Situated about 25 miles South of Portland, the Willamette Valley seems like a world away – back roads beckon visitors to explore the lush rolling hills, historic communities and farmer’s markets that showcase the region’s local produce. With a temperate climate and rich soils, the Willamette Valley is the perfect growing environment for Pinot noir, Pinot gris and Chardonnay grapes. Utilizing the valley’s rich natural resources, the Willamette Valley is host to internationally acclaimed wineries whose winemakers set themselves apart through collaboration, sustainability leadership and passionate winemaking.
Mary of Wine Dirt was our tour guide for a full day of touring different areas of the Willamette Valley, as this was our first time in this area it was great to have someone so knowledgeable in wine as well as the wineries in this valley. With close to 700 wineries located in this Willamette Valley we had a chance to visit 4 wineries, each in a distinct area and appelachin.
We started off at Rex Hill, located in Newburg
Rex Hill has been making elegant Pinot Noirs for over 30 years in the Willamette Valley at the gateway to Oregon’s wine country. Rex Hill honors exceptional single vineyards and continues a legacy of singular Pinot Noirs that reflect their origin. That sense of place is paramount to the way we farm our land and make our wines. Here we tasted a selection of wines from their portfolio.
The Chardonnay 2016 was exceptional, aged for 11 months in older oak, and 3 months in stainless.
The Rex Hill 2015 Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir was also a favourite
Our next winery on the tour was also located in Newburg, Trisaetum was established in 2003 by Andrea and James Frey, the winery, pronounced “tris-say-tum”, was named after the founders two children, Tristen and Tatum.
The tasting room is beautiful, appointed with paintings by owner James Frey.
For the tasting at this winery, Lawrence and I each chose a different flight, which enabled us both to try the white and red wine flights.
This Pashew White cuvée sparkling was a very nice start to the tasting.
Loved the very light, 2017 Rose of Pinot noir (from the red flight).
This 2015 ribbon Riesling was incredible, I loved it. The 2014 coast range Riesling was a nice wine which would be good with cod dish. The 2016 Dundee estate Riesling, was another one that I loved, it was just a little sweeter than the previous one.
2014 proprietory red Pinot Noir was my favourite of the reds, also tried the 2014 Estates Reserve Pinot Noir, 2014 artist series no 29 Pinot noir; and the 2015 Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir.
After the tasting we enjoyed our take-out lunch on the patio overlooking the incredible vistas of this vineyard. Through Wine Dirt they arranged our lunch for us and we chose the sandwiches that we wanted to have, I had the Vegetarian Hummus Wrap with pita bread, house made hummus, pickled onions, arugula, cucumber and sprouts; and Lawrence had a Turkey Sandwich on ciabatta with roasted turkey, cream cheese, sliced apple and baby arugula.
On to the 3rd winery of the day, Colene Clemens
Located where the Chehalem Mountains converge with Ribbon Ridge, their 122-acre property was acquired in 2005 and first planted in 2006. With an elevation of 350 to 650 feet, this rocky, south-facing hillside is composed of marine sedimentary and volcanic basalt soils. Completely dry-farmed, our 54-acre vineyard consists of five different clones: Wädenswil, Pommard, Dijon 115, Dijon 667, and Dijon 777.
The tasting we enjoyed here were reds as they are known for their Pinot Noir, these were the wines offered on the May flight list.
The first taste was the beautiful 2017 Rose of Pinot Noir, also enjoyed the Margo Pinot Noir.
I loved the 2013 Adriane Pinot Noir; as well as the 2014 Victoria Pinot which was my 2nd favourite.
On to our last winery of the tour, this was so special and turned out to have my favourites wines of the day tour.
Fairsing Vineyard is a sustainable grower of world class Pinot noir and Chardonnay for outstanding winemakers in the Northern Willamette Valley. A small quantity of Fairsing Vineyard Estate Wines are produced from our finest fruit.
Fairsing Vineyard was established in the summer of 2005, when the family purchased a quarter section of harvested forestland. By October 2006 eighteen acres were successfully planted and trellised with the assistance of Oregon’s collegial winegrower community. Vineyard development continued at roughly 5.5 acres per year, to reach the current 38 acres of Pinot noir and five acres of Chardonnay in production.
This was on of the most beautiful vineyards that I had seen on the tour of the Willamette Valley. The scenery from the top of the vineyard (800 Ft above sea level) was not only spectacular but the wines were all exceptional.
We both loved this 2017 Rose of Pinot Noir, such a beautiful wine to start the tasting here.
The 2nd wine we tasted was the delicious 2016 Chardonnay, I’ve never been much of a Chardonnay fan, that said the ones I tasted in Oregon gave me a new appreciation for these wines.
The 2015 Sullivan, from the East side vineyard was another beauty.
Anna Ford, pouring the incredible 2015 Dardis Pinot Noir which was both of our favourite from this vineyard tasting.
My 2nd favourite was the 2015 Fairsing Vineyard Pinot Noir.
Travelling through Willamette Valley in the late Spring is the perfect time to enjoy warm dry weather as well as the many vineyards the region has to offer. You can contact Wine Dirt Tours to arrange your own winery tour in the area or plan your own visit through the area here.
By: Richard Wolak
Disclosure: Travel Oregon provided us with complimentary tour passes with Wine Dirt. As always, all opinions and photos are my own.