Dominio IV, McMinville, OR

After a fantastic morning at the Evergreen Air Museum we headed back into McMinville for more wine tasting.  Our first tasting of the day was at Dominio IV, Ari from Lumos directed us there with instructions to say ‘Hi’ to Mortiqui should we see him -we didn’t; we had Ryan pouring for us.

Tasting notes for the Dominio IV 2006 Syrah, a visual aid.

Tasting notes for the Dominio IV 2006 Syrah, a visual aid.

The tasting room is in the Granary District; we were on the other side of the tracks from downtown the night before and we are so glad we made it here.  Inside the old Granary is a wine production facility and tasting room.  The old wood walls are adorned with liquid looking colorful charts – these are the tasting notes for each of the wines, they go on the bottles in the Imagination

Question the aroma you are smelling, how about a whiff of the actual herb or spice to compare it to?

Question the aroma you are smelling, how about a whiff of the actual herb or spice to compare it to?

Series.  On a narrow shelf there are half-pint canning jars with dried herbs and spices for aroma comparisons with the wine.  Ryan poured each wine and provided some background for us.  Our good fortune was to have the tasting room all to ourselves until the very last pour when some people we had met at previous wineries in the prior two days came in.  Cordial conversation as they began their tasting and we chose our treasures rounded out the visit.

Dominio IV Pinot Noir, love the maze on the business card and lower part of the label.

Dominio IV Pinot Noir, love the maze on the business card and lower part of the label.

The wines, from a 2013 Viognier “Still Life” through the 2006 Tempranillo “The Tango”, a library wine, there wasn’t a wine we didn’t like!  Oregon fruit, including varietals we were quite familiar with and a few Pinot Noirs were all interesting.  Our favorite PN is the 2012 “Love Lies Bleeding” – bold, beautiful fruit with a full mouth feel; it is a blend of clones.  We came home with a couple of bottles of the 2012 PN, a bottle of 2006 “The Tango”, and a unique wine that was fun, 2013 No. 3 Inverse Viognier/Syrah.  Syrah will frequently be fermented with a bit of Viognier, this twists the blend for a little different blend.  All in all a terrific visit and another fascinating learning experience in our pursuit of Oregon Pinot Noir.

Dominio IV, Imagination Series labels with tasting notes.

Dominio IV, Imagination Series labels with tasting notes.

Cheers!

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Bitter Monk Taproom, McMinnville, OR

Oregon Hazelnuts, superb!

Oregon Hazelnuts, superb!

Our progress down the street from Terra Vina on 3rd in McMinville included purchasing a package of fresh roasted hazelnuts (cooled and packaged) since we had been passing acres of Filbert trees, including new plantings.  Apparently the Willamette Valley produces 99% of the US hazelnuts and about 50% of their crop is exported, click on the previous link and you can read all about it.  A quick dinner and we went on to The Bitter Monk Taproom to round out the night’s tastings.

An indoor beer garden with loads of different beers: 16 rotating on tap and many bottles to choose from.  We made a selection of eight on tap – two flights – to share.  The guy behind the bar was great, the guy beside us was another bartender, there on his off hours because it was THE place to be.  We got our flight and a woman walked in, placed her order and waited.  She remarked that she was from R. Stuart and had seen us as we got out of the truck (remember the bike in the back – hard not to notice).  After chatting we promised we would come back to see her, Casee, the next day; look forward to that post.

Two flights to share - nice change of pace to finish off the evening.

Two flights to share – nice change of pace to finish off the evening.

Our choices included an IBU, a colorful (amber, brown, red) array and a couple of Belgians along with a Blackberry/Elderberry Cider.  All were good, if not great and will be revisited.  Such friendly people, it was like being home in Walla Walla!

