It’s still pre-ski season, so the lure of excellent food, beer and local wine dragged Jan, Kathy and I down the spectacular Columbia Gorge to Portland for the weekend. The weather cooperated, serving up perfect autumnal conditions to tour the Willamette Valley wineries. The sky was blue, the vines golden and the wine very fine indeed.
The northern end of the Willamette is only 25 minutes from downtown Portland. Numerous spectacular wineries cluster around Dundee, Yamhill and Newberg, making touring ridiculously easy. The close vicinity to Portland influences the tasting experience considerably, with not inconsiderable and often non-refundable tasting fees the norm. I don’t mind tasting fees particularly – it removes the pressure to purchase something at every winery. But it is nice if you get the cash back if you spend a few bucks. And in the Willamette, spending money on wine is pretty unavoidable.
Saturday was a mixed day. We visited 10 wineries, and overall I must confess I was a little disappointed by the consistency, especially of the pinot’s. It was apparent however that Oregon is on track to produce some marvelous chardonnays. This was a very pleasant surprise indeed.
Anyway, the Saturday highlights:
Archery Summit: The first place we visited, and probably the best pinots of the weekend. They only have 4 pinots, two of which, the 2003 Archery Summit Estate and Red Hills Estate, were quite sublime. Very serious pinots indeed.
Domain Drouhin: One of Oregon’s legendary producers, and it didn’t disappoint. The 2003 Laurene pinot was a beauty, still youthful, dark berry fruit and great length. The 2005 Arthur chardonnay was irresistable, austere and beautifully balanced. A few of the latter accompanied us out of the cellar door, and they’ll sit at home for quite a while, I suspect.
Argyle: The best sparkling wine producer we’ve found in Oregon. A clean and fresh 1998 Blanc de Blancs and the fuller bodied 1998 Knudsen pinot-based Brut were beautifully made fizzies, and perfect for drinking in the near future. And the Aussie-influenced sparkling red, made from pinot noir, was an extravagant fruit bomb that might well find itself accompanying turkey at some stage around Thanksgiving.
Adelsheim: Saturday’s best overall experience, Adelsheim’s range of whites and pinots is impressive indeed. The 2005 pinot blanc, the 2004 Caitlyn’s chardonnay and two young but delicious 2005 pinots all found their way in to the back of Kathy’s truck in considerable numbers. Fine wine at, for this area, very reasonable prices. Highly recommended.