International Pinot Noir Celebration

Le Véritable Voyage: IPNC toasts Oregon, France and much more

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If I were to sum up the International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC) in just one word, it would be “resplendent.” And if you’re a wine geek like me, you can relate to how attending the event was a dream come true. Like a kid let loose in a candy store, my mouth drooled, eager to taste absolutely everything. Glass after glass of the world’s finest Pinot Noir. Plate after plate of the season’s tastiest and perfectly prepared gourmet morsels.

Infectious energy filled the air, as consumers, industry members, prominent speakers — including The New York Times wine writer Eric Asimov and IPNC master of ceremonies Allen Meadows of Burghound — and celebrities of the food and wine world gathered July 28–30 on the picturesque and historic Linfield College campus in McMinnville to toast Pinot Noir, and a few others, too.

Read more about the IPNC here at Oregon Wine Press…

idaho winery

The New Frontier of American Wine

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PICTURE BREATHTAKING RIVER VALLEYS and rolling hillsides rich with ancient but fertile volcanic soil, the type of soil that results in wines of remarkable character and exceptional quality. There’s only a few places in the U.S. with soil like that, and one of them is Idaho.

Understandably, wine grapes probably aren’t your first thought when thinking about a state known for growing potatoes. However, in addition to lush, volcanic sediment that’s chock-full of minerals, Idaho enjoys temperate weather, abundant sunshine and plentiful water?all things perfect for vinifera. For information about Idaho wineries, and specifically where to visit, read the full article on NW Travel & Life magazine, here.

bjornson

Building #Björnson – Eola-Amity Hills #winery opens tasting room

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In the heart of the Eola-Amity Hills, between Salem and McMinnville, a new tasting room has opened on Bethel Heights Road, a welcome addition to the popular Polk County neighborhood.

Opening July 1, the Björnson Vineyards tasting room is a dream realized for owners Mark and Pattie Björnson. Having met in college, the couple discovered they shared a desire to live in the country, plant an orchard and raise a big family. After a month-long bike trip through Europe that included stops at many small wineries, the plans for their land changed into establishing a vineyard, building a winery and, now, a tasting room. (Click here to read the rest of the article on Oregon Wine Press.)

Mead

Good #Mead, Indeed… Honey-tongued and sweet-talking

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The word “honeymoon” in English supposedly refers to the practice of a bride’s father dowering her with enough mead for a month-long celebration in honor of the marriage. But, why mead?

“Mead is perhaps the original aphrodisiac, credited with fertility, seduction, and arousal powers.”  When Chrissie Manion Zaerpoor, Kookoolan Farms owner, meadmaker and author, writes these provocative words in her new book, “The Art of Mead Tasting and Food Pairing,” she’s not only referencing the enchantment of the beverage… (click here for the complete article on Oregon Wine Press)

flowers, mustard

East Willamette Wineries Capture Your Heart

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Like a nomad in an unexplored land, feel like you?re discovering a whole new wine country in Oregon?s East Willamette Valley. On the east side of the Willamette River lies more than 1,500 acres of wine grapes and more than a dozen boutique wineries you?ve probably never heard of and must see and taste for yourself to understand what you?re truly missing.

Piluso Vineyard

Owned by Sandee and Pinky Piluso, together they make the perfect team?Sandee makes the wine and Pinky drives the tractor. Four-acres were planted in 2000 and?Piluso Vineyard?yielded their first commercial vintage in 2003, but the property?s history goes back much further than that. Originally an old prune orchard, the magnificent historic home was built in 1890 and the remnants of an old prune dryer still remain on the grounds today. The first acre of their four-acre planting was considered an experiment?with 13 different clones and varieties to determine how each of the grapes performed?the Piluso?s now have Gruner Veltliner, Muller Thurgau, Viognier, Dolcetto, Tempranillo, Gamay Noir, Marechal Foche and Pinot Noir planted to vine. Their wines are all produced using estate fruit, except a Chardonnay dessert wine made in the ice wine style. To say the wines are lovely would be an understatement. They?re well balanced, interesting and complex in both aroma and flavor profiles with excellent structure and really showcase what this area is capable of producing? these are wines you?ll want to purchase by the case.