 

 

 

Beers:

  • Atlas Cider Co. Blackberry/Elderberry Cider: 5.8% ABV
  • Oskar Blues G;Knight Imperial Red: 8.7% ABV, 60 IBU, nitro, so very smooth mouth feel, fruity hop nose, great malts with fruit hops underneath from Longmont, CO
  • 10 Barrel Cherry Tart: 6% ABV, floral nose, pie cherry palate with no noticeable malts
  • 10 Barrel Oregon Brown: 6% ABV, 43 IBU, malt and citrus nose, grapefruit & pine hops with a WOW finish.
  • Hopworks Belgian Tripel: 8.7% ABV, 18 IBU, banana with subtle clove flavor
  • North Coast Pranquster Golden Ale: 7.6% ABV, 20 IBU, delightful, from Fort Bragg, CA
  • Commons Saison: 6.5% ABV, pale and cloudy, sour with a hoppy end – better for a warm evening, from Portland, OR
  • Heater Allen Isarweizen: 4.8% ABV, 15 IBU, clove wheat beer, bread and spice! From McMinnville, OR – yet another serendipitous coincidence to be looked for in another post.

Cheers!

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Terra Vina Wines

We bid Ari at Lumos good night and walked next door to the tasting room of Terra Vina Wines.  As an unplanned stop, we didn’t know anything about this winery when we entered.  Tasting room manager, Joslynn, explained that owner and winemaker Karl Dinger is a self-taught winemaker.  He and wife, Carol, opened their doors under a different name in Carlton, just west of McMinnville, so you might be more familiar with it as ‘Dalla Vina’ Wines.  Their estate vineyard, producing fruit for the La Famiglia label, is in the Mid-Willamette Valley, specifically the Chehalem Mountains AVA on Parrett Mountain: Riesling, Syrah and Pinot Noir.  Higher elevations with marine winds bringing dense fog distinguish this AVA.  But much of their fruit comes from Eastern Oregon, that would be Walla Walla AVA, and Washington’s Yakima and Columbia Valley AVA’s: Sangiovese, Tempranillo, and Bordeaux grapes, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.

We shared a tasting, as is our norm, deciding to try all of the wines on offer.  The lone white, 2012 La Famiglia Riesling opened the show with an off dry, apple and pear salad balanced by a citric acidity – nice.  The 2010 Pinot Noir followed, also estate grown.  As this was the point of the tasting, and our first PN from this particular AVA, we gave it our full attention: nose was cherry, berry; lots of berry on the palate with a light acid finish, quite smooth for the 13.5% alcohol it had.  Sangiovese, Tempranillo (couldn’t leave without trying that one, now could I), estate grown Syrah (very nice), Cab Franc, and two blends.  2012 Primio and 2009 Oh So Red finished up the flight.  All in all great wines.

Joslynn was very helpful in providing us with a last place to go that evening: The Bitter Monk Taproom.  I will tell you all about the last part of the evening next time.

Cheers!

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Lumos Wine Company; a terrific find

With Thursday evening still young we drove into McMinnville.  Choosing to drive to a wine shop that was also highly recommended we parked on NE 3rd St.  The motorcycle in the back of the pick-up was apparently quite a sight to many walking by.  The wine shop was full of people, not exactly what we were wanting at that moment.  Across the street we saw a couple of wineries that didn’t look too full of people; easy decision.

Lumos Wine Co. shares space with a chocolate shop.  Since they would close before the winery next door, we started there.  The chocolates looked amazing and smelled heavenly, but we had some from another chocolatiers at the trailer; they were difficult to pass up.  The small bar, large enough for a couple to stand side-by-side, maybe one more person if you didn’t mind cozy quarters, was covered with bottles and post cards.  Ari, pouring for us, was a great resource for the local wine scene.  As we tasted through the wines she shared her experience working crush for Dai Crisp, Lumos’ viticulturist and wine maker… he also makes wine for another winery I will write about soon.  Chatting about different vineyards, telling us about the grapes used to make the wines we were tasting, it was fun to spend time with her.

