Tag Archive | Willamette Valley

President’s Day Weekend 2020

It’s late, and time for bed, but I just wanted to check in.  I got home a few hours ago from a wonderful, fun, relaxing, energizing weekend in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  Jeff and I spent the weekend at Champoeg State Park in a little cabin; it was just what I needed.  Here’s to a short work week!

P.S. And a happy belated birthday to my favorite President, Abraham Lincoln.


Argyle Winery Conducere, 2011

Argyle released one of its vintage sparkling wines, a 100% Chardonnay sparkler with a hint of minerality, and lots of cream on the palate.  Upon popping the cork, this wine has lots of bright bubbles, but they fade quickly to a light effervescence in the glass.

It has flavors of cream, butter, and is a rich sparkling wine with just a hint of stone and minerals. Several of the reviews that I read talked about its minerality, but I didn’t pick up much of that.  One review said it tasted like a Big Hunk candy bar, but I certainly didn’t get any of that.  I’m not even sure that I have had a Big Hunk candy bar…

2011 Argyle Winery Conducere – 100% Chardonnay

To me, it tasted more like what it is; the sparkling version of a Chardonnay.  Granted, Oregon certainly goes more for the unoaked variety of Chardonnay, but this one certainly has that light butter taste.  Flavorful, delicious, and certainly worth picking up a bottle if you can find it around.  It is sold out at the tasting room.

Happy Weekend!


Stoller Family Estate 2015 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

With our cold snap continuing here, I went for a walk with a girlfriend this morning, stopped by the grocery store and then spent the rest of the bright, sunny, below-freezing day doing some early spring cleaning.  Rearranging, purging the old, deep cleaning, tossing old paperwork to be recycled or shredded, and hanging artwork that hasn’t seen the light of day in awhile.  It felt good to be motivated to get some more meaningful housework done.

I had some crockpot chili that I cooked up the other day, and felt like splurging a bit on a nice bottle of wine tonight.  I opened up the Stoller Family Estate 2015 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir.  It has a nose and flavors of light smoke and earth, with dark cherries and overripe blackberries.  With heavier tannins than many Pinot Noirs, it held up to the strong flavors in the chili.  I loved this wonderfully robust Willamette Valley Pinot!

Stoller Family Estate 2015 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

Stoller Family Estate 2015 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

I got mine during Safeway’s 30% off all wines over $20 sale, that they run in November (and December?).  You get an extra 10% off if you buy 6 wines too (mix and match is fine).  Fortunately for me, my brother lives in Oregon, so I stopped by their local Safeway to see what they had before heading out to drive home last time I was there.  Unfortunately for me, this is the only bottle I got of this one…

Stoller doesn’t have it on their website, although they do have the 2014 vintage.  I assume that means that they already sold out.  If you can find it, grab it!  It is delicious!

Stay warm!

2010 Airlie Winery Joie de Vie

I got this wine at last year’s Willamette Valley Bubbles Fest.  A 2010 vintage that had been hiding in the wine fridge, due to its crown cap (I kept thinking it was a cider!), I opened it last night, and was very pleased.

Creamy with a lot of yeast on the palate, it has flavors of ripe apple.  It has tiny bubbles that quickly dissipate, releasing a bright acidity.  I think I opened it at just the right time!

It was produced in the Méthode Champenoise, disgorged in house, and resealed with the crown cap.  In searching Airlie’s website, it seems that this is the only vintage of a sparkling wine they have produced – what a shame!

2010 Airlie Winery Joie De Vie

2010 Airlie Winery Joie De Vie

Sadly, this was my only bottle…  But I loved every sip.

King Estate: Pinot Gris

Even as the weather is turning cold and stormy, I was craving a white wine.  Luckily I had a few on hand, so I uncorked a bottle of King Estate 2011 Pinot Gris.

King Estate is one of the larger Oregon wine producers, located in Eugene Oregon.  They have four lines of wines; King Estate Signature, King Estate Domaine, Acrobat and NxNW (North by Northwest).  Their winery and tasting room also contains a fine dining restaurant, and they offer tours of the wine facility.  I haven’t been there, because we generally try to visit the smaller producers, but it looks to have a lovely patio with a pretty view of the vineyards.

King Estate Signature 2011 Pinot Gris

King Estate Signature 2011 Pinot Gris

The 2011 King Estate Signature Pinot Gris is a nice Oregon style Gris, aged for 5 months in stainless steel.  It has a crisp, bright acidity and a peach and pineapple nose.  The flavor is tart balanced with sweet, with flavors of crisp green apple, and a touch of lime.

