Joyride: Getting to the wineries should be half the fun

Joyride: Getting to the wineries should be half the fun

The Willamette Valley is known for its world-class wine, but as most tourists soon discover, the scenery boasts much more than grapevines draping the hills. Soaring evergreens frame the landscape with majestic mountain views on clear days, and, come fall, the mighty oak savannas give New England “leaf peepers” a run for their money. Loaded orchards, century-old barns and even the occasional olive grove are often surprising details worthy of attention — or Instagram — but, if you are driving, you might miss it. Proving that getting there is half the fun, here’s a list of six local companies elevating — sometimes literally — the journey to be on par with the destination…

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Willamette Wows: WVWA auction takes Pinot even higher

Willamette Wows:  WVWA auction takes Pinot even higher

In life there are moments that must be experienced to comprehend. At the third annual Willamette: The Pinot Noir Auction, April 6 and 7, the intensity and excitement among a standing-room-only crowd felt infectious, contagious and, dare I say, intoxicating. 

The build-up to Saturday’s final event, including an immersion seminar, preview tastings and intimate Friday night winemakers’ dinners, impressed as well, like the 2016 vintage the auction delivered…

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Throwback Getaway in Willamette Valley Wine Country

Throwback Getaway in Willamette Valley Wine Country

Their neon sign greets guest like a historic Route 66 motel. The Club House is groovy enough for Austin Powers yet sophisticated enough to host a James Bond soirée, The tree-lined streets are decorated with mint-condition retro trailers — some dating back to between 1947 and 1965 — off-set with strings of twinkling lights when the sun goes down.

The Vintages Trailer Resort is a throwback from bygone days with just the right amount... 

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$830,000 raised for Willamette Valley vineyard workers at Oregon original

$830,000 raised for Willamette Valley vineyard workers at Oregon original

In its 26th year, the Oregon Pinot Noir Auction raised $830,000 for Willamette Valley vineyard workers — the second highest ever fundraising weekend!

The second weekend of November began at Ponzi Vineyards in Sherwood. Over 400 Willamette Valley wine lovers gathered at this multi-generational winery to preview bottles of Pinot Noir made specifically for ¡Salud! fundraising.  A true Oregon original, ¡Salud! was founded in 1991 and offers medical care to vineyard works through a mobile medical unit in partnership with Tuality Healthcare.

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Thanksgiving in Wine Country; A Willamette Valley tradition turns 35

Thanksgiving in Wine Country; A Willamette Valley tradition turns 35

In celebration of community, culture and giving, the most anticipated weekend event in Willamette Valley wine country runs from Friday, November 24 through Sunday, November 26.

Help Wine Country Thanksgiving celebrate its 35th birthday.  In a testament to a flourishing industry and a lasting tradition, more than 150 wineries and tasting rooms open their doors for...

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Ghost Hill Cellars, a Bayliss family legacy

Ghost Hill Cellars, a Bayliss family legacy

Bayliss-Bower Vineyard sits on 234 undulating acres in the Yamhill-Carlton American Viticultural Area, one of Oregon's most celebrated AVAs. On a hill that wasn’t good for much else, 16 acres of vines bear fruit for Ghost Hill Cellars’ all-estate Pinot Noir program. It is a testament to the blood that runs through the veins of... 

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Second Annual Pinot Noir Auction raises $472,000

Second Annual Pinot Noir Auction raises $472,000

Portland, Ore. (April 1, 2017) -- The second installment of Willamette: The Pinot Noir Barrel Auction, a trade-only showcase of rare wines hosted by the Willamette Valley Wineries Association (WVWA), is a wrap. Sixty-nine Oregon producers contributed one-off Pinot noirs from the lauded 2015 vintage for auction, drawing more than 400 attendees and raising close to half a million dollars in wine sales for the regional association.

“The response to this event has been nothing short of remarkable, and we could not be more pleased,” said Pat Dudley, vintner and auction co-chair.

 

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Knudsen Vineyards 2015 Chardonnay

Knudsen Vineyards 2015 Chardonnay

Knudsen Vineyards 2015 Chardonnay – Dundee Hills

The Knudsen family—made up of siblings Colin, David, Page and Charles—came together a few years ago to return to their root stock of wine making with their debut 2012 Pinot Noir. The result was testament in a bottle to the value they've been sowing into the Willamette Valley wine industry since their 1971 inception. 

Having just won a silver medal at the 2017 Savor NW Wine Competition, the 2015 Chardonnay is another beautiful vintage.

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Current Stoller chardonnay releases show restraint and complexity

Chardonnay…say the word and, like this years’ election, most folks have a strong opinion. “I don’t like chardonnay,” is typically the reaction. No matter how many times wine writers espouse its virtues, it appears the bad rep of this grape will take longer to be forgotten than yesterday’s headlines.

Nevertheless, we charge on, particularly those in the Northwest who are so close to  what Melissa Burr, director of winemaking at Stoller Family Estate, refers to as a “renaissance for Chardonnay.”

