White Rose Estate stands out in a valley of worthy contenders

Its hilltop perch affords White Rose Estate expansive Willamette Valley views. Dan Eierdam
Its hilltop perch affords White Rose Estate expansive Willamette Valley views. Dan Eierdam

If you’re a winery in the Willamette Valley it can be hard to stand out unless you have a story, a niche or, frankly, just a really cool tasting room.

White Rose Estate has all three bases covered.

Story – Aerospace industry manufacturer pursues passion for pinot and lands on a hilltop vineyard overlooking the expansive Willamette Valley. After purchasing the land with circa 1980 vines gracing it, Greg Sanders sets about building a solid reputation as a winemaker who consistently produces deep, luscious vintages poised to cellar with increasing grace and elegance. Several years later, Sanders passes the torch to long-time right-hand man turned assistant winemaker turned winemaker, Jesus Guillén who emulates Sanders’ style in action and by bottle.

A side-by-side tasting of their 2013 Luciole Vineyard Pinot Noir—one with 20 percent stem inclusion and the other with 80 percent—was a unique wine education experience. Viki Eierdam
A side-by-side tasting of their 2013 Luciole Vineyard Pinot Noir—one with 20 percent stem inclusion and the other with 80 percent—was a unique wine education experience. Viki Eierdam

Niche – Neoclassical Pinot Noir.  The basis of this winemaking style is old vines. One can plant vines and enjoy a harvest in three years but depth, character and concentration come about over time in similar fashion to cellaring a bottle. Several other components go into Neoclassical Winemaking including harvesting all grapes into canvas totes to keep the stems intact, pressing everything in-house with two manual presses to control the amount of tannin extracted and whole cluster fermentation.

Partially underground, the tasting room of White Rose produces a unique mood for visits. Viki Eierdam
Partially underground, the tasting room of White Rose produces a unique mood for visits. Viki Eierdam

Really cool tasting room – This is, hands down, my favorite part. On the approach, White Rose’s tasting room looks like a hobbit house. Walking in only confirmed my suspicion. It is, in fact, partially underground which produces a unique mood for tastings. Tasting room associates, Charlie and Margo, help with that, feeding off of one another like a sort of modern odd couple. Charlie divulges all the nuances of Greg and Jesus’s winemaking philosophy in a honed and focused manner while Margo absolutely exudes her excitement about the different vintages, the smell of the lavender and other fragrant herbs planted on property and just about anything else with an infectious demeanor.

Margo allowed us a glimpse into their underground barrel room located directly underneath the tasting room of White Rose Estate as well as one of the manual presses used during harvest. Viki Eierdam
Margo allowed us a glimpse into their underground barrel room located directly underneath the tasting room of White Rose Estate as well as one of the manual presses used during harvest. Viki Eierdam

Wine lovers looking for a true experience will not be disappointed at White Rose Estate. Bottle prices reflect their quality (ranging from $60-$95 for the five that I tried) but tastings are $15. Of particular note was a side-by-side of their 2013 Luciole Vineyard Pinot Noir; one with 20 percent stem inclusion and the other with 80 percent. The flavor profiles were quite different, as one would expect, with a greater concentration of earthy aromatics and palate descriptors in the 80 percent. It’s a rare opportunity to have this level of wine education and a reflection of the overall tasting experience at White Rose Estate.

White Rose is located within a cluster of wineries in Dayton, Oregon (Stoller, Durant and La Colina), making it a perfect addition to a day of tasting.