Willamette Valley Wineries
Will be in the Dayton area of Willamette Valley for 2 days later this week. We're interested in visiting boutique wineries with wines that are hard to find on the east coast. I've searched this board (at leonardo's suggestion!) and gather that the following wineries should be on our list:
Domain Drouhin (for quality, altho probably not boutique)
Are these all within an easy drive of Dayton/Dundee?
Are there any you'd remove from or add to this list?
Also couldn't agree more on Ken Wright, Le Cadeau, Domaine Serene, Beaux Freres, etc. I could go on and on. Had some great 2000's and 2001's from those produces just last week at an offline.
I've never been to either of them, but Thomas and Antica Terra are my favorite pinot producers out there. Both making great juice. Not sure if you can visit or not, and have no idea if either have a tasting room... -mJ
We are heading back to Willamette Valley for our second visit (last was 2 years ago.) We found Domaine Drouhin and Belle Pente wildly expensive and were not thrilled by the Carlton Winemaker's Studio's wines. One tiny place no one has mentioned that we loved was Doug Tunnell's Brick House - appointment necessary but worth it. Very small operation and friendly with great pinots - even reminded us that some chardonnays don't taste like oak trees! This time we plan to try Scott Paul, Ken Wright, Owen Roe and Lange...other places you like? We'll be there in November.
Belle Pente wildly expensive? Hardly.
You must be thinking of DePonte, which is on the road you took to get to Domaine Drouhin.
Belle Pente is in a flatter area near Carlton and has some of the best price to quality ratio of any U.S. winery.
DePonte does have a hot babe pouring the wine, though.
Glad you added Lange, one of our favorites, could try Bella Vida, they have Tori Mor, or at least did vint their's (Pinot Noir only), Adelshiem for whites, WillaKenzie for red & white. Had Bergstrom Pinot in local resteurant & Doumaine Serene has great ratings, but a bit pricey. We have a general tour and try to add 1 or 2 to the list. I must admit the I have number of cases of Pinot Noir but now rather have Washinton Syrah, so I get mostly Pinot Gris and Blanc for my wife.
We just did a trip through the Willamette Valley last month. I showed my list of intended wineries to a waiter and the sommelier at Higgins before we went, and they had some changes for us. I'm glad we listened to them! Their best suggestion was to go to Archery Summit. They had the BEST wines we tasted on the entire trip there.
Also, Argyle is excellent. Sokol Blosser is a nice place to have a picnic, but we were quite unimpressed with their wines. Domaine Serene was nice, but the way they move you through the tasting felt rushed and corporate. Didn't really enjoy the experience.
Argyle and Archery Summit were definitely the highlight. Argyle has a sparkling wine made with pinot noir that they call a "black brut." It's out of this world. Enjoy your trip! Or, I hope you enjoyED your trip!
Reporting back on wineries we went to while in the Willamette Valley. Loved all the wine –even whites and roses – and especially those at Archery Summit:
Penner Ash – very pretty setting, friendly staff, cards for each wine with detailed info, great local art on walls, architecturally interesting building
Torii Mor – not overwhelmed with the place itself, seemed a little snooty about their Wine Spectator ratings, recommended their Deux Verres to go with the Mushroom Madness menu at the Joel Palmer House, which we bought and brought to dinner and enjoyed very much
Archery Summit – the best of the four, absolutely gorgeous setting, knock out wines
Four Graces – cozy yet comfortable tasting room in a cute cottage with beautiful flowers, lovely wines, and how can you not love the story about the owner’s four daughters (the graces) and a reserve named for their son?!
While we didn’t get to more wineries – we got sidetracked looking at the incredible scenery, picking lavender and cherries, and just gazing at that scenery – we did make sure to taste wines from the other wineries recommended here while at restaurants. Loved Serene’s and Drouhin’s, but Archery Summit’s are lingering in our memories!
Oh, and you're right Frodnesor, cuvee and reserve meant little to us in terms of which wines we preferred.
Thanks again to all for your suggestions and insight!