The wines: Pinot Gris from two different vineyards and vintages, both lovely.  A 2012 Gewürztraminer, dry, different and great!  A Rose’ of PN called Chiquita from last year – delightful.  And thee vintages of PN from Temperance Hill Vineyard – this vineyard is a neighbor of Bethel Heights, from my last blog – also a sustainably grown vineyard with ‘Oregon Organic & Salmon Safe’ Certifications.  I didn’t take notes of single clone or blended here, falling down on the job I was.  Hmph, bothers me now to realize I don’t have that info, it isn’t on their website either.  Ok, the ‘2011 Five Blocks’ was an earthy, bright fruit and spicy wine with soft tannins and nice acidity.  The 2009 & 2010 Temperance Hill PN were darker fruit, black pepper, and herbal with a hint of earthiness although there was definitely a difference between the two, but I can’t recall and my notes are not clear enough for me to read on the flight info post card.

When I looked up where Lumos is distributed to Oregon is very well covered, Western Washington has several locations, but not Eastern Washington.  New York, North Caroline and Washington D.C. have distribution as well.  Naturally, you can see about ordering online as well.

Cheers!

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Bethel Heights Vineyard

We had enough time to include one last tasting in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA as long as it was close by; Bethel Heights Vineyard came highly recommended by several, so that was our choice.  It wasn’t too far from Left Coast Cellars, in fact, when we realized the address was Salem we were surprised at how close we were to Salem!  Alas, too distant to have made more stops that day.

The basket press in front of Bethel Heights Vineyard tasting room outside of Salem, Oregon.

The basket press in front of Bethel Heights Vineyard tasting room outside of Salem, Oregon.

We admired the old basket press prominently displayed as you walk up to the door.  Glancing right, over the hill we just climbed to get there a sign was posted with an arrow pointing west: Van Duzer Corridor.  We had seen a Van Duzer Winery, so we were intrigued.

Greeting us at the door was Henry, a Fox Terrier/Jack Russel cross of about five years.  He led us into the tasting room where Mindy Casteel, wife of Ben Casteel, wine maker was behind the bar pouring.  This is an all-in-the-family winery, Ben’s cousin, Mimi, is the Viticulturist and GM.  Founded by their parents, twin brothers with their wives, in 1977 the vineyards boast many legitimate old vine blocks of Pinot Noir.  Through the years additional plantings and acquisitions have grown the planted acres to just over 100.  PN clones are the greatest percentage with 76.1 acres, Chardonnay is 16.4 (primarily from the late 90’s on), Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling together comprise 9.8 acres.

Apparently there is a cat that call the vineyards home as well.  Jelly Bean is a gray and white tabby of about 7-8 years and Henry isn’t fond of her.  About half way through our tasting Henry began barking and charging the glass door into the production space, Mindy peaked around the corner to discover the cat within the cellar.  Henry was inconsolable while the cat was in view.

Looking southeast from the deck at the Bethel Heights Vineyard Tasting Room.

Looking southeast from the deck at the Bethel Heights Vineyard Tasting Room.

I stepped outside on the vast deck overlooking the Bethel Heights Estate vineyards, down into the Justice Vineyards to take in the views.  The vineyards go all the way down the hill.  Mindy was able to confirm that freezes are very rare, due to the Aeolian Winds along the Van Duzer Corridor which bring the moderate marine temps into the Willamette Valley each evening modifying the hot days of summer and cold days of winter.  I asked about frost concerns (no wind machines anywhere in view) to learn that they are so rare that helicopters are brought in for the very rare occurrences in the spring.  So Eola refers to the winds, Van Duzer to the wind corridor in the Coast Range that brings Pacific Ocean winds inland to the Willamette Valley.  Good to have that clarified.  Oh, asked about the soils to discover the top layers are primarily basalt with marine sediments at deeper levels.  The older vines are all on their own rootstock, but some of the newer blocks have grafted rootstock as there must be water and Phylloxera issues to contend with.