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Pudding River Wine Cellars|

Nestled against the banks of the river it?s named for,?Pudding River Wine Cellars?is owned and operated by the Bateman family. The 13-acre estate features a 100-year-old farmhouse and five acres of Pinot noir planted in 2003. The winery also sources grapes from nearby growers to produce small lots of Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Viognier. A testament to Pudding River?s accomplishments, they earned 90 points from Robert Parker and gold medals (from the?San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition?and?Oregon Wine Awards) for their very first vintage of Estate Pinot noir? clearly a winery that won?t be a hidden gem for long. Keep your eyes on this one; winemaker Sean Driggers is doing very interesting things in the cellar. He produces three different and noteworthy Chardonnays per vintage, varying only in method; a traditional barrel-fermented style, a stainless steel fermented (unoaked) version and a Reserve, aged two full years in neutral oak. Pudding River?s label, featuring a rooster in tribute to the poultry farm history of the estate, deems ?Life is good, the palate is pleased and the rooster crows again.? Clearly a motto this family can live by.

Alexeli Vineyard & Winery
Located in Molalla near the famous?Oregon Garden?in the East Willamette Valley,?Alexeli?owns and manages a 28-year-old, 18-acre vineyard planted to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gew?rztraminer and M?ller-Thurgau. Alexeli has made a firm commitment to a healthy planet, avoiding the use of pesticides and heavy metals in the vineyards? where they believe the wine is made. Their very memorable wines, made by Phillip Kramer, are worth crossing the river and traveling the bucolic back roads for. Producing less than 400 cases, a year they epitomize the term boutique. Their inviting patio and lake scream out to buy a bottle of?Bubela?s Blend?and relax a while? you may as well just give in.

St. Josef?s Winery
Romance, friendship and warmth abound at?St. Josef?s Winery?where you feel like you?ve walked onto the grounds of a European estate instead of a winery in Canby at the?End of the Oregon Trail. Owner and winemaker Josef Fleischmann, of Hungarian descent, extends his trans-continental hospitality and charm from his magnificent yet truly unintimidating tasting room. Producing wines meant to be affordably drinkable, Joseph produces five whites, five reds and he?s as quick with a joke as he is with the bottle. Enjoy the patio or lounge by the lake; the setting is like an engraved invitation you can?t refuse. With a host of summer events, as well as their traditional?Grape Stomp Festival?each Fall, St. Josef?s welcomes you with something for the whole family.

Battle Ground: Off the Beaten Wine Path

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Over the River and Through the Woods?

It?s true, I can be something of a wine snob. And a food snob, and a beer snob, and a coffee snob, and a music snob? I?m not proud, but at least I’m honest. What I am a sucker for though is high quality. So, when a good friend asked me where in Washington I was going wine tasting, my reply was Camas? Vancouver? I don?t know, it?s all the same, right? And in my narrow Portland bubble mind, if it wasn?t Eastern Washington or the Columbia Gorge, and I had to cross the Columbia River, it was all the same to me. That was until I visited SW Washington area for myself and discovered the rich tapestry of vineyards and burgeoning wine community in the rolling foothills around Battle Ground, Washington.

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Three Brothers Vineyard and Winery (Ridgefield)
You are immediately welcomed by the sounds of the cows mooing and the geese honking. As the farm country setting begins to soothe your weary city bones, you become acutely aware of how time seems to have slowed down from the moment you arrive. This family-friendly winery, with summer concert series and picnic grounds, is open for tasting Fri-Sun. Owner Dan Anderson, who has 25 acres planted, and grows six different types of grapes admits, ?The soil in SW Washington is just lousy enough for growing grapes.? And if you think about the rocky soil in parts of France and the caliber of wines produced there, you understand. With production ranging from 2000-3000 cases, depending on the vintage, guests will find something for everyone including sweet and vibrant whites to the boldest reds.

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Bethany Vineyards & Winery (Ridgefield)
Combine winemaker tradition with the ideal climate of SW Washington and what do you get? You get Bethany Vineyards and Winery. Owned by Walt Houser, who?s affectionately known as the grandfather of wine in Clark County, Bethany is situated on an 80-acre estate, half of which is planted to vine. Planted in 1999, Houser is now growing 10 varieties of vinifera, including Pinot Noir cuttings provided by Mo Momatzi of Oregon?s presitigious Maysara Vineyard. Bethany is experimenting with grapes not typically found in this area but well-suited for the climate, like Zwiegelt, an Austrian high-yield variety tasting of cherries, pepper, and currants. The stunning grounds, which include the vineyards, a lake, and an outdoor pavilion space crafted using mortise and tenon joint (and not a single nail), is the perfect spot to purchase lunch from the onsite caterer, buy a bottle of wine, and while away the day.

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Dolio Winery?(Battle Ground)
Dolio which is latin for ?barrel? is a great name for a winery that focuses on offering the five esstential Italian wines in one place; Sangiovese, Barbera, Dolcetto, Primativo, and Nebbiolo. And because whites do so well in Washington, they also produce Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, and Gruner Veltliner. Less than one acre of the five-acre estate is planted (with cuttings from Bethany Vineyards), sp owners Don and Pam Klase (who were actually high school sweethearts) buy 90% of what they produce from Benton City and the tri-cities, Washington. The Klases produced their first commercial vintage in 2013 and just opened their tasting room in 2015. Don will tell you he makes the wine he likes to drink. And much like this saying on the tasting room menu ?Wine, because no good story started with a salad?, Don and Pam will happily share stories with you all day long.

