Sunday we started our day at the Lafayette Schoolhouse, which used to be a school, but is now an antique mall. It was originally built in 1912, so the three story building itself has tons of character. Jon shopped around inside for a little while, but then went back outside to listen to music in the car. Which left me to wander around and look at everything, without someone hovering impatiently. I found a few Howard Pierce figurines, including one little baby quail, that is almost identical to a set of two quail I already have. Pretty exciting to find a baby that matches and completes the set! I know my mom was jealous, because every time I tell her that I’m going to the Lafayette Schoolhouse, she tells me how she has never been there. Someday mom, you’ll just have to come wine tasting with us. I’ll take you to the schoolhouse!
After I got my antique fix (thanks Jon!), we decided to try out Domaine Drouhin. We’ve been talking about their wines for ages, and had never been (we tried to go once at Thanksgiving or New Year’s Eve – can’t remember which – but they were closed that day). So it was finally time. They are located at the top of the hill, with a beautiful view of their vineyards down the hill. When we arrived, we were immediately wowed by the beautiful architectural details in the tasting room – vaulted ceilings, huge windows looking out on the vineyard, and exposed wood beams. There were a couple other couples there at that point, and we settled in for our tasting. They had 3 wines – a Chardonnay and 2 Pinot Noirs. The Chardonnay was very nice, with a light oak and excellent body. Their 2009 Pinot seemed very soft to me. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it a lot, but it seemed to be a “drink now” wine, rather than one that would last for future drinking. The 2008 Pinot Noir was more robust and was very enjoyable, but the price was steep at $65.
Now, Domaine Drouhin in France was founded by Joseph Drouhin, and his grandson first visited Oregon in the 1960s during a trip to market the French Drouhin wines. During this trip, he became convinced that Oregon could grow amazing Pinot Noir. The winery in Oregon opened in the late 1980s, with Joseph Drouhin’s great-granddaughter as the winemaker. So it was interesting when our server offered us a taste of the Domaine Drouhin French 2009 Pinot Noir. And we were sold. For a reasonable $25 a bottle, this wine is excellent! By this time, the place was filled to the brim with couples on a limo tour, so we made our purchase and ske-daddled before Jon had a nervous breakdown about the crowd!
Our second stop was Argyle Winery – another winery that we have talked about a lot but never visited. Argyle specializes in sparkling wines and also does some Pinot Noirs. When we first got there, the place was pretty quiet, but it quickly filled up. I decided to do the sparkling wine flight, and Jon went with the standard flight, which gives you a mix of regular and sparkling wines. The result? I thought that the sparkling wines were very nice, although I definitely preferred the sparkling wines that used Pinot Noir as the base wine, rather than Chardonnay. And I thought the $25 bottle – the Argyle Brut – was just as good as their $50 bottles. To top off my tasting they let me try the Black Brut, a 100% Pinot Noir sparkling wine. I had received an email about it, and was very excited about trying it. But to be honest, I really wanted to like it more than I did. It just lacked something – a sweetness I suppose. Jon wasn’t blown away by any of his wines either, although we did both like the Minus Five Riesling Dessert wine quite a bit. They did have a beautiful setting though, in a historic farmhouse with a nicely landscaped garden.
By this time we were starving for some lunch, so we went across the road to the Red Hills Market. It is deli style, with tables to eat in and kind of a general store atmosphere where you can buy deli goods and gift items. Even real Vermont maple syrup! I had the American coppa pizza, which was only $12 and was big enough to share, and Jon had a mushroom fennel soup. This. food. is. amazing! I would be such a market junkie if I lived there! But we had to get back on the road to continue our tasting tour.
The next stop was Chehalem. Always a home run. Chehalem does all their wines well, and it is always such a treat to visit. I have given the longer review in other posts, so I won’t rehash it here, but one interesting development is that Harry, the winemaker, decided to restyle the Cerise, which has been a blend of 80% Gamay Noir and 20% Pinot Noir. For the 2010 year forward, it will be a single varietal Gamay Noir. The new vintage is delicious, but unfortunately, since it uses more Gamay, which they don’t have that much of to begin with, there will be fewer cases available for those cult followers like me. I’ll have to make sure I stock up….
Then we headed up the hill to August Cellars – a co-op style winery that shares winery space and equipment with other small wineries. They were tasting their own wines the day we visited, and we were impressed with the lineup. I liked the Baco Noir, which is a hybrid grape that is planted in small quantities in southern Oregon. Sadly, the winemaker explained that he doesn’t think he’ll be getting Baco grapes again, so the bottle we bought might be the only one I get. Oh well, that’s always the challenge, to find the next great wine!
Artisanal Wine Cellars was the last stop on our mega-tour. We discovered Artisanal Wine Cellars when we visited August Cellars on a previous trip, because Artisanal is one of the wineries in the co-op. Last year, Artisanal opened their own tasting room in downtown Newberg, and it is open until 7 pm! As I have written before on this blog, the owner and winemaker is a science guy, and it shows through in his wines. New wines included a Pinot Blanc (very tasty), and a Tempranillo that Jon really enjoyed. I love their Gamay Noir Rose, called Evangeline, named for the owner’s daughter, whose middle name is Evangeline. Artisanal’s first crush was in 2005, so they are a fairly new winery on the scene. This is a winery that we will continue to visit for a long time to come! The tasting room is located in a historic building in downtown Newberg, and the staff are friendly and chatty. I also spent a bit of time talking to another customer who has visited the Okanogan Valley in BC, so he gave us some recommendations on wineries to visit up in that neck of the woods. Too many trips, too little time!
At this point, we had reached major wine burnout, so we had dinner and went back to our room to enjoy some quiet time. Jon fell asleep early again, and I stayed up watching TV. Unfortunately, there was a trucker catching some ZZZs at the hotel, and his refrigerator semi was outside my window. Those suckers are loud! When he finally left sometime about 3 am, I was finally able to get some rest.
The last day of our trip we got up and moving slowly, sleeping in until almost 9. It was nice. We stopped in briefly at the Factory Outlet Mall, and did a little shopping before we had to head on our way.
A stop to visit Jon’s friend from high school took us to the Hedge House, a restaurant owned by the Lompoc Brewing Company. It’s in an old house that has been converted to a restaurant, and they really want to make it a gathering spot for the locals – they have open mic poetry and other special events in the evenings. It seems like a neat place to have in your neighborhood. I hadn’t heard of Lompoc beer, but I was pleased with the Condor Ale that I had. And their PABST sandwich really hit the spot. And no, that’s not a beer sandwich – PABST stands for Provolone, Avocado, Bacon, Salad Greens and Tomato. YUM – a million times better than Pabst beer!
After a too short visit, it was time to get on the road, and brave the traffic towards home. Can’t wait until next time!