Here in the valley, the sun rises around 5:30am. At that time the stillness and serenity is gracefully interrupted by birds chirping and welcoming the morning sun. Brian and I spent the morning having coffee under the pine tree in the middle of the vineyards – the weather was brisk with great sunshine.
Today we had a driver parade us around town and provide industry insights along the way. We spent our day in the Dayton area. Our first stop was Domaine Serene. You may have heard – their Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir made #3 on the Wine Spectator List of Top 100 Wines of 2013. We were greeted by Doris, who provided us a private tour and tasting. This was the first gravity flow wine making facility we experienced, but it wouldn’t be the last! Many wineries use gravity flow here. Let’s discuss. Remember previously when I mentioned that Pinot Noir is a finicky grape? It must be handled with extreme care during the entire wine making lifecycle. High quality Pinot Noir requires gentle handling at every stage of its development. In a gravity-flow winery, grapes fall naturally into the fermenting tanks, and wine moves gently from the fermenters to the aging barrels. Mechanical pumps are rarely used. Instead, the multiple levels of the winery exploit the force of gravity to move grapes and wine softly through the processing steps. See this sketch as an example.
We continued on by walking in the vines and taking in the stunning views of the Coastal Mountains. We then sat on the patio and had a full presentation of the wines. All the wines are elegant and the tender care the grapes experience during all stages of the wine making process come through as true finesse on the palate. I loved this place and my favorite was the Evenstad Pinot Noir Reserve and the Evenstad Chardonnay.
We then ventured off to Domaine Drouhin (literally just across the street)! Talk about more spectacular views – we were greeted by Kelly on the patio and she graciously pointed out that because it was a clear day, we could easily see Mount Hood and Mount Jefferson.
We enjoyed another leisurely tour of the gravity flow facilities. The winemaker here is Veronique who travels back and forth from Beaune in Burgundy to Oregon (to learn more about Beaune, read about my Burgundy adventures here). Domaine Drouhin owns 140 acres of vines in Burgundy and is an established wine producer there. Because the harvest times are most often different in each region, Veronique can serve as winemaker in both places. Plus, during the aging process for the grapes, the staff has been known to cold ship Veronique samples from the barrels so that she can analyze and direct the assistant winemaker in Oregon. After our tour, we sat at a private table where we did a comparative tasting of Oregon wines and French Burgundies. It was a fun, educational (and nerdy!) tasting to do. The grapes are the same (even the same clones), the winemaker is the same – the only variables are terroir and weather. The Oregon Pinot’s will always display more fruit and a hint of eucalyptus while the Burgundies maintain a hearty earthiness that I love. I know it’s not attractive, but the best description is barnyard, and I love it. Something only found in old-world Burgundies.
Our last adventure for the day would be at Archery Summit. Here, we had a Barrel Tasting scheduled with Bud down in the barrel caves. Once downstairs, I almost had to pinch myself. These caves replicated the caves I visited during my adventures in Burgundy. This is by far the best (if not only) cave system in the Willamette Valley.
We tasted 2013 Pinot Noir’s from eight barrels. We tasted from different vineyard sites and always compared barrels with different grain and from different forests as well as different chars (or toast levels) on the barrel. We also blended some barrels, to create unique flavor profiles. This is something winemakers do often, do devise the best combination that eventually goes into bottle. My favorite vineyard site produced by Archery Summit was the Red Hills. Brian’s was the Arcus Estate. I tried to convince Bud to just sell me the Red Hills barrel. Unfortunately, he just laughed and walked away. We had so much fun with Bud, and he seemed to be enjoying our adventurous wine tasting banter because we didn’t end our tasting until about an hour and a half after closing time. Time really does get away from you in the caves.
After heading back to the cabin to relax and cleanse our palates with some bubbly, our driver whisked us off to the Joel Palmer House. This place is known for its mushrooms/truffles and was out of this WORLD. Our meal here goes down in the top 10 meals I’ve had in my lifetime. We did the mushroom madness tasting menu and had an amazing 2 1/2 hour dinner. We drank the 2005 Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir which was perfectly balanced and exuded Pinot finesse. We had Chef Chris do a photo opp for us and then had him sign the menu. This is what everyday should be like.