Olequa Cellars?(Battle Ground)
If you?re looking for unpretentious, I?ve got just the place. Olequa Winery (named for the type of soil the vineyard is situated on) is a small family run winery located due north of Main Street in Battle Ground. With a small tasting room adjacent to the owner?s home, it?s like tasting wine in the winemaker?s backyard. The dog, the kid, and the wife act as an informal greeting committee. Owner/winemaker/vineyard manager Brian Tansy is a chemist in the real world, bringing his scientific approach into the vineyard and cellar. The estate is planted to Marechal Foch, which is right in line with Tansy?s desires to work with more unusual grapes. Expect to taste wines like Cayuga, a crisp and citrusy food wine made from the French/American hybrid grown in Woodland Washington that Tansy finds to be high yield and settles well in the cellar. He also makes a delightful Ros? of Grenache/Mouvedre, Gr?ner Veltliner, Pinot Noir, Viognier, Chardonnay, and Dry Riesling, but beg him to taste the 2015 Gewurtraminer, if he has any left. Its captivating and hypnotic aromas of apricot, peach, and grapefruit will win every inch of you over.

Rusty Grape Vineyards?(Battle Ground)
A visit to Rusty Grape, the closest winery to Battle Ground, feels a bit like you?re a cool teenager hanging in your parent?s basement. It?s a little rough around the edges, but its homestyle atmosphere is welcoming to all and will immediately put you at ease. Owners Jeremy and Heather Brown have gone to great lengths to convert a former horse barn into a community gathering place where the whole family is welcome (kids included). And it?s the only winery in the county that?s open 7 days a week. With a large deck, community events, and daily food specials?like Mac n Cheese Monday, Taco Pizza Tuesday, and free pizza for wine club members on Sunday?it seems like there?s always something going on, and easy to see why they were Voted best of Clark County for six years running. Rumor has it they?re getting ready to remodel, building a separated designated tasting space and community areas. The Sailers have 2 acres of Pinot Noir planted at the winery, but source most of the grapes for their wines from Waving Tree Vineyard in the Gorge, as well as Prosser and Yakima, Washington. No visit to Battle Ground is complete with a visit to Rusty Grape. Fill your hungry bellies with scrumptious thin crust, wood-fired pizza and a tasty bottle Patina?s Recession Red or Rusty Grape Cider. Leave your inner wine snob behind, you?ll be glad you did.

Click here to read?more about the memorable wineries along the SW Washington Wine Trail.

moulton falls cider

The SW Washington Wine Loop?Not Just For Locals Anymore

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The locals might hate me for letting their best kept secrets out, but I just can’t keep this?to myself any longer! Poised at the precipice of Washington?s rugged Gifford Pinchot National Forest and the Mount St. Helens wilderness area lies an unlikely and emerging wine region. Scattered throughout the land and separated by rushing rivers, whimsical (and sometimes whopping) waterfalls, wild woods, and an abundance of hallowed hiking trails, lies the unassuming expanse of the SW Washington wine region.

From Vancouver to Camas, and Ridgefield to Battle Ground, the expanse includes urban wineries, suburban wineries, and those situated off the well-beaten mountain path. These wineries are all modest, down-to-earth, and completely unpretentious, so don?t be expecting palatial Napa estates. But don?t let the wineries? humble nature fool you, the wines speak for themselves, appropriately and with pride.

First stop (or last, your call)? sustenance. Whether it?s for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, a visit to the neighborhood Mill Creek Pub in Battle Ground will fill your body with hearty good food. Guests should expect a broad menu that supports local farms, breweries and distilleries, and consists of salads, pasta dishes, chef crafted burgers, and plenty of healthy vegetable-centered options. Yes, plant-based foods can be the star of the plate! The motto: Sustainable foods that are good for you, good for local business, and good for the earth. Insider tip: The weekend Bloody Mary bar is practically a meal in and of itself (with just about every hot sauce you can imagine)!

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The wineries await?

Heisen House Vineyards ? It?s like the little winery that could. Located on the magnificent historic 15-acre Heisen homestead, the winery is the past and the future of the land, all rolled up into one. The history of the estate is astounding. Built in 1866, the home and land had all but succumbed to the area?s encroaching blackberries. Owner Michele Bloomquist, who considers herself a historic preservationist first (though she?s also a winery owner, winemaker, and mother), saw the beauty and potential of the estate, and was inspired to rescue it from disrepair and the bramble that was swallowing it whole. She jokingly calls it a MacGyver winery, making wine with rocks and a couple of sticks, though you?d never guess that when you taste them.

