Thoughts on Oregon wine tour?
Mrs DD and I are planning a short (3 day) trip and can't decide. We used to live at the south end of the Napa Valley (Vallejo), so we've visited Napa, Sonoma Valley, Central Coast, Temecula, Mendocino, etc. She's on a Pinot Gris kick these days so I was thinking maybe Oregon, but I know very little about it. Been all over Oregon back in the 70s, but not much in the way of wineries back then. I'm thinking fly into Eugene and keep it to 3 or 4 wineries a day for a two day tour. Any suggestions? I'm not a huge Pinot Noir fan, but I can be had...
There are a number of wineries around Eugene, though the majority of producers are NW of Salem around Dundee, Newburg, McMinnville and Carlton. Dundee is about 1 1/4 hour drive from Eugene, going through Salem.
It seems that most Oregon growers are producing Pinot Gris as well as Pinot Noir.
Around Eugene you should visit King Estate, about 20 minute drive from town, they have an excellent Pinot Gris and it is a lovely place to have lunch or dinner overlooking the valley and vineyards. Going NW a little you could visit Sweet Cheeks and Sylvan Ridge, maybe 15 minutes away.
Day two you should go north to Dundee and Carlton and visit. Good lunch and dinner places in Dundee and Dayton.
If you look at a map you may wish to consider flying into PDX instead of Eugene. It would cut your driving time down somewhat and get you into the heart of the Oregon Wine region a little faster. A plus is there are better eats in Portland than Eugene I am sad to say.
There are many recent threads on wine touring in the Pacific NW board. Check them out.
I too am puzzled as to why you would fly to Eugene. Not only are there fewer and more expensive flights to Eugene, it is farther than Portland to the heart of Pinot country, that being Dundee. Carlton Winemaker's Studio, Argyle, Amity, Domain Drouhin, Elk Cove, Cooper Mountain, Sokol Blosser blah blah...
Here are some maps. It is telling as to the greatest concentration of wineries
Also consider Pinot Blanc.
You won't recognize Oregon from the 70s. We now are second to CA in number of wineries!
I have no direct experience with touring in Oregon. However, here are my favorit Oregon wineries:
Argyle (Plus they make great qpr sparkling wines)
Ken Wright (lots of different, very good, single vineyard stuff, a step above the above)
Domaine Serene (you pay out the nose for the Grace Vineayrd, but it is among the greatest Pinots of the New World -- the Evanstad Reserve is pretty tasty, too)
Le Cadeau (BHVineyard on Wine Spectator Forums, iirc. great stuff, great guy)
Soter (As in Tony Soter, the founder of Etude in Napa. The best. And the best sparkling rose outside Champagne I've ever tasted -- and that includes the $100+ Schramsberg bottling)
I don't know if Thomas does tastings (up near Willamette I think) but his pinots are, IMHO, THE best I've had of domestic ones, at least in recent memory. If you do go via Eugene, don't bother with Sweet Cheeks; its gosh awful and BTW, their sparkling wine comes to them by way of Gruet. Eating wise in Eugene, check out Marche, or the just about to open "Belly". Should you go to Ken Wright, give his pinot blancs a try, very nice. Noting Maria's comment, hit Chehalem, the winery. Nice juice.
I spent one day wine tasting in the Willamette Valley 2 years ago.
I like Pinot, and visited:
The first 3 are outstanding, but of course a bit pricy.
Archery Summit's pinots are more full bodied than Domaine
Serene and Domaine Drouhin.
Argyle and Ponzi were a bit below the first 3 but fun
and very good value in terms of price. Next time I will try
to hit some of the wineries I missed, like Adelsheim.
I recently visited Domaine Serene, Torii Mor, Shea (I think they're only open a couple weekends a year though), and Adelsheim.
I personally didn't enjoy the Pinot Noirs at Domaine Serene, though I can't articulate why. They didn't have a Pinot Gris offering for the tasting either. Torii Mor has an excellent Pinot Gris, as well as many interesting Pinot Noirs from different blocks, making for an interesting tasting experience. As far as Pinot Gris is concerned, I didn't enjoy Adelsheim's, but they do have some other interesting wines.
Eugene is a great place to explore Oregon wines. I've toured both the Dundee and Eugene areas (as well as much of the rest of the state), and the wineries around Eugene are some of the most enjoyable that I've been to. Tasting rooms for the most part are much less crowded and commercial, and traffic is much lighter. Here are some recommendations:
http://www.pfeiffervineyards.com Very warm reception, simply outstanding reserve pinots.
http://www.benton-lane.com Once again, great pinots (is there a pattern here?) in a laid back setting
http:/www.SweetCheeksWinery.com OK, the wines here are only average, but the ambience and view can't be beat. Friendliest place in the state.
http://www.KingEstate.com No tour of Eugene area wineries is complete without a visit here. Excellent wines, and facilities that would fit into Napa.
http://www.sunshinelimoservice.com Great tour company. We've used them several times, always been very happy. Drivers and phone staff are very knowledgeable about area wineries.