noirs. Pinot noir grapes are one of the most finicky grapes and require great care, patience and the perfect terroir. The grape is sensitive to wind, temperature, fungal disease and this is just in the vineyard. Once in the fermentation takes another host of problems can arise.
The grape can be so problematic, famed winemaker André Tchelistcheff stated “God made Cabernet Sauvignon whereas the devil made Pinot noir.”

I’ve been holding off on packing for the past week but I’m breaking out the luggage today. Portland, get your beers and wines ready, here I come.

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About Kellie Stargaard

Wine blogger
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