An impromptu visit to the Willamette Valley wineries

Some of the best trips are the ones you don’t plan. Before I came home from Portland last Thursday, I decided to travel to the Willamette Valley and tour a few wineries before I headed back to Seattle. Oregon is best known for its pinot wines. The only problem with this fact is that’s all they tend to have. So after 6 wineries or so, your palate will feel like it’s been assaulted! Nonetheless, I was able to come home with 9 great wines including a sparkling wine!


First stop on the trip was to Rex Hill. When I walked to the tasting room, the first thing I noticed was the front door. Inside the tasting, quickly learned that things have certainly changed over the past two rooms. One thing you should be prepared for is the high tasting fees in the Willamette Valley (Around $10). The second thing you should be prepared for is the fact that this fee is only waived if you buy a case of wine in most cases. Cases of wine in the Willamette Valley don’t come cheap either as most of the wineries poured most of their highest priced wines. Now, this doesn’t apply to everyone, but that is the biggest thing I noticed. Nevertheless, I did enjoy my time at Rex Hill and managed to leave with one bottle. I would’ve bought a couple others, but I needed to spread the wealth around if I wanted to cover more ground.

Rex Hill 2007 Willamette Valley Oregon Chardonnay
The 2007 REX HILL Willamette Valley Chardonnay is true to vintage and variety. We ferment in neutral oak and small stainless steel barrels giving the wine enhanced lees contact. This results in a rich texture while maintaining bright acidity balanced by natural fruit sweetness and minerality. Complex aromatics and flavors of nectarine, roasted vanilla bean, lemon verbena and white pepper create a versatile food wine.

One of the best things about a wine trip is stumbling onto a winery that’s not found on the map. Sometimes these wineries can be a pleasant surprise while other times, they’re not on the map for a reason. The Four Graces was definitely one of those wineries I was happy to find. The lady pouring in the tasting room was very friendly and told me all about the winery. I spent about an hour there talking about wines, life, and family. I will be back to The Four Graces this summer and I highly recommend you visit the winery. I would’ve walked away with more, but I managed to purchase these bottles:

The Four Graces 2008 Dundee Hills Pinot Gris
True to the varietal, this Pinot Gris is deliciously bright, fresh and crisp. On the nose asian pear, lemon, and honeysuckle greet you. Granny Smith apples, key lime and red grapefruit open up on the palate. Characteristic of the vineyard, there’s an interesting minerality and acidity on the palate balanced by soft floral aromas. The silky finish and fresh, full mouthfeel are indicative of a great Pinot Gris.

The Four Graces 2007 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Earthy and elegant, fruit forward with smooth, expressive tannins, this wine bears all the hallmarks of a great New World Burgundy. Reminiscent of wild mushrooms and blackberries, damson and warm red roses, the 2007 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is vibrant and delicious yet has the soft, focused tannins to suggest aging with grace. Over 10 months in French oak contributes a velvet softness without masking the lovely red to black fruit characteristics. Deep, bright ruby with purple rays. The aromas are quintessential Oregon Pinot Noir.

Argyle was the surprise of the trip. Not only does Argyle produce some nice wines, but they also produce some great sparkling wines. Instead of trying their wines, I decided to do the sparkling wine tastings.  I have to say, the most interesting of the sparkling wines I tried was the Argyle 2006 Black Brut. I wasn’t really sure if I liked it because I haven’t tasted anything like it. After a few tastes, it definitely grew on me. While I could’ve tackled the Black Brut, I decided to play it safe and take home this bottle:

Argyle 2006 Brut Sparkling Wine (Willamette Valley)
An Indian Summer followed by late harvest lent exciting structure to the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir used to make this 2006 Argyle Brut. The color is that of pale yellow diamond, pre-harvest wheat field or plumeria alba. The aromas are honeysuckle, Mutsu apple skins, casaba and soft vanilla, followed by hints of allspice and red currant thanks to the Pinot Noir component. This 2006 Brut is highly effervescent in the mouth and brings a classic, stony minerality complimented by lemon zest, currant and a late, savory yeast that coats the palate for a long, pleasing finish.

Maresh Red Barn Winery is a nice stop to make in the Willamette Valley. This winery is in a classic red barn that overlooks the Dundee Hills. The views are incredible and the wines are all affordable. I do not have tasting notes for these wines so you’ll have to try them for yourself. I did walk away with these bottles:

Maresh Red Hills Vineyard 2008 Pinot Gris (Yamhill County)
Maresh Red Hills Vineyard 2007 Chardonnay
Maresh Red Hills Vineyard 2007 Pinot Noir

Erath Winery was my final stop on my tour and one of the best. If you’re ever in the area, this is the one winery you must come to. After paying large tasting fees all along the tour, I was pleased to hear that Erath offers 4 complimentary tastings in addition to their paid tastings.  Besides seeing what new wines Erath was offering, there was another reason why I came to Erath. I needed to recover a wine bottle I purchased a few years ago! To my disappointment, there are only 6 bottles of this wine available and they’re saving them for wine club members 😦 Erath did make up for this by offering me a complimentary taste of all of their wines 🙂 I spent the rest of the evening here and walked away with a few bottles:

Erath 2008 Oregon Pinot Gris
Swirl this glass of sunshine and invoke bright fresh aromas of banana and honeydew melon. Savor the tropical fruit, lemon and floral notes that are seamlessly balanced with a clean lift of acidity, enlivening the palate and encouraging a gratifying length of flavors.

Erath 2008 Quail Run Pinot Blanc (Southern Oregon)
Luscious fruit infused aromas of peach, banana and Meyer lemon are intriguingly scented with aromatic lavender. Guava, minted melon and a hint of toasted hazelnut envelope the palate with full and rich abundance, yet the invigorating acidity refreshes and extends the flavors long after the first sip.

Erath 2008 Sweet Harvest Pinot Blanc (Dundee Hills)
Spiced banana and honey scents lead to flavors of peach pie and hints of blood orange.

Another great trip in the books, hope some of you can make it on the wine trip so we can explore these wineries and more!


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