I had to move the wine out of our wine closet to give access to a home inspector. In the past year, our wine inventory has not varied from between 100-120 bottles. This is despite good-faith efforts to drink more wine and buy less.
Of the wine, at least 75% of it is from local wineries. We have our favorites, as well as exploring new wineries and buying a couple of bottles when we find something we like.
We attended the annual Harvest Soiree at De Ponte Cellars in Dundee, Oregon. I hesitate to ever mention this winery because I love their pinot noir so much. I don’t want others to know about it. It is a private event limited to those who have purchased at least a case of their wine in the past. We have been buying a case of their Dundee Hills Pinot Noir each year since the 2003 vintage. It usually has strong notes of cherry and red fruit with a vanilla note. Usually the Baldwin Family Reserve Pinot Noir is not to our taste. However, something flip flopped with the 2006 vintage. The less expensive Dundee Hills has a nice raspberry note, but no cherry notes and a Robert Parker rating of 91. The Baldwin Family Reserve, at twice the price, has the lovely cherry notes we enjoy and a Robert Parker rating of 92. In tough economic times, what to do? Don’t lay in a case at all? Buy the less expensive case knowing you won’t enjoy it as much? Buy only a half case of the more expensive swill? Bite the bullet so you won’t have any regrets in 2012? After trying both a second time, I decided I had enough in the checking account to get a full case of the spendy stuff I know I will enjoy.
The tasting room was packed with people (including a former Oregon Secretary of State) and cars were parked all the way down the long drive. But despite it looking like they had enough customers, I got a very sincere thank-you from the gal behind the wine counter, who then lugged the case to our car. I was impressed with the sincerity. I want to keep this winery in business, so that made me feel even better about the more expensive purchase.
I enjoy the Harvest Soiree free barbecue buffet. The food was very good, although Maysara has them beat. We’ll be visiting Maysara on Thanksgiving weekend.
Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner, Oregon is certified sustainable and supporter of LIVE: Low Input Viticuture and Enology, Inc. To be certified sustainable, a farm is scored on these objectives:
- To see the vineyard as a whole system
- To create and maintain a high level quality fruit production
- To implement practices that reduce reliance on synthetic chemicals and fertilizers with the goal of protecting the farmer, the environment, and communities at large
- To encourage responsible stewardship of the land, maintain natural fertility and ecosystem stability
- To promote sustainable farming practices that maintain biological diversity in the whole farm
WVV also lauds itself as being the first to use cork that meets the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards for responsibly managed forestlands.
I’ve been watching Willamette Valley Vineyards since its founding in 1983. It had the model, unique for that time, of selling shares to the public. Several friends bought in. It gave a sense of ownership. The vineyard has also been a friend to walkers, hosting many a volksmarch event over the past 25 years. But the hill it is on is a killer one for climbing back up to the finish!
While WVV has some more expensive wines, we enjoy their basics for a nice quaff at a great price. The Tualatin Estate Semi-Sparkling Muscat “Frizzante” is always a crowd-pleaser. It is low alcohol and nice and sweet and fruity. We bought our first case when we went to a Thanksgiving weekend open house and were given a sample right from the vat. It was so good we wanted to drink the whole vat. We had a case of 2002 and 2004, so it was time to lay in a case of 2007. This is a wine that doesn’t need to cellar. This is the wine I serve to my walking buddies when we have a movie-watching get-together. Everybody enjoys it.
For another nice wine, we enjoy their Oregon Blossom blush wine. It’s perfect for a wine and cheese hour on the patio, or for serving with fish or pork. It’s fragrant, fruity, and slightly sweet. We bought a case to restock.
At our July 5 party, one couple brought a wine from a winery naught but a kilometer from their house in Oregon City, Kings Raven. I opened it to allow it to breathe while we drank the other local wines I had selected: Anne Amie Pinot Noir, Rex Hill Pinot Noir, Four Graces Pinot Blanc, and August Cellars Pinot Noir. But my husband sampled it soon after it was uncorked and pronounced that the Kings Raven tasted of “smoky pickles.” I let it breathe another half hour before tasting it. Yes, the vegetable tones were there. It definitely didn’t have the cherry tones of a Dundee Hills pinot noir. Apparently, Kings Raven has an organic Marechal Foch wine. We didn’t think the pinot noir was bad, just interesting. It seemed more like the earthy, vegetal California pinots I’ve tried. I far prefer the Dundee Hills pinots. Luckily – they are local!
Update: The Kings Raven folks have asked that I give them another try, as they think something must have been wrong with the bottle we had. So, in November 2009 I bought another bottle of the 2006 Kings Raven Pinot Noir. The smoky pickles flavor was gone. Instead, it’s a very nice pinot noir with a pleasant flavor. Of interest is that we went wine tasting in Dundee the same weekend and found another winery who poured us a pour of pinot that tasted like dill pickles.
I spent at least a half hour washing the beet greens. I saved the beet roots for roasting the next day, as I didn’t want the house to smell of beets for the party. I made my acclaimed spaetzle, boiled in the chicken broth I made from my pasture-fed chicken carcass. The party was a success, and Cathy gave me tips on deadheading my rhododendrons.
I joined the Maysara Winery “Tinoosh” wine club. Our first shipment arrived last week. It include two bottles of their first pinot noir, the 2001 Willamette Valley Reserve. It combined the fruit of three different vineyards. While it had the cherry elements I expect of the Yamhill Valley region, it definitely didn’t have as smooth of a finish as we like. My husband and I bought several bottles of their Jamsheed pinot noir vintage the past two years.
Maysara practices Biodynamic agriculture, which meets or exceeds organic standards. They do not use chemicals and fertilizers and minimize outside “inputs” into the farm by integrating livestock and insectory plants into the vineyard. We’ve seen free range turkeys grazing next to the winery on our visits.
But what attracted us to Maysara was their fantastic wine tasting events, held Memorial Day and Thanksgiving weekends. They pair their wines with samplings from a whole meal you could enjoy with each wine. You can nibble your way to heaven at these events. Maysara was founded by Moe and Flora Momtazi, emigrants from Iran. This family winery combines their ancient traditions and foods with a biodynamic vineyard set in the foothills of the Oregon Coast Range just south of McMinnville, Oregon. This is a longer drive for us than to visit our favorite Dundee wineries. But the food and the wine make it worth the trip.
Photo © 2008 Wendy Bumgardner
I haven’t let go of my hairdresser in Tualatin since moving to Vancouver, Washington. So, I combined a trip to get my roots disguised with a stop at Whole Foods to look for Willamette Valley Cheese. We enjoyed the gouda while wine tasting in the Yamhill Valley. I saw the Smoked Farmstead Gouda paired in a display with local wine, J. Christopher, from only about 10 miles away. You can’t get much more local than that.
I did not locally source the crackers. But the smoked gouda was fantastic: creamy, smoky, impossible to stop eating until the wedge was gone. I was happy I didn’t buy the $101 half wheel! The Willamette Valley Cheese Company’s web site shows its happy jersey cows grazing freely in organic green fields near Salem, Oregon. The cows are given no hormones or antibiotics. They pasteurize their own raw milk to make the cheese. The cows look as contented as my favorite Swiss cows.
J. Christopher’s Cristo Misto Oregon Table Wine 2007 matched the description on its website, “aromatic quaffing wine.” It was fine for the purpose, fruity and crisp.
Eating local doesn’t mean giving up the fine life of wine and cheese on the patio.
Photo © 2008 Wendy Bumgardner