Twelve 13 Tasty Sips
Our Mixed Case series serves up an eclectic mix of recent ‘adult beverage’ discoveries.
Whether you’re perusing a bar menu while traveling or stirring up a cocktail at home, let our guide lead to new taste destinations.
By Hope S. Philbrick
This Mixed Case represents a baker’s dozen of selections from five different vineyards in Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The Willamette Valley is Oregon’s leading wine region and is recognized as one of the world’s best regions for producing Pinot Noir. Home to more than 500 wineries, the Willamette Valley boasts 72 percent of Oregon’s planted vineyard acreage as well as 72 percent of the state’s total wine production of all varietals.
The Willamette Valley is a large American Viticultural Area (AVA) with six sub-appellations: Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge and Yamhill-Carlton. Located 50 miles from the Pacific Ocean, the region is more than 100 miles long and as much as 60 miles wide. (Click to see a map.)
Despite Willamette Valley’s geographical size and wine industry status, more than 85 percent of its wineries are small, each producing less than 5,000 cases a year.
Best known for Pinot Noir—Willamette Valley produces a whopping 81 percent of Oregon’s total Pinot Noir!—other grape varietals also thrive. According to press materials, as the region moves to a Burgundy-style cool climate growing model, Pinot Gris and other white varietals are being replaced by Chardonnay.
Since both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are food-friendly, this seems the perfect Mixed Case to kick off the 2017 winter holiday season. From a salad of seasonal produce to pumpkin pie, roast turkey to honey-baked ham, crab cakes to cheese plates, these wines are welcome companions to dining…though they’re also enjoyable on their own whether you prefer to sip while standing on a deck or sitting in the front of a fireplace.
Every bottle sampled for this Mixed Case proved so delightful we longed to travel to Oregon to learn even more about the region, the producers and the wines. Until we make that trip, we’ll happily uncork bottles from Willamette Valley.
Alloro Vineyard is an 80-acre estate located 30 minutes southwest of Portland. Grapes for the wines produced at the Italian Farmhouse-style winery are sourced exclusively from 33 acres of estate vineyards in the Chehalem Mountains. Winemaker Tom Fitzpatrick joined Alloro in 2010; previously he’d worked with producers in Burgundy, Napa Valley and New Zealand.
2016 Alloro Vineyard Estate Riesling is elegantly dry and crisp with tropical fruit flavors balanced by minerality and faint salinity. Retails for approx. $30.
2014 Alloro Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir is well-structured with complex layers of blackberry, dark cherry, raspberry and currant mingling with thyme, mushroom, toast, nutmeg and cocoa. This wine is a blend of all the winery’s Pinot Noir vineyard blocks. It won gold from the San Francisco Chronicle and was named an Editor’s Choice by Wine Enthusiast. Retails for approx. $35.
2014 Alloro Vineyard Estate Riservata Pinot Noir is impressive. Rich notes of dark cherry, bright berry and red currant are balanced with scrumptious earth and vanilla. This wine is a blend from selected barrels. It also won gold from the San Francisco Chronicle and was named an Editor’s Choice by Wine Enthusiast. Retails for approx. $45.
Lenné Estate is located in Willamette Valley’s Yambill-Carlton AVA. The 15-acre hillside vineyard is planted with five clones of Pinot Noir. Press materials boast that the vineyard “grows death-defying Pinot Noir vines,” since owner/winemaker Steve Lutz (who previously worked in Napa Valley) says his poor soil limits vine vigor to the extent that many plants do not survive.
2016 Lenné Estate Chardonnay is the winery’s first Chardonnay made from grapes grown on the steep South-facing slope. Vibrant yet creamy, it offers enjoyable, clean notes of lemon, Asian pear, golden apple, light buttered toast, and a bit of pineapple. Retails for approx. $40.
2014 Lenné Estate Pinot Noir is big and juicy with complex notes of raspberry, red currants, Bing cherries, white pepper, earth, moss, anise, Brazil nuts, cocoa and leather. The bright ruby red hue beckons from the glass. Retails for approx. $45.
Ghost Hill Cellars “is a fifth-generation Century farm and estate vineyard, sustainably tended by the Bayliss family and the ghost of a murdered gold miner,” according to press materials. Located in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, the 234-acre property houses a 16-acre vineyard that’s planted exclusively with Pinot Noir (five different clones).
2014 Ghost Hill Cellars Bayliss-Bower Pinot Noir is an inviting garnet color. Elegant and fruit-forward with balanced acidity, the wine offers notes of cherries, plums, strawberries, violets and fresh-tilled earth with light vanilla. Retails for approx. $42.
2014 Ghost Hill Cellars Prospector’s Reserve Pinot Noir is sophisticated and bright with notes of strawberry and cherry with a hint of leather. This bottling is a very limited blend of six barrels described in fact sheets as “more masculine and intense.” Retails for approx. $55.
Vidon Vineyard is located in the Chehalem Mountains AVA between 300 and 500 feet of elevation. Owner Donald E. Hagge’s winemaking philosophy is to employ “minimal intervention.”
2015 Vidon Vineyard Estate Chardonnay is “fermented from indigenous yeast,” according to the back label. The crisp wine pours gold into the glass and sniffs of Asian pear, banana peel, yeast batter and vanilla custard. It tastes of lemon tart, green apple, light toast, butterscotch, and white pepper. Light and bright. Retails for approx. $30.
2014 Vidon Vineyard 3-Clones Estate Pinot Noir is a bright claret hue. It opens with aromas of raisin, stewed jam, bright cherry and plum. The taste is fresher than anticipated with bright tart cherry and pepper notes leaping into the mix. Though quite yummy, the wine yields to food and thus pairs better with roast chicken than lamb chops. Retails for approx. $40.
Youngberg Hill Vineyards is a 50-acre estate with 20 acres of sustainably farmed vineyards on land that has been a family farm since the 1850s. It’s among the westernmost vineyards in Willamette Valley. Proprietor Wayne Bailey favors pragmatic biodynamic viticulture and a holistic approach to farming.
2015 Youngberg Hill Vineyards Aspen Chardonnay is a pale gold hue that tips to a clear edge. It sniffs of pear, butter, lemon pith and soft oak. Pleasant notes of lemon, shortbread cookies, grapefruit, lemon, green apple, honeydew and bosc pear taste balanced and yummy. The finish lingers on warm buttered light toast. Retails for approx. $40.
2014 Youngberg Hill Vineyards Jordan Pinot Noir is a deep, beautiful garnet color. It opens with aromas of candied cherry, coffee, raspberry, blackberry jam and anise. The first sip inspired one thought: “This is so good!” Notes of tart cherry, blueberry, grapefruit pith, mixed berry compote, baking spice, sage and chalk linger into spicy tannins on a drying finish that ends quick. Retails for approx. $50.
2014 Youngberg Hill Vineyards Natasha Pinot Noir is richly ripe and enjoyably sour. The bright garnet-colored wine sniffs of tangy cherry, dark berry and forest floor. A burst of cherry, berry and pomegranate notes meet roast beets, walnuts, and pepper flavors on the palate. The finish kicks around spicy tannins and light oak. Retails for approx. $50.
- Request a free brochure to help plan a trip to wineries in Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Unless otherwise noted, all suggested retail prices are for a 750ml bottle.
Be a responsible grownup: Never drink and drive.
Product samples afford the research opportunity but do not sway opinion.
– Bottle images courtesy the wineries.