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Wine Tasting in Willamette Valley

Seven wineries in a day Sunday, plus one on Saturday and one Monday. Whew. Never thought I’d say this but we were quite wined out – we didn’t even want wine with dinner on Sunday, and we didn’t get wine with dinner on Monday either. Although… I am now sipping on the leftover bottle of Ayoub 2010 Pinot Noir hehe (at 720am! What to do, we have to finish it before we fly back, and I sure don’t want to waste good Pinot!).

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Some really good Pinots on this trip. I’d short listed a bunch of places online, and made reservations to four places in advance. The rest, we relied on recommendations from our B&B, other wineries and fellow tasters. Apart from Four Graces and Winderlea where we had to taste alongside a whole bunch of people trying to catch the pourer’s attention (even then we could still strike up a conversation with the pourer), at the rest of the wineries we were able to enjoy extended and relaxed conversations with the pourer and the occasional other guests.

I have to admit though, that both Jeff and I still think the Tasmanian and New Zealand Pinots to be more exciting. Perhaps it’s the locale, but it seems that most of the Pinots we’ve had here tend towards either the fruity or the earthy; few meet in that perfect middle ground. Nonetheless, we are going to lug back a case with us to Chicago, and have signed up for a couple more wine clubs.

Fox Farms
We visited with our B&B innkeeper, since they were open late on a Saturday evening (till 8pm) and were across the street from our dinner reservation. Small shop – 1100 cases. They had a couple of really delightful Pinots that we bought.

Beaux Fries
Reservations required. We arrived bright and early at 10am on Sunday, and had fun tasting a range of their whites and Pinots. We started noticing here, and then at the other places, that the estate Pinots tend more towards the earthier side. You get more of a fruit driven profile with the blends, I guess because the terroir becomes less distinct. We did a vertical tasting of their wines – well just 2007 and 2009. It was a study in contrast though. 2007 was a wet year – like this will be – and so the wine tasted much more closed and peppery, even after 5 years in the bottle. It’ll likely keep well for another 10 years. 2009, like 2008, was a warm year, so the wines are packed with a jammy aroma. We left with a couple bottles, but their wines are definitely the priciest of the trip.

Soter
Reservations required. Gorgeous new and modern facility, set atop a hill. Our tasting was in the owner David Soter’s enormous glass-barn living room that also served as a private tasting room.

We tried a range of wines, and ended with a last Cabernet he brought over from his Étude days. Now that was a beautiful Cab! We didn’t pick it up though, because it was out of our price range, and we were focused on getting Pinots. Hehe. We did leave with a couple bottles of the Soter estate Pinots.

Before we left, one of the fellow tasters recommended we check out Ayoub, as he thought it was right up our alley, given the list of wineries we said we had in mind to visit. So we called up and made an appointment for later in the afternoon.

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Daedalus
Along the 99W Highway, in between Archery Summit and Dobbes. It’s a small operation, and we were served by the owner’s yoga teacher, who told us she regularly hosts wine tastings following her yoga sessions. Now those would be yoga sessions I’d look forward to! Apparently, Daedulus will soon be changing their labels and paring down their large variety of wines due to the breakup of the husband and wife partnership (she bought him out). We snapped up a couple bottles.

Four Graces
Popular winery; full lot when we pulled in. Jenny from the B&B brought us along, and we could see why she liked the Pinots. We picked up a couple.

Ayoub
Reservations required – especially since Mo Ayoub commutes from San Jose where he works as an engineering manager. Originally from Iran, he decided to make his own wine in part because he loved to cook, and bought his 4 acres in the Red Hills about 11 years ago. We met in his kitchen where he poured us some of his Pinot.

He is a proud man who confidently states that his Pinots will mature into something special. He’s definitely standing behind some very substantive wines though, and his Estate Pinot was one of our favorites this trip.

Winderlea
Ultra-modern and sleek facility on a hillside. Packed with people. We shared a flight of wines to taste; but couldn’t find anything so distinctive that we had to buy. By then too, our palates were getting very tired.

Barrel Fence
We were going to call it a day, but we saw that Barrel Fence was just up the road and we simply had to check it out. The owner grows grapes in both New Zealand’s Central Otago and Marlborough and also in Oregon. It seemed a perfect opportunity to compare the NZ and Oregon wines side by side. Haha in his case, we found that his Oregon Pinot was more distinctive, but we had a very enjoyable hour and a half chatting with him and another couple who had driven in from Portland for the day.

Owen Roe
We visited the winery bright and early on Monday, after a fabulous breakfast at Chehalem Ridge and an educational coffee cupping session at Caravan Coffee. The winery currently rents out a gigantic barn house from a farm a little south of Newberg, but is getting ready to move to the Dundee Hills by year end. We set outdoors on a long wooden bench, as our guide brought us through a long range of wines. They make some fantastic Pinots and Syrah (half their grapes are from their Washington vineyards). We’d already bought a full case of wine so we didn’t want to pick up more, but we did join the wine club.

Overall, it was a most enjoyable tasting trip. We’d barely scratched the surface of wineries to explore though, and I’ve already marked out more to go to for next time. 🙂 Onwards to the hiking portion of the trip!

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