We woke up Sunday morning feeling bright and sprightly. So what could be more appealing than more wine tasting, this time down the southern end of the Willamette Valley near Salem. The traffic was light and we were sat in the car park at Amity Vineyards by 11am.
While we waited a few minutes for the cellar door to open, some immediate differences struck us compared to the wineries from the previous day. The signposting was minimal, as if it was meant to be difficult to find the place. The road to the cellar door was rough and steep, and we wondered more than once if we were on the right road. And the buildings were somewhat ramshackle in comparison to the opulent wineries from the previous day.
Welcome to the southern Willamette Valley. Less cars and people, virtually no tasting fees and a relaxed, laid back atmosphere. And more darn good wine.
We knew from experience that Amity made excellent Alsacian style whites. The current releases of the gewurztraminer, riesling and pinot blanc are all very attractive wines, and complete bargains. The riesling especially is refined, minerally, and has racy acids and citrus and floral overtones. How wine this good can be so under-appreciated is beyond me. The pinots were interesting too, and the 2000 reserve had aged beautifully. This is the one I’ll be drinking while the younger wines from the weekend mature at home.
Inspired by the experience at Amity, we consulted the map and plotted a few more visits. Bethel Heights, Witness Tree and St Innocent all had some highlights, but had sold most of their wines, and hence choice was limited. But stumbling into to Cristom was one of the finds of the weekend.
Cristom had a pinot gris, five pinot noirs and a syrah. All were uniformly tasty, and while we all favored different ones, there was little doubt that the single vineyard pinots were up there with the best of the weekend. The estate grown syrah was also a pleasure. Deep in color, with aromas of white pepper and plum, great acidity and a long, complex finish. This is a fine cool climate syrah, and one I suspect that will age for quite a few years.
We couldn’t take any more wine by 2pm. So we sought out a local Thai for lunch, and then cruised the four hours back to Washington with a truck full of fine booty.