Climate patterns, soils structures, grape clones & rootstock, ages of those vines, and, to some degree, the choices of the wine maker all come into play as the grapes become wine: Terroir.  Sorry Henry and Jelly Bean, you’re a parallel story to that of the grapes.

The wines, we tasted through the summer flight, Riesling, Chardonnay and five PN were lovely.  Both whites were lovely – the 2012 Riesling is off dry, nicely balanced while the 2012 Chardonnay is aged in neutral oak with smooth mouth feel, butter and vanilla at the beginning and a light, tart fruit finish.

The Pinot Noir’s were from three different vintages and four different vineyards, three were 12.3-12.7% while the 2012 was 13.5% ABV.  For me this was a great comparison.  The climactic differences were primarily due to elevation and aspect on the slope (which direction do they face) as they are all within an eight mile radius of each other.  The 2010 Carter Vineyard PN had old leather on the nose and red currants on the palate while the 2011 Carter Vineyard PN had new leather on the nose and pomegranate on the palate, both lingered lightly on the finish; subtle differences.  The 2011 Lewman Vineyard (a neighbors vineyard) had lavender and rose on the nose with a pomegranate palate.  This is a lower elevation vineyard compared to the previous.  The 2011 Justice Vineyard PN had rose and clove aromas, a raspberry palate with mild spices and pepper on the finish.  Again, subtle differences.  But if you have raspberries, pomegranates and red currants at your disposal at the same time you know they are not the same and this comes through in the wine. Lastly, Mindy poured us 2012 Flat Block (BH Estate planted in 1979) PN.  The vines are visible to the north of the tasting room.  The oldest vines, but the newest vintage and there were raspberries on the nose and palate with some pie cherries also on the palate.  The acidity of this wine was nicely balanced by the fruit.  I don’t recall tannins in any of these wines being distinctive as at a couple of the other wineries.  It could be my preconceived notions that make me think that tannins ‘shouldn’t’ be strong in PN wines, but these wines were delightful.  I understand why they came so highly suggested to us.  But we are still early in our Pinot Noir journey!

We closed the place down, so it was time to see what options we had for the evening… next time.

Cheers!

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Left Coast Cellars

 

Left Coast Cellars, a biodynamic vineyard and winery; solar panels along the drive.

Left Coast Cellars, a biodynamic vineyard and winery; solar panels along the drive.

Left Coast Cellars, a biodynamic vineyard and winery outside of the town of Rickreall, was our next stop. Driving up the hill passed the vineyards, ambling along the curvy drive I wished we were on the motorcycle just then. Solar panels, a lake, many trees, meadow flowers, very busy bee hives, and some ducks caught my eye as we rolled in; hungry as we were this was our choice because they advertised a lunch menu.
Our wine tasting came first, but the chef, perfecting her French Onion Soup, brought us out a small taste – despite my love of garlic, it was not integrated well enough at that point. Several more wine tastes and another small soup taste came out – she nailed it! No question what we were having for lunch! We shared a bowl of soup and a panini. Excellence in wine, excellence in food, welcoming and restful ambiance, all made for a delightful experience.

Left Coast Cellars, ducks as part of the biodynamic, sustainable vineyard and winery.

Left Coast Cellars, ducks as part of the biodynamic, sustainable vineyard and winery.

While tasting the wines we were joined by one of the couples that had also been at Cherry Hill. They were native to Wisconsin, had driven out and found themselves in a quandary: too much wine to store in the car with all of the gear they brought for camping! What camping gear to leave behind, how best to store the wine in the car for the journey and, of course, discussion about the wines accompanied our tasting. Hoping the drive home with the stash was uneventful – I bet they are very happy they were on vacation when they were as Oregon and Washington are experiencing a super heat wave (east side temps over 100, west side temps in the 80-90’s) that we typically don’t experience, which would have made traveling with the wine more complicated.

