Willamette Valley Wine Country Favorites
It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it!.... As wine tour concierge for the Franziska Haus Bed & Breakfast, I make it a point to visit as many area wine venues as possible so that our guests can be properly informed about our amazing Dundee Hills and neighboring AVAs. Living in the Dundee Hills, in nearby proximity to Newberg, McMinnville, Carlton and the other AVA’s, my wine adventures have culminated in over 100 vineyard and tasting room visits. The “merit badge” is further strengthened by the dynamic breakfast table discussions with guests who are often very wine savvy and who eagerly travel our way from far and wide. Inevitably the question arises..... “Clark, what is your favorite wine?” Well.... keep reading!
CLARK’S Personal Wine Tour Favorites 2018
De Ponte Cellars
17545 NE Archery Summit Rd, Dayton, OR 97114
Although the Willamette Valley viticulture is dominated by Pinot Noir, it is a unique varietal that has consistently grabbed my attention. I had my first taste of Melon de Bourgogne when Aaron, De Ponte’s very personable tasting room manager, paid us a visit. Aaron very generously provided Franziska Haus several cases of the luscious Melon de Bourgogne to present to guests. Tasting it for myself, I quickly discovered its fruity nose and crisp, almost citrusy finish. Some time later I found out more about the history of this grape; that several early local planters of this varietal thought they were actually planting Pinot Blanc, but when the grapes finally showed, they discovered what they had was actually the French white grape - Melon de Bourgogne. Whereas others tore out their “mistakes” to replant, De Ponte decided to keep theirs and has since, produced consistently high quality, award-winning Melon de Bourgogne. This wine is particularly excellent chilled and enjoyed on a warm patio day, or served with a spicy meal.
Alexana Estate Vineyards
12001 NE Worden Hill RD. Newberg, OR 97132
Meandering up Worden Hill Road from downtown Dundee, one passes a long series of breathtaking vineyard vistas along the route up towards the final hill crest where the majestic Alexana Vineyard and Winery welcomes you. After traveling down the long oak lined driveway, tasting room guests can lounge in their state of the art facility with grand views of Oregon’s rolling coast range and surrounding vineyards. One visits Alexana expecting to experience some of the best Pinot Noir that our verdant Willamette Valley has to offer. To that end, Alexana’s 2013 Eola Amity Hills Pinot stands out with its deep rich color and bold finish. When Alexana's owner Dr. Revana chose the site for his Dundee Hills vineyard, he was blessed with both volcanic Jory soil as well as sections of marine sedimentary soils, providing Alexana winemakers an interplay of conditions from which to craft their specialties. Alexana’s exquisite Pinots vary from soft textured, fruit forward to more structured, deep cherry notes. At one particular Alexana tasting event I attended, the repertoire of offerings was expanded to include Dr. Revana’s wine holdings from Argentina and Washington State. My good fortune that day included swirling and savoring a glass of Corazon Del Sol Bourdeaux blend as well as the Alexana “Gran Rouge” Rhone blend. On your visit to this tasting room, I am hoping that you will be as lucky as I, as manager Charles Hessen may just have a bottle of these excellent wines open!
1326 OR-99W #104, Dundee, OR 97115
Traveling back down the hill to the West end of downtown Dundee, one finds a cluster of upscale urban tasting rooms along the main state highway enticing travelers to pull over! Among these you will find Tertulia Cellars located in the Inn at Red Hills complex. Xavier, the effusive tasting room manager, will greet you and take you through a flight of Syrahs and Cabernets from the Walla Walla Wine Valley. My personal favorite is the 2015 Reserve Syrah, a blend from several blocks of grapes and aged 18 months in neutral oak barrels. Early hints of blackberry give way to almost mocha-like notes at the finish. It was Xavier who invited me to actually attend a tasting seminar for Tertulia wines. At this seminar an area geologist and Tertulia’s wine maker informed participants about soil structures, temperatures, and rainfall of the Walla Walla Valley. This wine region boasts wind-blown Loess soil, Cascade Lava basalts and Missoula Flood gravels which combine to yield hardy grapes rich in tannin and texture. Tertulia is well worth the visit to experience bold red wines.
6451 NE Hilltop Ln, Dayton, OR 97114
The final stop of Clark’s wine tour favorites offers tasters an easy, dust off your boots, boutique farm venue. Winter’s Hill Vineyard and Winery sits on a secluded 35 acre site in the Dundee Hills AVA. Traveling down a long graveled roadway, guests will ultimately find themselves approaching a barn like structure, less polished, simple and rustic. Visitors tasting the wine at the counter are only a few feet from Winter’s Hill oak barrels containing working juices from the farm’s own harvest. Owner Russell Gladhart’s wines are all estate sourced. My personal favorite is the 2015 Pinot Noir Block 10. This pinot is produced from a whole cluster crush that brings out more tannin; has a raspberry and spice essence, and is followed by a strong finish. The award winning 2015 Pinot Noir Block 10 has captured scores of 89, 90, 92, 93 and 94 from industry wine critics. Out in the fresh country farm air, one can round out their wine tasting with a stroll along on-site hiking trails and a picnic lunch!