Tasting the Wines of Oregon

Tasting the Wines of Oregon
My latest adventure in the wine world was a trip to Oregon to visit some of the wineries and vineyards there with George, Trey and April. Needless to say my role was obvious: I was the over-caffeinated child running amuck while the adults shook their heads. It was a great trip. I met some really interesting people and got to have some fun along the way.  
 
When we got to Portland, we grabbed a minivan and headed off to wine country. The first stop was Cristom Wines, of which I am personally a huge fan. Standing in front of their vineyards, the views are exactly what you would expect after looking at their labels and seeing how the vineyards are laid out. Being our first stop, I could not help myself from running around and kicking rocks and asking obnoxious wine dork questions. John D’Anna was a gracious host and let us taste through their different pinots, including a 2000 vintage from their Jessie Vineyard, as well as their syrah and viognier. We were all impressed by how well the Cristom pinots can age.
 
Later that day we went to what was the highlight of the trip for me – visiting Evening Land Vineyards. We were met by winemaker Isabelle Meunier who was delightful to talk to and a wealth of information about the area as well as the winemaking styles of Oregon. She walked us through the vineyards showing us what she had done, what was there when she arrived and what she planned on doing. It was great to see the vineyard before we went back to the winery to try the wines. There have been a handful of times in my career where I was truly impressed and left speechless – tasting the Evening Land wines was one of those times. Considering that I am not a fan of chardonnays, I was blown away by how much I liked all three from Evening Land. The reason I was so amazed was that only a few minutes before I had been standing in the vineyards where these grapes had grown. Isabelle had explained that the wines were all made in exactly the same way, with minimal influence by her or any of her staff; her philosophy is that the winemaker should be brave enough to let the wine become itself. She makes three chardonnays from three vineyards in very close proximity and I would have sworn they were from three completely separate winemakers. The first was clean and focused with bright fruits and acid while the second I would have sworn went through extended contact with the lees and a decent amount of new oak. The third was even bigger, almost like a Meursault with its rich fruit and oaky profile. The pinots were showing beautifully and had the fruit that you expect out of an Oregon wine with the structure you would expect from a Burgundy. 
 
The highlights of our second day were Archery Summit and Soter Vineyards. Archery Summit took us on a tour that was very well done and included a section of the vineyard, the winery and the cellars with a very knowledgeable and courteous guide. The wines at Archery Summit were great, showing all of the floral aromatics and bright fruit that you expect from Dundee without being overdone and candied. Later that day, we went to Soter, a personal favorite and one of the wineries that I was most excited to visit. Pulling up to the winery feels like you drove into a postcard. (This is the one stop we made where I wasn’t the only one wandering around like the little kid.) I wanted to move in! We were greeted by a chocolate lab and Hallie, and then tasted through all of the Soter wines, including the Soter cabernet franc from Napa that she threw in for fun. It was a nice departure from chardonnay and pinot, which is all we had tasted for two days.  
 
Our final day included a visit to Patricia Green Cellars. We were about an hour early for our appointment, but Patty took it all in stride. I have always enjoyed her wines, specifically some of her single vineyard stuff, but her personality definitely outweighed the tasting of her wines. She would start laughing as she was telling us stories about her history making wine in Oregon and how she does things, and it was infectious. When she starts laughing you might not have any clue why, but you have to smile at the least. The funniest part of it all was listening to her talk about how birds are one of the biggest dangers to the crops and how they set up cannons to scare the birds away and sometimes they don’t get turned off at night. Of course the T-shirts, stickers and other gear with her winery info and the slogan “women taste better” had us all rolling. Her wines were showing well and with a lot greener profile than most of the others we tasted on this trip. Our last stop was Bergstrom Wines. To be honest I was not familiar with Bergstrom wines until I went to Oregon, but tasting through their line-up was a great ending to our wine country trip.  
 
After visiting some old favorites and some new ones it was good to get home to San Diego so I can do what every wine director loves to do, buy new wine! I will continue to support Cristom, Patricia Green and Soter, but I am excited to add wines from Bergstrom and Evening Land to our list here at George’s. Come in and give them a taste.