Here, after tasting great Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, we had a White Pinot Noir and again I really enjoyed it! They also have a Rose of Pinot Noir with a lavender and fruit nose and lovely fruit on the palate. Pinot Noir, our true tasting goal, was widely represented. Our first was a 100% Pommard clone from 2011 called Right Bank. This single-clone was also a single-vineyard-designate; it was good, the best single-clone PN I felt we had come across. But my favorite was the 2012 Cali’s Cuvee, light in body, light in color, a bit of smoke on the nose, pie cherries and pomegranates on the palate with a lingering caramel and fruit finish. The 2009 Suzanne’s Estate Reserve PN had a stronger aroma of smoke on the nose and it was followed by smoke and leather and tannins on the palate! After our previous tasting I was somewhat more prepared for the tannins in the wine, but it still seemed out of character for the grape in my mind. My notes indicate I thought Pinot Noir was an ambidextrous grape – light and fruity or smoky and heavy.

We left with a couple of bottles, including a ‘Queen Bee Bubbly’ that we didn’t try but I was curious.

Can you see the busy bees?  This was a quiet hive, there were two more along the drive up.

Can you see the busy bees? This was a quiet hive, there were two more along the drive up.

On our trek out we saw two guys in full beekeeping suits and veils removing the trays loaded with honey from a pair of box hives. My partner in wine worked bees once-upon-a-time in much less public places; interesting business.

Fast forward to the Fourth-of-July weekend with good friends and good food. Our celebratory beverage after the community fireworks display was this dry bubbly that was fun. For those of us that like a dry bubbly we enjoyed it solo, but for those that needed some sweetness we added hibiscus flowers. Happy memories made purchasing the wine and drinking it ten days later.

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Cherry Hill Winery

Cherry Hill Winery, vineyard and pond on the way into the tasting room.

Cherry Hill Winery, vineyard and pond on the way into the tasting room.

From Orchard Hills we put the address to Cherry Hill Winery  into the iPad and laughed when we saw the pin in the middle of a rather large blue area, which we surmised to be a lake or large pond; technology is wonderful!  Making our way in that general direction we were elated to see old-technology signs along the road letting us know where to turn.  The scenery was lovely, so we took it a bit slower to enjoy and keep the dust from flying behind us as we made our way up the gravel road.  Meandering into the property, following the 14 mile an hour speed limit signs (apparently the older John Deere Gators top speed is 14 mpg, we found out in the tasting room) we were appreciating the ‘Poverty Road’ street signs, and warming up to the sense of humor dotting the landscape.  The blue spot on our map must have been the large pond at the lowest elevation within the vineyards.  Approximately 90 acres of Pinot Noir grapes, planted right up to the pond, supply the fruit for this winery.  Coming around the north side of the hill, the vineyards are primarily south and southwest facing, there is a large building, followed by several smaller, modern-rustic cabins before the winery is before you.  Yet another sign, ‘If you drink no Noir, you Pinot Noir’.

Inside, more signs, ‘NFM’ (Sideways reference anyone), ‘Cabernet-Free Zone’, ‘Piano Player Wanted, good or bad, must play for wine’ beneath an upright piano, the mural on the back wall.  I am sure there are many more subtle funnies in places we didn’t look.  The bar was pretty crowded with room enough for the two of us where we entered.

Cherry Hill Winery Estate Pinot Noir.

Cherry Hill Winery Estate Pinot Noir.

First up, Blanc de Noir, we found another white Pinot Noir!  A dry rose’, Vanda after the orchid, followed by the Estate Pinot Noir.  Here we were, in a pristine valley with acres upon acres of Pinot Noir Vines setting this year’s fruit in the middle of the Willamette Valley AVA – drum roll please: lavender nose, slightly eucalyptus on the palate with more tannins than every other Pinot Noir we had to this point.  It is a single clone wine, Pommard, Pinot Noir’s (just over half of the Estate planting).  Lastly, there is the Dijon Cuvee (clones 113, 115 & 777), the biggest, boldest wine of the four.  Now I am confused, maybe I have missed something, but these two Pinot’s make the others we have tried look somewhat similar where these stand apart.  Is that good or not, it is due to something I didn’t catch during our tasting – the wine maker was pouring these wines and I asked lots of questions!  Back to the beginning; more cautious tasting.  Apparently we weren’t ready for this winery, it will have to be revisited after we have more Pinot Noir experience.  (Always ready to consider the next adventure.)