Under the guidance of owner, Bill Stoller, his land was planted to 10 acres of chardonnay well before it was the cool thing to do. Now the Willamette Valley boasts over 1,000 acres of this noble grape—still trailing far behind the nearly 100,000 acres that California tends but we like to think our winemakers appreciate chardonnay for what it is rather than what it’s not.

As one might expect, Stoller offers a couple different chardonnay options.

Viki Eierdam
Viki Eierdam

Their 2015 Dundee Hills Chardonnay is 100 percent unoaked—aged for six months in stainless steel. The first smell hits clean and fresh with a hint of lemon/lime citrus notes followed by vibrant acidity and graphite on the palate. 2015 was a hot one but this wine is coming in at 12.5 percent, a testament to Stoller’s ability to gauge just the right time to pick for flavor and approachability. Great food options are hard cheeses, lightly grilled white fish (I.e. scallops, halibut, cod), cream of zucchini soup, roasted chicken, a garden fresh summer salad, simply prepared pork like pork chops. Think light and slightly earthy. Retail: $25

The 2014 Reserve Chardonnay has been (dare I say), aged in French oak for 12 months. French oak is not American oak, folks. It’s soft and elegant and imparts luscious richness, not an overtly buttery characteristic. In this case, it adds to the depth and complexity of the wine and brings food pairings to another level of sophistication. The savory, lemon grass and earthy nose of the wine gives way to stone fruit like a soft white peach on the palate. Avocado and corn salad is a perfect example as well as a butter leaf salad with peach slices or snap peas, roasted vegetables, white cream pastas, crab, lobster, savory fried chicken or creamy pork dishes with sautéed mushrooms. This would also be the ideal brunch bottle. I’m always saying chardonnay is oft-overlooked with breakfast. Why should bubbles have all the fun? This is the ideal egg dish pairing. Retail: $35

 

Tour DeVine offering aerial perspective of Willamette Valley

The luxury day of Willamette Valley touring via helicopter begins at Red Hills Market where passengers enjoy a glass of Argyle Winery bubbles with fruit and yummy baked goods. Viki Eierdam
The luxury day of Willamette Valley touring via helicopter begins at Red Hills Market where passengers enjoy a glass of Argyle Winery bubbles with fruit and yummy baked goods. Viki Eierdam

Has the congestion of 99W taken some of the fun out of Willamette Valley winetasting? You’ve toured the wineries by limousine enough times that it no longer feels special? Enjoyed the view floating peacefully along via hot air balloon? For wine lovers who consider how they get there as important as being there, Tour DeVine by Helicopter aims to offer the highest end wine country experience available.

Pilots are put through rigorous scrutiny—including passing all FAA requirements—have thousands of hours of air time in multiple air frames and enjoy double duty as onboard tour guides throughout each flight.

The luxury day begins at Red Hills Market (the personal deli and go-to market for many of the area’s top wine makers) where passengers enjoy a glass of Argyle Winery bubbles with fruit and yummy baked goods. Keep camera in hand to snap an amazing fly-over photo as your personal pilot for the day touches down near the market.

Experienced pilots Ty Burlingham (left) and Tyler Sturdevant (right) enjoy double duty as onboard tour guides throughout each flight. Viki Eierdam
Experienced pilots Ty Burlingham (left) and Tyler Sturdevant (right) enjoy double duty as onboard tour guides throughout each flight. Viki Eierdam

You’ll feel like a Hollywood insider (yes, that is a shameless Paul Giamatti reference) boarding one of three different helicopter styles to guarantee the most custom of adventures. Four passengers and two pilots fit comfortably in the AIRBUS AS350B2 and, conveniently, a storage box has been added to the outside of the aircraft to hold up to 14 cases of wine. Good to know!

A seat on Tour DeVine guarantees stunning photo ops like this approach to Hawks View Cellars. Viki Eierdam
A seat on Tour DeVine guarantees stunning photo ops like this approach to Hawks View Cellars. Viki Eierdam

Tour DeVine flies to six different AVAs in the Willamette Valley ensuring that winetasting via helicopter could be a go-to mode of transportation for several vineyard visits to come.  Approximately four hours covers sweeping aerial views of acres of vines spread out before you (and many more photo ops that’ll make you the envy of your social circle) and plenty of time at two distinct wineries. Partake of a stellar lineup at stop number one, make bottle purchases and soak up some sun with a glass of wine before boarding the bird to destination two.

Included in each aerial tour is a Red Hills Market picnic of charcuterie, cheeses, nuts, sandwiches, sparkling water and the like. Viki Eierdam
Included in each aerial tour is a Red Hills Market picnic of charcuterie, cheeses, nuts, sandwiches, sparkling water and the like. Viki Eierdam

Here, each guest is treated to a Red Hills Market picnic packed in, what else, a reusable wine crate. Inside is a treasure trove of charcuterie, cheeses, nuts, sandwiches, sparkling water and the like. Brilliantly, the top doubles as a cutting board. Tour Devine is conscious of dietary restrictions so, given enough lead time, they’re able to work with Red Hills Market to accommodate substitutions.