The perfect kind of wine for a hot day on the patio.  The kind of day I wish weren’t nine months away…  Cheers!

There’s Smoke in My Glass – Yamhill Valley Pinot Noir

A couple of evenings ago, I cracked open a bottle of the 2009 Yamhill Valley Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir.  I picked this bottle up on my May trip to Portland at the local Safeway.  May is Oregon wine month, and they all sorts of specials at the Safeway, so I took the opportunity to try some Oregon wines that I haven’t sampled before.

This wine is a bit darker in color that the typical Pinot Noir, with a distinct smoky nose.  When I say distinct – I mean the smoky nose in this bottle could reach a hand over and knock you down.  The flavor of the wine is bold and powerful, with strong notes of tobacco, earth and more smoke.  Jon’s eyes lit up when he tasted it, because he thought it was so smoky that I wouldn’t like it.  He gets excited about the prospect of more for him when he likes a wine.

Yamhill Valley Vineyards 2009 Estate Pinot Noir

Yamhill Valley Vineyards 2009 Estate Pinot Noir

I drank it over a couple of nights, and it held up nicely.  The smoke flavor did soften quite a bit on the second evening, but it was still very evident.  Overall, this wine was good, but not amazing.  It will certainly appeal to people who like a bold, robust Pinot Noir.  Connoisseurs  who flavor a more delicate, cherry flavored Pinot won’t like this wine as much.  But, given the price (I believe it was $14.99), you can’t go wrong.

Oregon Wine Tasting – Chehalem Best Barrel Day

On our full day in Portland, my cousin Megan wanted to spend the day doing some wine tasting in the Willamette Valley.  My mom volunteered to be our designated driver, so we made plans to visit a couple of wineries and spend the day socializing and trying some new wines.  Being from Michigan, Megan had never tried tried Oregon wines before, so she was looking forward to experiencing something new.  To be honest though, I was a little concerned because Michigan wineries tend to make much sweeter wines than the wineries on the West Coast.  I wasn’t sure if Megan would like them!

After catching a bit of my nieces’ T-Ball game, we headed over to the Willamette Valley and made our first stop at Chehalem Winery.  Chehalem is one of my absolute favorite wineries, and I was super-excited to be there because it was Best Barrel Day.  Best Barrel Day is a special event that Chehalem puts on each year in May, the weekend before Memorial Day weekend.  Jon and I are wine club members, one of the very few wine clubs that we belong to.  The Best Barrels are available only to club members, and they are only available for tasting this particular weekend (they might taste them again the next weekend – Memorial Day – if there is still enough available).

Megan and I began our tasting with the commercially released whites.  We began with Inox Chardonnay, which is a wonderful crisp stainless steel aged Chardonnay.  This is a fantastic white wine, that is consistent year to year and always a crowd pleaser when we have guests over.  The Corral Creek Riesling is a great Willamette Valley Pinot Gris, with just enough sweetness.

Chehalem Barrels - Waiting for Some Wine!

Chehalem Barrels – Waiting for Some Wine!

After tasting the whites, we went into the cellar to taste the barrels.  Chehalem produces several single vineyard Pinot Noirs and a single vineyard Chardonnay each year, and every year, the winemaker selects one barrel from each wine that exemplifies what that particular wine is supposed to be – the best barrel.  The best barrel is then aged and bottled by itself and sold in 6-packs to wine club members.  The five wines were:

  • 2012 Stoller Vineyards Chardonnay – this wine is aged on oak, so it is a bigger, bolder Chardonnay than the Inox, which is made from grapes from the same vineyard.  It is wonderfully balanced between fruit and oak, with flavors of honey, pear and floral notes.
  • 2012 Corral Creek Vineyards Pinot Noir – Corral Creek Vineyard is the Chehalem vineyard that produces the softest, most elegant Pinot Noirs.  They are some of my favorites.  This barrel is excellent, but this years Corral Creek grapes are more robust than typical, with a bit more earthy flavor than normal.  It still has light tannins and the cranberry and cherry flavors that I enjoy so much.
  • 2012 Stoller Vineyards Pinot Noir – This wine is very big, with a much darker purple color that a typical Pinot Noir.  It is very spicy  with much heavier tannins than many Pinots.  This was my least favorite barrel of the bunch.  That said, as the wine is not finished aging, I have every expectation that this wine will transform into a beautiful Pinot – Chehalem’s wines always do.
  • 2012 Ridgecrest Vineyards Pinot Noir – This Ridgecrest Pinot Noir came from a block planted in 1983, and shows moderate tannins, some blackberry mixed into the cherry, and some light spice flavors (is it oregano or thyme?).  This wine was my favorite from the five barrels.
  • 2012 Wind Ridge Vineyards Pinot Noir – Wind Ridge is a smaller section within the Ridgecrest vineyard, and has characteristics that are similar to the Ridgecrest barrel.  There are the same flavors of blackberry and spice, but a bit more pepper and earth than the Ridgecrest vineyard barrel.  It was hard to choose the favorite between this one and the Ridgecrest, but this one came in a close second for me.