Bloomquist?living in harmony with nature?makes wines by instinct and intuition, with a focus on natural winemaking and sustainability, minimal chemical intervention, and without the use of harmful pesticides. Which all boils down to the simple fact that you can feel good about the wine in your glass. Enjoy beautifully refreshing white wines, like Dry Muscat and Sauvignon Blanc, and swoon over the absolutely tantalizing reds, including Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon in the casual and comfortable tasting room. Your visit won?t be complete without a little conversation with the enthusiastic and friendly turkeys (Henry VIII and his two merry wives), and if you?re lucky, you?ll spot the elusive barn owl that resides in the lofty 100-year-old barn (one of the oldest in the county!). Bloomquist is a dreamer, and we should thank her for her vision. She?ll be the first to tell you that Napa started with a bunch of crazy dreamers too.

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Pomeroy Cellars ? Nestled in the enchanting Lucia Valley, along the Lewis River in Yacolt just beyond Battleground, experience a slice of the region?s history on this historic 100+ year old farm on a 677-acre estate (mostly used for cattle, hay, and timberland). Featuring an interactive living museum that depicts farm life prior to modern inventions like electricity, several times a year, children can experience what it was like to live in the early 20th century.

Winemaker Dan Brink crafts big red wines sourcing fruit from both the estate as well as prestigious vineyards like DuBrul in the Yakima Valley. Enjoy the well-balanced wines in the Brink?s grandparents? parlor, inspired by the 1920?s and featuring antiques from that time period. Though the family has a long history making fruit wines, Brink admittedly has no formal wine education. He says he?s driven more by artistry, experimentation, and experience. The family invites guests to bring their own picnics and enjoy them on the grounds during the warmer season.

Moulton Falls Winery and Cider House is situated on a pastoral setting in Yacolt. The spacious rustic barn is laden with wood and features antlers of all kinds. Big Jake the Cascade Mountain Dog will warmly welcome you to the family-friendly space that?s warmed by a classic potbelly stove and comfortable seating areas. Kids and grownups alike will enjoy the woodfired pizzas, music events (Friday and Saturday nights), expansive grounds, country setting, deer, elk, and even eagles. In fact, it?s become something of a neighborhood gathering place.

Owners Joe and Susan Milea started the winery on a whim (or was it a bet), and now source all the fruit for their wines from Red Mountain in eastern Washington. Wine highlights include: Big Jake Chenin Blanc, a Lemberger, a wine with an almost cult following from Kiona Vineyard, and Syrah and Sangiovese blend called Siouxon Red. And for those who aren?t interested in wine and offering something to appeal to everyone, Moulton Falls makes some damn tasty handcrafted ciders. Hang out long enough to learn the meaning of ?Yacolt? and the ancient stories of Ghost Valley.

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Instead of blowing through town on your way to or from the mountain, plan to stay for the day, or even a weekend, because there is plenty to see, taste, and explore. Recreational activities aside (because that?s a whole other article), there?s an abundance of boutique wineries (the small, laid-back kind where the winemaker is waiting behind the bar to tell you stories about the history of the county and about the wines), home-style restaurants, and craft breweries that make the area ideal for foodies, winos, as well as cider and beer hounds. Especially those who enjoy the?less touristy and under-explored areas. Squeeze in a few of those picturesque waterfalls to your agenda, and it?s a feast for all the senses.

If you really want to have some fun and let loose a little, bring some friends, rent a limo from Silver Limousine, and tour the area in style! And when you?re ready to call it a day, check into the unexpectedly charming Best Western Plus in downtown Battle ground. The comfortable, large, themed suites (I stayed in the Log Cabin Suite) give you a delightful place to call home while you see and do everything there is to see and do in SW Washington. So, don?t be afraid. Go on, cross the river, discover the undiscovered, and see what treasures await you. You?ll surely return again soon.

For more hidden gems along?the soon to be well-known?SW Washington wine region, click here!

oregon chardonnay

Clone Survivors: Oregon Chardonnay Thrives as Wineries Experiment

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Ask three different winemakers about which Chardonnay clones produce the best wines from Oregon, and you?ll hear three different opinions. From clones Dijon to Davis, from Mendoza to Draper, the roots of Oregon Chardonnay grow deep, and conversations about those clones runs deeper.

Most agree that Oregon?s early attempts at Chardonnay production were somewhat? (click here to read the rest of the story, on Oregon Wine Press)