Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Willamette Valley, Take 2, Day 2

A few weeks ago I wrote about a fantastic pairing dinner I'd attended featuring Evening Land wines.This morning, we had the fortune of getting a private tour of their Seven Springs vineyard, where they grow all of their fruit, followed by a private tasting with the West Coast sales and marketing manager, Ken.

I'm tempted to give you the blow by blow account, but I don't want to make you jealous (or put you to sleep - as fascinating as I am, no one wants to read a novel when they visit a blog). In a nutshell, we spent 2 hours touring some of the most beautifully pruned vines I've ever seen and then 30 minutes tasting and discussing some of the best wines I've ever had. I'm not a paid spokesperson for Evening Land (though I'd gladly take that job) nor am I embellishing. This was simply the best vineyard tour I've been on. Moreover, Evening Land is one of the few vineyards where I genuinely loved every wine I tasted. I have my favorites (La Source Pinot Noir and Mad Hatter Chardonnay), but I have yet to dislike anything they make.

On Ken's advice, we spent the rest of the morning in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, the region Evening Land is in. In Ken's completely unbiased opinion, this is the best region in Oregon and he recommended we visit Cristom and Bethel Heights.

After our fantastic experience at Evening Land, I was actually worried that no matter how great the region, we wouldn't like an other place we visited because it couldn't live up to what we'd just had. I should have known better because Ken just flat out knows his stuff. He even made the perfect recommendation for lunch.

At Cristom we tried several Pinot Noirs, most named after female members of the family who makes the wine. Among Eileen (smokey, spicy, structure), Jessie (gamey, smooth with a savory beef note), and Marjorie (pepper, cherry, very smooth with some savory notes), Marjorie was my favorite though I would like to see what Jessie is like in a few years. All were really tasty and interesting in their own way so if you stumble across one, pick it up. It's on the expensive side, but I think well worth it. I've tasted several Pinot Noirs that were as expensive and more expensive with half the complexity. It was a great tasting room experience (thanks Gerry or Jerry) and I was glad we weren't let down after our fantastic morning.

We followed up Cristom with another great experience at Bethel Heights. I also have to give some credit to my friends, Laura and Josh, because even before Ken had recommended Bethel Heights, Laura had raved about it to me so it was already on my list of hopeful visits.

Bethel Heights had a really lovely Rose, but for me, the real treat was the Flat Block Pinot Noir. It has a lot of red berry fruit on the nose and palate with some nice acid structure, though a medium finish. I'm interested to see what happens with it over the next few years. If you find me in 2013, 2014, I may just share some with you when I open up a bottle.

Unfortunately, the rest of the vineyards we visited during the day were letdowns, except for a final last minute, on a whim trip to Winter's Hill when our GPS inexplicably turned us around while searching for a different vineyard. I found their Pinot Noirs to be a bit unbalanced and too alcohol-y, but they make a wonderful and very reasonable Rose for $15 per bottle. It's got the lovely light body and strawberry notes that you look for in a good, classic Rose. they also had a really lovely Muscat. It's a dessert wine so it's sweet, but not cloying. Plus, the nose smells like a garden bouquet and who can resist that? 
As for the rest:

Bergstrom: Good $45 Pinot Noir. Too bad they sell it for $75 - $80.
Adelsheim: Nice, not great. Also, what happened to the wine pairing with chocolates?
DePonte: Sad to say that I think my palate has gotten too snobby for you. Plus, you should probably air condition your tasting room. It's not fun to taste in an 80 degree room.

Tomorrow we're going to hit a few more vineyards and then head out to the Coast. On Friday, thanks to the genius that is Wendy, we will be having dinner with Ben Thomas, the red winemaker from Montinore who was our tour guide yesterday. So even though we'll be out f wine country, stay tuned....

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff (a.k.a tomorrow),

Cheers,
Alli M.

6 comments:

elliej said...

Evening Land sounds sensational. I wonder if we can find it back here.

Alli M. said...

They are planning on bottling twice the amount of fruit this year so if you can't find the now it's only a matter of time. AND I truly believe they will be able to maintain their quality when they up their production. They have the space and the talent.

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