Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Willamette Valley - Take 2, Day 1

As many of you know, I've been planning a return trip to The Willamette Valley in Oregon for several months and now here I am. My friends, Wendy, Mara, and I arrived late last night and due to our East Coast internal clocks were up at 5am raring to go. Well, maybe less "raring to go" and more in desperate need of coffee as we had to kill a few hours before making our way to our first vineyard of the day.

We finally headed out to Ponzi in Beaverton, about 25 minutes from Portland and we were still a good 20 minutes early. Luckily, they let us in anyway. If I had one word to describe Ponzi, it would be acid. This is not necessarily a bad thing because acid can be a very food friendly property of wine (just ask any Italian wine maker). Some of their whites were a bit too acidic for my taste, but they were still well balanced. My favorite Ponzi white was the 2010 Pinot Blanc which had a lot of acidity that was mitigated by a softer, somewhat rounded body because a portion of its blend had been fermented in oak. Among the reds, we all seemed to like the 2008 Reserve Pinot Noir with its smooth body, subtle tannins and spice and oak notes. The great thing about Ponzi is they make a lot of good, classic Oregon wines that are not too expensive and available in many places. It's hard to go wrong with them.

After Ponzi, we continued our journe down into the valley with a stop at Montinore, another label I've always thought of as a good buy because their red label Pinot Noir is very tasty, available in many places and usually availabe for around $20, if not a buck or two less. Today, though, we were going to get some VIP treatment thanks to a hook up through my friend, Chaz and his excellent wife, Robin. We not only had a tour with the red winemaker, Ben, but we also got to taste whatever we wanted which included some really special Pinot Noir along with an excellent ruby port, some dessert wine that tasted like pineapple juice and a non alcoholic vermis they sell to a local jam maker, among others. Suffice it to say, I picked up a few bottles of ruby port, a few bottles of their Graham's Block 7 Pinot Noir (smooth, lush bowl full of cherries, spice and oak) and a few bottles of their Parson's Pinot Noir (mushroomy and gamey with a hint of peat moss - reminded me of a nice Cote Rotie). These are both very small production Pinot Noirs, so if you find one, just pick it up. 
From there we went to WillaKenzie, White Rose, Carlton Winemaker's Studio and Domaine Drouhin. I wish I had a glowing write up for each of them, but they didn't really stand out the way Ponzi and Montinore did.

WillaKenzie - Least enthusiastic wine room employee I've ever encountered. This woman put a damper in the entire tasting (well when she wasn't ignoring us as she surfed online). The wine wasn't great, but even if it was, I'm not sure she would have cared.

White Rose - Wines were o.k., but the best part of the tasting was the view from the winery.
Carlton Winemaker's Studio - I think we really would have liked this, but we visited right after lunch and we were full and tired and our palates were a bit tired. That said, they were pouring Retour Pinot Noir, which I've read a lot of rave reviews about. It lived up to the hype. Picked up a few bottles of the 2007. The 2008 was also really good, but completely different.

Domaine Drouhin - Coasting on their name. Totally skippable.

Our final visit of the day was to Erath, one of my favorites from my last visit. Dick Erath who founded the vineyard and still consults for them (he sold his namesake several years ago) is one of the original Oregon pioneers. They just started making a white Pinot noir which I really enjoyed.  Many purists think that white pinot noir is a gimic, but the Italians have been making it for years and I find it very interesting (and not in a "it's weird, but I feel I should be polite way.")  It drinks like a red - medium bodied, spicy, cherry - but with some more floral and nutty notes that are typically found in older whites. Really, really interesting in the best way possible. I love finding stuff like this in my travels.

Well, the lights are going down here a the Comfort Inn and Suites (we Wine-O-Crats would rather spend the $ on good wine).

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff or tour (uh, tomorrow),


Alli M.


elliej said...

Ponzi, eh? Sounds like a rip-off name, but glad the wine was good --

Alli M. said...

Just an unfortunate family name. Montinore, on the other hand was given that name because the original buyer if the land was from Montana and thought it looked like Montana In Oregon. We've heard that's not the case though I've never been to Montana. said...

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