I love wine. God I love wine. There is so much to discern and enjoy when drinking wine that for me it is very easy to get overwhelmed. When visiting Oregon and the Willamette valley (to pronounce that correctly think of saying DAMIT! then WIL-AM-ETT!) which is known for it's Pinot Noirs, it's an experience of sensory greatness you don't mind. My other imbibing conquest while visiting the Portland area had to be wine. Pinot Noirs from this area are very well known and respected. The area is also getting known for it's other wines such as the Pinot Gris, Pinot Blancs and occasional Rieslings as well. This is without surprise because they are exceptional. Now I am not a huge Pinot Noir fan but I can see why this varietal here is so enjoyed. I could write about this for ages but I'll just have to keep it brief as I can, my note scribbles after 5 winery visits are chaotic, and it's just difficult sometimes to remember everything after tasting so much. I will try to get to the highlights as best I can describing my adventure. I will put up pictures of my notes along with the wineries which you can read which I hope will help, keep in mind that everyone has different palates, and you may not be able to make sense out of my scribbles. In a strange way to me though they do make sense. Well lets just get to the point. First if I could be blunt. NOTHING sucked, and secondly just about everything we had was an exceptional product. Yes I know that is probably not a good and intelligent way of describing and espousing the wonders that we enjoyed so let me continue further. The first place I went to was Four Graces with four wines to try (they were out of the Pinot Blanc it had been going fast!). The 2008 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir personally was my favorite at this place. It was very much as described by the write up given, but it even felt like it had slight faint hints of sweet tobacco and tea. It may have been my favorite of all the Pinot Noirs I tried because nothing was overbearing. However, there was more to visit, and while going up and down 99W everything was just a hop skip and a jump to go to the next winery. We arrived at Four Graces early (right when it opened) and many people were arriving just as we were leaving. It was getting VERY busy so it was a good time to go, but I certainly had to talk to a guy who was wearing a Four Roses hat to ask him about his trip to that Bourbon distillery. In short he said it was great, plus in a real beautiful place. Sometimes on the wine road you run in to other great tips!!!
My next stop was Dobbes Family Estate, which involved quite a selection. At this winery we tasted the most wines out of all the ones we visited.
Wines that stuck out in my memory and my notes were a simple 2009 Wine by Joe Pinot Blanc that had slight grass notes, tropical fruit, and a slight whiff of cane sugar. A 2008 Skipper's Cuvee Pinot Noir subtle bouquet with a great mouthfeel, soft, and with a finish and taste of chamomile or some other type of herbal tea. "How are things?" the woman behind the counter asked. After only 2 visits and several wines so far there was nothing to complain about whatsoever, and I instantly got jealous. This is because the closest wine region near me is Virginia, which while has its moments is just not on par with this region.
I closed the tasting at Dobbes with their "Mirror Image". It is essentially a Ruby Port, but they are not allowed to write or use the term PORT on their wine bottle. It has a huge strawberry type fruit nose on it to me, but it's not as sweet in taste as most ruby ports I've had, it even had a slight caramel finish. This was a ruby port I really enjoyed (I normally prefer Tawny's cause they are usually to me not as sweet and have more caramel toffee finishes that I enjoy).
Where was I heading next? Oh yeah... there were several to choose from, a place named Daedalus Cellars grabbed my attention. Problem was our basic wine region map was seriously lacking in details about where to find certain places. "Where is this place it should be right THERE" I said driving up an down back and forth, only to realize that one of their signs was really camouflaged on the side of the road, in a very small corner. Daedalus was hard to find, being in a really small location that could easily be missed, but it certainly is worth going to. For one thing you get to meet Marmadukes brother.
Upon entering the premises we were greeted by a giant great Dane who was very curious about us. And yes he was huge. However, as enjoyable and as much as I love dogs, and I never get to see dogs this big if ever, there was much wine hunting to do. There was a 2007 Maresh Vineyard Pinot Noir that had no fruit on it's bouquet to me but had this perfect smell of pipe tobacco. It reminded me of the old pipe ashtray stand my dad kept in the living room as a young kid before he broke that habit. However, there was a standout dessert wine made from Riesling grapes that was quite unique. Their 2008 Sweet (Dessert) Riesling is huge on apricots in the nose, not just apricot but DRIED to the rind apricot. It's as if the rind has been just getting baked in the sun and it burst with intensity. In the taste were peach notes and it didn't feel too high in sugars. It was a nice surprise to also find this wine offered at a local lunch establishment later.
