Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Willamette Valley Vineyards: Oregon Winery Visit
Willamette Valley Vineyards is a shining star in the Oregon wine scene. We were able to experience the sparkle first-hand during the recent Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland.
The winery and underground cellar are carved into an ancient lava flow. The volcanic, glacial and sedimentary flood soils plus ideal orientation, elevation and grade add up to unique growing conditions. The red, oxidized iron soil is similar to the top terrains in Burgundy. This suits founder Jim Bernau very well indeed, since his focus has been on producing classic, elegant Pinot Noir.
Perched on a hill overlooking rolling vineyards, the winery features an airy tasting room and a deck with panoramic views. After savoring a glass of crisp 2010 Pinto Gris we entered into the coolness of the tank room. As we were guided through the winery production area, we were able to sample wine from all four vineyards used in Willamette Valley Vineyards wines: the Estate Vineyard, Elton Vineyard, Tualatin Estate Vineyard and Hannah Vineyard.
During a special tasting two years ago our tasting team was blown away by the Elton Vineyard Pinot Noir. Being able to taste the wines while winemaker Don Crank III explains makes every glass taste so much richer. Our crew was divided on which was best, but I cast my vote for the Tualatin Estate Vineyard. The complex flavors blended floral, vanilla, coffee and spice flavors.
Emerging from the cellar, we moved into the tasting room for a sumptuous wine dinner featuring Sherry Braised Chicken with white truffle wild mushroom and Fontina cheese and Dungeness Crab Fritters with shaved fennel citrus salad and mustard aioli. We enjoyed two Pinots with the meal: the 2011 Whole Cluster and the 2009 Estate Pinot. The whole cluster Pinot is a young wine that can be described as “liquid fruit salad.” It is bursting with vibrant flavor. Of course plenty of refreshing Pinot Gris was close at hand.
The Estate Pinot is the flagship wine, hitting all the flavor notes for a rewarding experience. Displaying cherry pie, oak and chocolate flavors it is a rounded wine that is perfectly balanced with a long finish. This is the essence of an elegant Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.
We rounded out the dinner with a nice flourless chocolate torte with raspberry coulis and candied hazelnut. This was paired with a 2010 Tualatin Estate Muscat that matched famously with the rich dessert.
WVV wines are recognized as world class and the winery was named the 2011 Winery of the Year by Wine & Spirits magazine. WVV is the leading producer of Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine and participates in the Salmon Safe program which has a goal of reducing in water runoff which feeds salmon streams.
Willamette Valley Vineyards sits on a lofty perch indeed.