Back passed the cabins that we now know are for members to come get away from it all, the large hall for banquets and fun events, driving 14 mph down Poverty Rd.  We realized it was well passed noon; could we be hungry?

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Orchard Heights Winery

Orchard Heights Winery 2007 & 2008 Pinot Noir.

Orchard Heights Winery 2007 & 2008 Pinot Noir.

We were gawking at all the Eola Hills Vineyards and drove right passed Orchard Heights Road, so we had to backtrack a little bit before we found the winery.  Beware to any shopaholic, the gift shop the tasting room is located in is great!  I don’t really fall into that category, but I found myself eyeing several items as we tasted wines at the bar.  This winery is a sister company to a Hawaiian macadamia nut farm and a confectionary; all is family owned and operated.  Some of the 15 acres of vines are from the seventy’s, predating the current owners.

Orchard Heights Winery 2009 & 2011 Rose' of Pinot Noir.

Orchard Heights Winery 2009 & 2011 Rose’ of Pinot Noir.

Each of the whites Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, & Riesling were poured and tasted; excellent and a great way to get a feel for the wine making before we began tasting Pinot Noir.  Next up were a pair of Rose’ of Pinot Noir from 2009 & 2011.  They look different, smell different and taste different, despite their common origins and wine maker.  Both won Silver Medals at the Finger Lakes International competitions.  My notes for this winery have disappeared, so I don’t recall which one tasted like what, but I do remember them being different; both great.

Next up, the Pinot Noir we were anticipating; this winery came highly recommended, so we were holding our breath – out come two, just like the Rose’s were being tasted in pairs, so were these reds.  In this case 2007 & 2009, again there was a decided difference between the aromas and palates.  My partner in wine and I didn’t agree about which was ‘best’, but we did agree that we were appreciating the wine more.

Orchard Heights Late Harvest Gewürztraminer with 'Mele Mac' - what a lovely pairing.

Orchard Heights Late Harvest Gewürztraminer with ‘Mele Mac’ – what a lovely pairing.

There are dessert wines and grape-based tropical fruit wines as well; mango, passion fruit and pineapple.  Remarkably, the pineapple was my favored tropical flavor, none were sweet as the dry white wine base balanced the sweetness of the juice added.  Different than the fruit wines we make, but good to try.

With the dessert wine, a late harvest Gewürztraminer, they pair ‘Mele Macs’ – toffee and chocolate (milk for those of you that care), then coated with powdered sugar.  That was spectacular!  We refrained from taking these with us as they wouldn’t have made it home.

In the end a Pinot Blanc, a kitchen scraper to keep in the trailer (you can’t believe how hard it was to find one of them) and I have a fun striped summery scarf came home with us.  One of these hot evenings on the patio and that Pinot Blanc will join us!

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Eola Hills Wine Cellars

Eola Hills Winery, tasting room is just to the left...

Eola Hills Winery, tasting room is just to the left…

Begun in 1986 Eola Hills Wine Cellars is a relatively large winery.  Our two previous wineries were in the South Willamette AVA; this one is in the southern area of the Eola-Amity Hills AVA just north of them.  As we toured the area we came across many of the Estate Vineyards for this winery.  The unassuming building that houses the tasting room also has a gift shop and a large production/event space.  Emily, back at her summer job since her college classes let out for Spring, poured for us from the Reserve lists.