I recently moved to the Willamette Valley so this is very interesting to me.
I also recently joined the Oregon Wine Guild at Willamette Valley Vineyards. I know that they are one of the bigger wineries in the area but how is their quality overall? I have enjoyed everything I have had from them thus far but it has all been some of the lower end stuff. It was good but not great. I do have two bottles of the Willamette Valley Vineyards Signature Cuvee Pinot Noir, does anybody know if they are any good?
They are nothing special, drinkem up.
Head to Dundee, Carlton and surrounds. Keep reading, tasting and have fun! I joined the Oregon Pinot Noir Club, Robert has given me great advice and shared with me his knowledge and experience. I know have over 16 cases in Oregon PN in stock and buying more. Heading to Dundee tomorrow for more research!!!
I would certainly second Four Graces. I buy wine for a small speciality shop in NE Florida and this is one of our top sellers, both the Pinot Noir and their Pinot Gris. Very high quality, consistent and affordable. Family owned and run, biodynamicly farmed and the Four Graces are their 4 daughters. Great story, very good wine.
I've read on this board that it's worth the extra money to get reserves when buying OR pinot noirs. So, last night at the Side Door Cafe, I asked if they had any reserves on their list. They suggested a 2004 Dobbes Family Estate pinot from the Rogue Valley. The label said "Skipper's Cuvee." The owner explained that this term is replacing the use of the word "reserve," but essentially means the same. True? We're heading to Willamette Valley today and so would like to know.
Others more knowledgeable than me may pipe in, but I don't think there's any real rules on what may be called a "reserve" or a "cuvee". The implication (and often, the actual practice) is that a "reserve" represents a special selection of grapes or barrels that the winemaker thinks are higher quality, but that's subjective and often not an assurance that YOU will like the reserve better than another bottling - or even that it really is different from another bottling.
For instance, I recall a couple years ago there was a release of an Oregon Pinot Noir under the name "Cathy" for which there was ONLY a "Reserve" bottling - no "base" bottling. It happened to be made by Sidney Frank, the marketing genius who somemow managed to sell generations of college kids on Jagermeister, so go figure. (It also happened to be a very nice wine).
As for "cuvee," it literally means a blend or mix, and is typically used to indicate that the grapes in the wine came from several different vineyards. That does not mean the same thing as "reserve" (as it is commonly used), though a "reserve" very well may be a "cuvee". For many winemakers, the "cuvee" is the lower-end bottling - which doesn't mean it's bad.
Typically more expensive, and what I generally find to be the most intriguing (and more significant to me than whether it's designated as a "reserve"), are the single-vineyard wines, made only from one particular vineyard. One of the interesting things about tasting through Willamette Valley is that several winemakers often will have access to different parcels of the same vineyard, so that for instance you can try a Shea Vineyard pinot from any number of different producers.
As for Dobbes, they apparently make three different "cuvees" at 3 progressively higher price points, and then also have a few single-vineyard designates at a higher price point than any of the cuvees.
I would try and plot out your visiting so you pick some wineries that are close to each other. For instance - Hit Domain Serene, then Domain Drouhin and then Archery Summit. All within a few minutes of each other and close to Dundee.
Then consider heading to Carlton and visit the wineries there. Carlton is about maybe 20-25 minutes from Dundee. Hit the winemakers studio, Scott Paul and the other wineries close to Carlton.
If you decide to hit the Eola Hills and wineries like Cristom etc you can do the same thing.
Lots of wonderful places to eat in Dundee, Carlton and McMinnville also.
I will be up there next week and looking forward to it.
Be sure to remember not to store a bunch of wine in your trunk, easy way to ruin some 2006 Oregon Pinot Noir's.
Sokol Blosser is decent for value, though I would not say it is one of the best OR wineries.
I am HORRIBLE with OR geography, so this list has absolutely nothing to do with geography except that all these wineries are located within the state of OR, HOWEVER, my favorite OR wineries in *rough* descending order are:
Domaine Serene (would be higher but for price)
Argyle (for complete package)