Here are nine of the many good pinot noir producing Oregon wineries we just visited on at 6 day visit to the Willamette Region. Any pinot noir from one of these wineries would be a safe good choice at a restaurant or wine shop. (Future posts will identify more good pinot producers.)
Foris Vineyards Winery (Cave Junction in the Rogue River Valley). We bought a bottle of their 2008 pinot noir off the shelf in a supermarket. What a surprise. Berry aromas and an explosion of fruit on the palate. Price from the winery website: $19. A best buy.
A to Z Wine Works (Dundee). “Aristocratic wines at democratic prices.” A to Z became our “go to” pinot. We consumed several bottles of their 2009 ($20 on the website). Another best buy for those who want a little complexity. Another best buy.
Wine by Joe (Dundee). Who could resist? And why should we? My notes say, “pretty darn good.” Another bargain at $19. Trader Joe’s shoppers should look for VinTJs pinot noir from the Willamette Valley. Joe does the work for Trader Joe. No relation.
Lange Estate Winery and Vineyards (18380 NE Buena Vista Drive, Dundee, Oregon 97115). If you go to the tasting room, drive a Jeep or some other vehicle with high road clearance. Google maps shows Lange as 3.2 miles from downtown Dundee.
However, the last 1.7 miles are on an increasingly rough gravel road. BUT it’s worth the trip. Their 2009 Reserve ($32) was cherry and soft tannins with mineral aromas. The 2007 Lange Estate ($60) started with smoke aromas, then mineral and plum flavors. The 2009 Three Hills Cuvee ($40) is fruit, fruit, and more fruit.
As long as you’ve made the trip, stop at Torii Mor on the way back. Their 2008 Chehalem Mountain Select ($40) is very nice. And the winery itself is spectacular. Like Lange, Torii Mor shares spectacular views of Mt. Hood on clear days. The architecture is rustic Oriental zen, complete with Japanese sand gardens (one of which was sorely in need of a Buddhist practitioner). The photo below gives a small sample of what you’ll find. By the way, torii is the Japanese word for the entrance to a garden. Mor is Celtic for earth. An interesting juxtaposition that gives the flavor of the terroir.
The gravel roads here are one lane and pretty rugged. Drive slowly and be prepared to pull over to let cars get past. As we were leaving Torii Mor we stopped at the entrance to consult a map. Another brave soul coming from the direction of Lange was impatient to get in. We moved quickly.
The staff at Torii Mor is extremely friendly and encourages guests to explore the property. The photo below was taken at the edge of the deck overlooking the valley.
Twelve has a tasting room in downtown McMinnville. The winery itself is in Carlton, an absolute must visit if you’re in the area. More on Carlton in a future post. Twelve offered seven different pinots, three of which were labeled 144 (12 squared for non-math geeks). We liked the 2008 version of 144 ($35) best, but would not have turned down any of the seven we tasted.
Chehalem Wines (tasting room in Newberg) offers the 2009 3 vineyard ($27). Smoke and rose petals on the nose with lots of spice and a long, smooth finish. If you go, try to arrive around lunchtime. There is a food truck called “Uprooted” parked semi-permanently in their lot. This is a converted Airstream trailer. We had an arugula salad with an avocado bacon sandwich. Outstanding and highly recommended. (They are @uprooted1 on Twitter if they move.)
David Hill Winery and Vineyard (46350 NW David Hill Road Forest Grove, OR 97116). Another long dirt road. Make sure your cell phone is charged because you might have to call them for directions when you’re nearby. It’s easy to miss the small turnoff that leads down into a wonderful valley. We sampled their 2008 Estate ($16), the 2007 Estate Barrel Select ($22), and the 2007 Estate Reserve ($32). Any of them is a bargain. If you’re looking for a real deal try the Farmhouse Red ($11). The winery is a big old farmhouse in the middle of a large valley covered with grapevines. Even if you don’t like wine it’s worth the trip just for the views.
Elk Cove Vineyards (27751 NW Olson Road, Gaston, OR 97119). We encountered these folks at IPNC. Their pinots were so good we decided they deserved a visit. We were not disappointed. They poured their 2008 Willamette Valley ($27), a 2009 Mount Richmond ($48), and a 2009 Five Mountain ($48). The Five Mountain is notable for a hint of lime aroma. All three are excellent. The Willamette Valley qualifies as a best buy, even at the price.
That’s enough for today. More later.