Beginning with a mango and oak 2012 “LaCreole” Chardonnay followed by a 2013 “LaCreole” Pinot Gris, aged sur lie in Acacia wood barrels, it has a light, fruity taste, smooth texture with ‘gentle’ acids – I noted they were easy drinkers.  Apparently, despite the clouds and chill of the day I could picture these on my patio as I write in our summer heat or enjoy a repast.

The two Pinot Noir wines on the list were blended Dijon Clones (clones developed in Dijon, France) and a single-clone ‘667’ named “Wolf Hill”.  Tasting them in that order the 2011 “LaCreole” has a leather beginning with raspberry and pomegranate finish.  The “Wolf Hill” sidles by with a smoky start and currants, first red ending with black, lingering on the tongue.  Realizing that we couldn’t predict anything about a Pinot Noir wine we laughed at how each wine we tasted so far had been different – drastically different – in many ways.  We hadn’t traveled but about 60-65 miles from the first two wineries we tasted at.

A non-vintage Cuvee (II) has 57% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Franc, and 16% Cabernet Sauvignon provided a smooth, bright contrast to the leather and smoke of the Pinot Noir.  We were happy to try the 2011 “Lodi” Old Vine Zinfandel as we had forgone traveling into California for wine tasting in favor of Crater Lake, the Redwoods and several days on the beach.  This bottle of dark, rich fruit with smooth, easy tannins from 75-100 year-old vines hit the spot, we knew a bottle would come home with us.

From the Reserve dessert wines we tasted a 2012 Vin d’Or from Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc dripping with pineapple, honey and vanilla.  Freezing the grapes (or the juice, since I didn’t finish writing the information down) provides the depth of color and flavor.  The 2008 LBV Port Style Wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon is a dark, cherry, blueberry compote while the non-vintage Vin d’Ete is a grape-based Raspberry Dessert Wine.  Oddly the raspberry comes through on the front and back of the palate but there is a grape flavor in the middle, to my palate.

Take away at this point on our Pinot Noir journey is that we still need an open mind with every new bottle.  That each clone in each growing region in the hands of each wine maker was going to be an experience to contemplate.  Have I begin to ‘like’ Pinot Noir?  Possibly, but I am still not sure that is the right word yet.

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La Velle Vineyards

Approaching the charming lodge-style tasting room at the La Velle Vineyards in the trees we marveled that there were grapevines in the forests; a foreign concept to us in the High Desert eastern side of Washington (and Oregon).  Off of the parking lot, in the lower gardens is a labyrinth; I want one in my yard someday.

Micaela, Wine Club & Special Events Manager, poured for us.  Explaining that La Velle is primarily known for its Riesling as we tasted first Pinot Gris and then, to our astonishment, a 2013 White Pinot Noir before getting to the Riesling; all lovely.  I had no idea Pinot Noir was made in a still white style!  This is a very pale pink, well-balanced and fruit forward wine.  Our journey to discover Oregon Pinot Noir had just provided another pleasant twist!

Onto the reds, we began with a 2011 Four Brothers Pinot Noir (Clones 115, 117, 777 & Pommard) summed up as plums, quite nice.  Winemaker Matthew’s Reserve, also 2011, is Clone 777; darker fruit came to mind, but I didn’t find it as nice as the Four Brothers.  Moving onto the 2010 NW Duet, 50% each of Pinot Noir and Malbec, we tasted granny smith apples, pie cherries and some citrus.  The remaining reds are produced with Washington fruit (the Malbec was too); it was interesting to me to note many differences in style from the wines we typically taste from the same vineyards in Washington.

We finished with a semi-sweet Riesling with a moderate body and nice acid balance.  A delightful end to this informative tasting.  I can see why La Velle has a reputation for Riesling; both the dry and the semi-sweet are great wines.  We learned a bit more about the Pinot Noir wines and took home a White Pinot Noir as well as a Four Brother’s.  Sharing the bottle we brought home with friends over the Fourth of July weekend we realized we should have taken home more of the White Pinot Noir.

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