Oregon has nearly 700 wineries and I’m making it my personal mission to go to every one of them. It’s my literal (spit-) bucket list.
I’m certainly no expert but I’ve had a lot of experience drinking and that should count for something, right?
The first full summer we spent out here on the coast was the year I fractured my pelvis in a freak accident falling off some seaweed-covered rocks near the tide pools. After being carried off the beach up a very steep hill on a stretcher, transported 2+ hours away to Portland for complex surgery only two doctors in the state can perform, and finally getting back to the coast, I discovered something useful: Wine tasting is a sport you can enjoy even if you’re on crutches. Yippee!
Anyway, over the past four years, my husband and I have driven to wineries north near Portland, further north to the Columbia Gorge (both Oregon and Washington vineyards), south near Eugene, and closest to home in the McMinnville AVA, one of the six micro-climates of the Willamette Valley.
In case you were wondering, Oregon has 18 approved winegrowing regions, and more than 1000 vineyards utilizing 72 varieties of grapes. The Willamette Valley’s climate (cool, wet winters; warm, dry summers) is especially well suited to the early-ripening Pinot Noir grape, for which Oregon wineries are deservedly famous.
Turns out, McMinnville boasts one of our favorites.
Yamhill Valley Vineyards is the oldest winery in the McMinnville AVA, established in 1983. They grow, produce and bottle all their own grapes on a beautiful 150-acre estate in the rolling foothills of Oregon’s Coast Range Mountains–an hour southwest of Portland–with a focus on Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling.
True oenophiles will want to know about their plantings (200-700’ elevation), soil (marine sedimentary and volcanic soils), capacity (20,000 cases), barrels (produced in France and Oregon and never more than 20% new oak), climate (35” annual rainfall), awards (many; beginning with their 1983 Pinot Noir, the first place preference at New York City’s famous Wine Center) and so forth.
Here’s my more lowbrow description:
Yamhill Valley offers several delicious wines (currently, eight — also available online) in a remarkably peaceful and relaxing setting. They have a range of prices (from about $18-$75), so if wine isn’t your idea of a serious investment you can still find something yummy without breaking the bank. Compared to some other wineries we’ve visited, a tasting flight is generous and reasonably priced, too.
You can take your wine outside to the patio and gaze at the vineyards, or stay inside and chat with Linda Arnold, the delightful tasting room manager. Linda is warm, funny, and knowledgeable and you’ll feel like a dear friend on your first visit. (If you’ve ever had the experience of dealing with a snooty wine sommelier, you’ll appreciate her down-to-earth approach.)
Another thing I appreciate: Their tasting sheet doesn’t just clue you in on flavors and aromas, it also explains why certain wines have specific characteristics and suggests appropriate food pairings. All in all, Yamhill Valley is a sophisticated experience that doesn’t take itself too seriously. My kind of place.
If you’re up in Portland, drop in to another place that doesn’t take itself too seriously: Jeff Weissler’s Pairings wine shop, bar and classroom. Pairings’ mission is to make learning about wine fun and approachable, so they offer classes and events as well as shopping options that match wine “personalities” with everything from food to movie characters, moods, animals or astrological signs. Good wines, good times… and lots of laughs while you’re learning from the experts.
Cheers! [As always, not a sponsored post.]