Monday, April 28, 2014

The Willamette Valley Wineries Association Brings #PinotInTheCity

On April 2nd, the Willamette Valley Wineries Association hosted 54 Willamette Valley winemakers in Washington DC for Pinot in the City. All the wineries poured the region's signature Pinot Noir but there was also samples of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, as well as a few other varieties. Due to time restraints, it was impossible to sample from all the participants, but here's a rundown of what I learned.

The Willamette Valley is a large AVA and includes six sub-appellations: Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge and Yamhill-Carlton. The first two sub AVAs are probably the most unique. The Chehalem Mountains consists of three distinct areas within the AVA that differ in soil composition. The northwest section faces the ocean and contains sandstone and marine sediment, whereas the southeastern section is derived from volcanic activity. The northeast side contains soil deposited from the prevailing winds created silty, loess soils. The Dundee Hills is primarily volcanic soils at the top of ridges with the loess soils at the bottom.

Pinot Noir came to the Valley in 1965 when David Lett of Eyrie Vineyards first planted Pinot Noir and other cool-climate varieties (he was the first to plant Pinot Gris in all of America). Soon others such as Adelsheim Vineyard, Erath Vineyards, Ponzi Vineyards, Elk Cove Vineyards, and Sokol Blosser Vineyards. Today there are 378 wineries operating in the valley with many able to transition to second generation winemakers or vineyard managers - some who were in attendance for Pinot in the City: Jason Lett of Eyrie Vineyards, Luisa & Maria Ponzi of Ponzi Vineyards; Morgan Broadley of Broadley Vineyards; Adam Campbell of Elk Cove Vineyards; Alex Sokol Blosser of Sokol Blosser Vineyards; and Peter Shea of Shea Wine Cellars.

I started the tasting with Patton Valley Vineyards as they had empty space when I arrived. Winemaker Derek Einberger walked me through the estate's terrior and the three excellent estate and block specific Pinot Noirs. Pretty fascinating that the 10 Acre and West Block lots are close in proximity but produce very different wines. Close by Lynn Penner-Ash (Penner-Ash Wine Cellars) was pouring a very nice estate driven Dussin Vineyard PN as well as a very floral Viognier. I got my first taste of Pint Gris from Ponzi Vineyards and R. Stuart & Company - both great values at $17 plus more excellent PN, including the 2010 40th Anniversary reserve from Ponzi. On the first floor, I also visited with Sokol Blosser Vineyards, Shea Wine Cellars, and Seven of Hearts Wine.

Moving upstairs I met Tom Fitzpatrick of Alloro Vineyard who I would spend the following day with at A Lunch Date with Alloro Vineyard for #PinotInTheCity. Nearby were two Willamette Valley pioneers David Adelsheim of Adelsheim Vineyard and Mary Olson of Airlie Winery. I really enjoyed the latter's White Blend and Riesling and the former poured a nice Chardonnay and Elizabeth's Reserve PN.

I spent a considerable amount of time talking to Clare Carver of Big Table Farm who along with her husband Brian, operate a complete farm ecosystem within their property. We are talking poultry, pigs, cows, egg-laying chickens,a large garden, and honey bees. Clare gave me excellent advice for the bees whenever I finally get motivated to introduce a hive into my backyard. Their wines, excellent from the 2012 Chardonnay to the 2012 Willamette Valley PN and 2012 Eola-Amity Hills Pelos Sandberg Vineyard PN - smooth and silky. Clare also drew they awesome artwork on their labels.

Moving on I enjoyed talking and tasting with Scott Neal, owner and winemaker at Coeur de Terre Vineyard (Pinot Gris); Morgan Broadley of Broadley Vineyards (two very nice Zenith and Shea vineyard specific PN); Craig Camp of Cornerstone Oregon (2011 Stepping Stone PN); Thomas Gerrie of Cristom Vineyards (2010 Sommers Reserve PN melts in the mouth); Natalie Sigafoos of Dusky Goose (their 2010 Rambouillet Vineyard PN - Dundde Hills - quite good);  Adam Campbell of Elk Cove Vineyards (2010 Mt. Richmond PN and Pinot Gris); and finished the day with Jason Lett of Eyrie Vineyards who was pouring a very nice Pinot Blanc as well as one of my favorite Pinot Gris of the day.

Needless to say, but what an amazing tasting. Every Pinot Noir was unique and enjoyable. The Willamette Valley is a region where you can depend on its quality and at times, affordable prices. Let's hope for a visit to the area very soon. Cheers.

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