At this stop there’s ample time to savor lunch, linger over winetasting and post some drool-worthy, in-flight photos to social media.

With the goal of creating a truly unique experience, Tour DeVine has the ability to tailor each flight to specific requests. Winery time can be spent predominantly touring the facility, sipping the available wines or a combination of both. Also, since there are six AVAs to choose from, the first stop could move from Red Hills Market to Methven Family Vineyards in Dayton.

Tour DeVine, operated by Precision Helicopters, approaches Ponzi Vineyards in the Ribbon Ridge AVA on a custom wine tour. Viki Eierdam
Tour DeVine, operated by Precision Helicopters, approaches Ponzi Vineyards in the Ribbon Ridge AVA on a custom wine tour. Viki Eierdam

Pilots Ty Burlingham and Tyler Sturdevant are sensitive to customers who are a little apprehensive (like me) about taking their first ride in a chopper. They lighten the mood with on board banter, help passengers in and out of the aircraft, store purchases and present each guest with their much-anticipated lunch. In essence, they are both pilot and flight attendant and are truly excited for first timers, in particular.

Tour DeVine by Heli is the next great wine adventure and a day well spent.

 

Domaine Divio: Authentic Burgundy comes to Ribbon Ridge

Back in 2008 I had the pleasure of spending a few days in the Jura region of France and the quaint town of Arbois captivated me with the postcard perfect La Cuisance River meandering along the backs of centuries-old stone houses. I saw with my own eyes ladies walking to market with wicker baskets and was treated to one of the most amazing hospitality moments of my travel memories at a warm, country restaurant overlooking La Cuisance during my stay.

That and so many other special French encounters since left me excited to spend an afternoon with Domaine Divio owner and winemaker Bruno Corneaux and his engaging wife, Isabelle, recently. Together they have woven a beautiful story of their Dijon homeland and their adopted homeland in the sought-after Ribbon Ridge AVA, creating a true wine tasting experience. Many weekends the charming and approachable Bruno can be found behind the bar sharing comparisons of Burgundian terroir with Willamette Valley terroir in his mesmerizing French accent.

Domaine Divio is poised to be a very special addition to the Willamette Valley and Ribbon Ridge AVA specifically. Currently sourcing from the Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills and Chehalem Mountain, Bruno is concentrating on Burgundian varietals only.

Domaine Divio’s 2012 Pinot Noir is a luscious representation of the earthy pinots that Oregon is world-renowned for with beautiful hints of spice. Viki Eierdam
Domaine Divio’s 2012 Pinot Noir is a luscious representation of the earthy pinots that Oregon is world-renowned for with beautiful hints of spice. Viki Eierdam

Guests can step right up to the apothecary bar (no, the drawers don’t open) and confidently find at least one offering for every palate in the group. Dark red fruit and a velvety finish are the highlights of the 2012 Pinot Noir Eola Amity Hills. His 2013 Pinot Noir Chehalem Mountain—now known lovingly in the Valley as a winemaker’s year—presents with ripe strawberry on the nose and its lively acidity makes it a very food-friendly pinot and an excellent candidate for aging. My two favorites: His 2013 Chardonnay delivers laser focus and his 2012 Pinot Noir is a luscious representation of the earthy pinots that Oregon is world-renowned for with beautiful hints of spice—a characteristic akin to his native Burgundy.

In a few years, Burgundian wine fans will be able to enjoy Domaine Divio estate fruit as the 2014 vines mature, are harvested and the final product comes of age to be released. Until then, Bruno is focusing on farming the 23 acre site biodynamically due to research he has undergone to explore grape growing in Tahiti (a tale for another time).

A true boutique winery, total case volume from their 2013 Willamette Valley Chardonnay was all of 25 which increased to 50 in 2014 and 150 in 2015. Those numbers will surely climb when the twelve acres under vine are harvested in 2017 and 2018.

Many weekends the charming and approachable Bruno can be found behind the bar of Domaine Divio sharing comparisons of Burgundian terroir with Willamette Valley terroir in his mesmerizing French accent. Viki Eierdam
Many weekends the charming and approachable Bruno can be found behind the bar of Domaine Divio sharing comparisons of Burgundian terroir with Willamette Valley terroir in his mesmerizing French accent. Viki Eierdam

As a fourth generation Burgundian vintner Bruno’s passion to share the similarities and the differences of grape growing through captivating storytelling bridges the miles and makes visitors feel truly connected in an intimate way.

“Part of the experience is to share our vision of what pinot noir should be in Oregon,” Bruno said.

The massive sliding doors of the Northwest barn style tasting room invite the outside in at Domaine Divio. Viki Eierdam
The massive sliding doors of the Northwest barn style tasting room invite the outside in at Domaine Divio. Viki Eierdam

In the Northwest barn style tasting room—replete with a stone fireplace, casual furnishings, ample natural light and massive sliding doors that invite the outside in—this couple has brought to life the Galic meaning of Divio; a gathering place or sacred place. Plans are in the works to showcase their international story at such local events as the Bastille Festival—said to be the largest on the West Coast. For now, drop into the tasting room year round Friday through Sunday.