By now it was close to our scheduled appointment. This for me wasn't just any appointment, it was something I had been hoping and planning for several months. So far the three places we visited were all open to the public with no appointments necessary. The next winery we were going to was by appointment only. About two years ago, I was at a wine tasting and had this incredible wine from a place called Owen Roe. Now off the top of my head I can honestly not remember what that wine was or its vintage, but it was one of the most favorite wines I ever had. I always felt if I had an opportunity to be in Oregon and the Portland area I HAD to visit. I made arrangements and spent weeks anticipating this. Problem was I thought I'd never find it. We drove and drove and we were getting late... oh dear god no PUHHLLLEAZE let me find this place! I called to make sure they knew we were still coming. I felt like I was ruining a date with a beautiful woman. We did find it, and they were not disappointed by our lateness whatsoever. In turn I tasted fantastic wine such as their 2008 Yakima Valley having hints of black tea, dirt/earth, and then giving way to a bouquet of a giant cigar box. AHhh... I was in my element.... But wait there was more. Our host brought out grapes for us which she described and allowed us to eat. This was the first time this ever happened when I visited a winery and it was a real pleasant surprise. She described that the proprietor picks these when they are really dimpled and the seed are big and have a nice crunch to them. And those seeds crunch! The grapes were just delicious unlike anything I've ever had a chance to sink my teeth into. Long story short, I bought a lot of wine here. After enjoying the grounds though I had to realize that I couldn't stay here all day in this cool sun Oregon day. DOESN'T IT RAIN IN PORTLAND?!?!? I keep asking myself.. Isn't it suppose to cold wet and miserable all the time??? This hardly felt like it at all. After devouring a fantastic lunch at Farm To Fork in Dundee we had one more place to go. We set out for Eyrie vineyards tasting room further on down the road one of the first and oldest vineyards in the Oregon area. I soon began to realize we never seemed to leave this highway.
We arrived very late and were the last people to arrive before closing. We were greeted by an older Frenchman I guessed from his accent who was more than happy to indulge us. It was more of the same great goodness as always. Here though the bouquets were very unique. I was asked my opinion of the first wine we tasted in comparison between two years. It was I "think" a Pinot Gris off pictured to the left in my photo (90 points), comparing 2007 and 2008. I mentioned that the first was more fruit forward, but the second bottle's nose was dramatically different and masked by some type of smoke characteristic. He looked at me in a way of amazing fascination. "Please hold on", he said. I figured oh oh what's going on? The man grabbed a handle from nearby to pour himself a quick glass from a machine that essential resembled a soda fountain for adults. He was testing both wines. "Please sir" I said, "nothing is wrong with them" in just a quick remark, figuring that he thought maybe I was complaining (this is something I would never try to do). He replied back to me, expunging into a boston shaker, "you're comments are really interesting to me." Really??? Suddenly I was engaged in a real serious discussion and he was engaging me in every wine we tried. Some of the things he talked about involved me picking out fruit more prominent compared to barrels, or vintage, but I have to admit he was getting into some real specifics that get into the nitty gritty of making wine that I just couldn't keep up with and went over my head. He used a term that at first threw me in contrasting the two vintages. He said this one is much "rounder". Ironically as soon as he said this the first thing that popped into my head was the word.. no joke... "beachball". what? Wines don't have beachballs what's going on here? I had to sit and think about what he was saying and he was right, it was a bigger profile I guess, although it didn't explain this faint smoke almost ashen air I got off this one glass. We moved on to the NV La Luz which I thought had this tart rotten fruit smell almost like a rotten crabapple hinting at a buried brown sugar sweetness (that's not a bad thing). The gentlemen once again grabbed a taste to compare and talk with me again, we were in some real good discussion about comparisons. By the time we got to the Daphne, and other Pinot Noirs, the bouquets on these were really unique from the other cherry, berry, plum, fruit, spice notes of the other Pinot Noirs we tasted previously from other makers which were still stamping their mark as Oregon Pinots. When I mentioned two of the Pinots had a sweet red vermouth quality to them, one of them on the nose literally smelled like Campari without the bitterness, he was grabbing at the soda fountain quickly. I figured I was going to drive this guy insane, but he was actually just having a good time as we talked at length about what was in front of us. We bought a bottle 2005 Pinot Noir Reserve, made from a clone (Pommard), to me it had hints of rosehip tea very faint though not overpowering. The gentlemen pointed to pictures of regions where we were tasting our wine from, asking us our personal favorites, sometimes excitedly pointing as if he could tell which branch of that vine it was coming from. Something really struck me about this even though we were the last people there and they had closed. I got the most pleasant vibe that this person just didn't want us to leave. With that we settled back only to be reminded of what a good wine region and its people can offer. A place like Oregon and the people who inhabit it make this all incredibly worthy and memorable.