Monday, October 22, 2012

Autumn Wine Tasting


We had a terrific weekend. Hope everyone's was great as well. The rainh as set in, but Portland's early fall means heavy rain, then sun and gorgeous light, then light rain possibly turning to heavy rain and the cycle goes on and on.Saturday night we were invited to a special dinner with friends who live on the west side so we decided to make a day of it and head out early to catch some fall crush at one of the many wineries in the area. I've been happily learning about wine for awhile now and recently attended a lecture on Oregon's growing wine culture, in particular, Pinot Noirs. Prior to starting the lecture series I had picked up some books from the library and was shocked to learn how few areas in the world are good for growing wine. In the U.S.A. good wine growing regions only include California, Oregon and Washington; and only in particular valleys and regions in those states. Sure other states may grow wine, but the Pacific West Coast states have the ocean air, volcanic soils and sweeping hillsides that wine grapes grows best in.

We decided to stick to wineries close to our friends' house and didn't venture further south into Yamhill County were a majority of the vineyards are. It was raining pretty hard when we left the house, but after nervously circling a few blocks before getting on the freeway, the skies cleared and we took it as a sign that we should head out. First up was Oak Knoll.

Oak Knoll Tasting Room

Oak Knoll was started in 1970 by Ronald and Marjorie Vuylsteke. Marojorie started our tasting before a schedule tour group arrived and she was off to show them the vineyard. We learned the Vuylsteke family has a rich history of wine making with 4 out of the 6 sons all working as wine makers for other vineyards and one son is the CEO/Presidents of Sake One. Oak Knoll is the oldest winery in Washington County and it's vineyards are situated in a cooler area of the Willamette Valley and therefor are more successful with northern European grapes so we had to try their Gewertztraminer, which was sweet and delicious. It was no surprise the family started off making blackberry wine when the family's land had a bumper crop of blackberries in 1960, because we ended up taking home a bottle of their Raspberry Frambrosia. Made with a full pound of raspberries per bottle, it was tart and we immediately thought of things we could mix and drink the Frambrosia with. Out of all the wineries we visited Oak Knoll had the largest tasting list and we each got a 6 tasting flight. 

Next up was Cooper Mountain Winery just a few miles away.

Copper Mountain Vineyard

Copper Mountain Tasting Room

Many years ago a bunch of friends & I visited Cooper Mountain where the tasting room was in the aging hall. I remember it was cold and I was happy to try their Pinot Gris and quickly get back in the car. This time however the tasting room was in a cozy building next to the grape vines.

Copper Mountain Pinot Gris

Copper Mountain

We decided to split a tasting flight and tried their Pinot Gris and some yummy Pinot Noirs. By this time the clouds had returned and it started to rain so we stayed indoors, tasted some wine and waited for the rain to pass. Cooper Mountain would be a great winery to visit in the summer with an area to sit and enjoy the Cooper Mountain's view/vineyard and possibly enjoy a snack. Instead we opted to eat terrific pastries we bought earlier in the day in the car.

Post Wine Tasting Pastries

After brushing the crumbs off our jackets we were off to our final winery - Ponzi. We meandered through the country roads down Cooper Mountain. It was really pretty.

Country Road

Ponzi was just down the hill from Cooper Mountain and it was the nicest and the most packed of all the wineries we visited. We decided to share a tasting of their reds, which included two Pinot Noirs and a Northern Italian grape called the Dolcetto. We really liked the Dolcetto and purchased a bottle for later.

Heading Towards Ponzi Tasting Room
Ponzi Tasting
Mike Tasting Some Wine

Ponzi's vineyards was beautiful and they had tables and a terrace where where visitors could enjoy wines seated among the grape vines.

Ponzi Vineyard
Ponzi Vineyard Terrace

We really enjoyed the day wine tasting. We unfortunately didn't get to witness any of the fall wine crushes and tasted mainly the local staple of Pinot Noir, which grows best in our climate. We did learn that 2009 was a stellar year and we tasted wines mainly in this year. Why? Because 2009 was a particularly hot summer and it looks like 2012 will be a great year for local wines too, so do yourself a favor and pick up a bottle or two!

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