While we were down visiting family in Portland in May, my cousin and I decided to do an afternoon of wine tasting in the Willamette Valley. After Megan and I visited Chehalem Winery, we headed to another winery in McMinnville: Walnut City WineWorks. Jon and I had visited a few years before, at the recommendation of Jon’s grandfather, and they had some really good wines, so I was excited to try them again.
Walnut City WineWorks is a custom crush facility that provides a production facility for several wine labels: Walnut City WineWorks, Bernard Machado, Carlton Hill, Z’IVO, Lundeen, Genius Loci, and Robinson Reserve. What makes Walnut City WineWorks different is the fact that they are actively involved in vineyard management for the various labels, and all the labels are sold in the tasting room. The Walnut City label produces about 6,000 cases per year, and when you combine all the labels the production is about 12,000 cases per year. They are located in a historic brick building right near downtown McMinnville; I’m sure that it used to be an industrial facility of some sort. It has been nicely renovated with a modern and tasteful decor, although it is a bit dark inside.
Our server for the day guided us through a selection of their wines from a few of their different labels. We began with the Walnut City Hodge Podge, a white blend of Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Riesling and Auxerrois. Wow, that’s quite a blend! I certainly picked up a lot of the Gewurztraminer in the wine, but overall I thought it was a bit too sweet for my taste. Megan really liked it though. After that, we tried the 2011 Z’IVO Pinot Blanc. Unfortunately, I didn’t write any tasting notes on this wine, and I couldn’t find any online, but I liked it enough to buy two bottles (I’ll have to crack open a bottle soon to give you some better tasting notes on this one!)
We also tried the Z’IVO Charly, which is a blend of 75% Gewurztraminer, 20% Pinot Gris and 5% Viognier. Again, I thought the wine was a bit too sweet, but Megan loved it (she declared it to be her favorite) and went home with two bottles. Next we tried the 2012 Walnut City Rose, a Pinot Noir Rose made in the Old World style. It was dry and crisp and absolutely delicious. The 2011 Walnut City WineWorks Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is the largest production at the winery, with 4,000 cases produced. It was bright and tart, with a light mouthfeel and a soft, elegant structure. I really enjoyed it, but it is certainly a very delicate Pinot.
We also sampled the Bernard-Machado 2007 Pinot Noir. Our server explained that this wine is only produced in years of great grapes, which was confusing to me because I have heard that 2007 wasn’t such a fantastic year in Oregon Pinot – the cool, wet season led to wines that are much softer and more delicate than other years – characteristics in Pinot that I personally love, but not everybody does. This wine exhibited more of the earthy, forest floor flavors, and it was good, but not outstanding, and it didn’t warrant the $36 price tag for me.
The Walnut City WineWorks 2008 Pinot Noir Reserve was more up my alley. Spice, black cherries and cola dominate this wine that was barrel aged for 18 months and bottle aged for another 24 months. It won a Gold Medal at the Great Northwest Wine Competition, a new competition where the judges aren’t professional tasters, but rather people working in the wine industry in Washington and Oregon.
We finished off our tasting with a Lundeen wine, the 2008 Rogue Valley Syrah. The grapes are sourced from the Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon, which has hotter, drier summers and and is known for growing the hot weather grapes. That said, this Syrah is nicely balanced, and was described as a Syrah for Pinot lovers. The flavors of blueberry and blackberry are accented by just a hint of dark chocolate.
Megan and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit, but of course I didn’t think to take any photos. We did take some wine home with us – we got a case between us and the server was kind enough to allow us to ring the orders separately and still apply the discount. If you have a chance to visit, you won’t be disappointed. And be sure to let me know what you think!