It was always interesting to taste from the barrel – these young wines will change a lot before they are finally bottled and sold, but you can taste the beginnings of what they are going to become.  After the barrel tasting, we headed back out to the event tent, where we got to taste the bottled versions of the Pinots that were recently released – 2011.  The bottlings were the commercially released wines, so essentially, we were tasting the versions from all the barrels from the vineyards that were not selected as the best barrel.

Even though these aren’t the Best Barrels, these wines are certainly nothing to turn your nose up at!  The 2011 Corral Creek, Stoller, and Ridgecrest Vineyards Pinot Noirs are all excellent, and Megan and I enjoyed them immensely.  They were served with some gourmet hors d’oeuvres, which paired nicely with the wines.

Even though we don’t often have the opportunity to visit Chehalem, their events are always second to none.  They make you feel welcome and valued when you visit, and I always have a great time.  Still at the top of my list for wineries!

Note: I apologize for the lack of photos on this post – I was enjoying myself so much that I neglected to take more pictures…  I will try to do better next time.

2010 Elemental Cellars Auxerrois

Tonight I’m drinking a varietal I’ve never tried before.  Jon and I were down in Seattle a few months ago and stopped in one of the downtown wine shops.  We were perusing the selection, and we decided to each select a reasonably priced wine that we had never tried before.  This was my pick, for $15.99.

I opened the wine without looking up anything about it first – I wanted to try it without anything affecting my perception first.  The nose is a light, toasty butter, and it is a nicely balanced mix of crisp minerality and butter.  It reminded me a lot of a Pinot Blanc.  After googling Auxerrois, I learned that it is a grape similar to Pinot Blanc (yay for my tastebuds!) and is also the grape used in French Chablis (I might have to buy some Chablis now).

Elemental Cellars is the side project winery of Steven Westby, winemaker for Witness Tree Vineyard.  The grapes are sourced from Zenith Vineyard, which sells grapes to some of the best known Willamette Valley wineries, including Adelsheim, Ponzi, and St. Innocent.  Apparently this block of Auxerrois is the oldest in Oregon.  I haven’t tried Witness Tree Vineyards wine either, but after tasting this wine, I will have to make sure to try them too at some point soon.

2007 Archery Summit – Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Premiere Cuvee

Jon and I decided to open this wine to honor Martini’s memory – she always wanted the best meats – our fancy steaks, prosciutto, chicken, so it only makes sense that we should honor her with something nice.

Jon and I purchased this bottle on our second trip to the Willamette Valley in December 2009.  Archery Summit is located in Dayton, Oregon, at the top of a ridge that provides amazing views of the countryside.  When we were there in winter, the view was still beautiful as we looked down the hill in the fog, but I can imagine that the view is gorgeous in the summer when the vines are leafed out and growing.  The tasting room is quite classy, with a beautiful tasting counter and cozy feel.

The wine contains grapes from all 5 of the Archery Summit vineyards; Arcus Estate, Red Hills Estate, Renegade Ridge Estate and Archery Summit Estate in the Dundee Hills AVA, and Looney Vineyard located in the Ribbon Ridge AVA.

2007 Archery Summit Willamette Valley Pinot Noir - Premier Cuvee

2007 Archery Summit Willamette Valley Pinot Noir – Premier Cuvee

Upon first opening the bottle, I took a small sip and found that it tasted very closed off with a strong taste of alcohol.  So, we poured it into the decanter and then left it to breath for about 90 minutes.  After we came back to it, we found that it had really opened up nicely.  It has a nose of dark cherry, earth and smoke.  On the palate, the wine is heavy with smoke and tobacco flavors, balanced with the same black cherry fruit.  Although most 2007 Pinots are softer and more delicate than other vintages, it is not so with this wine.  This Pinot Noir is bold and robust.  I certainly enjoyed it.

My second glass had opened up even more, and was even more balanced and delicious than the first.  So my recommendation is that you decant this wine for a couple of hours before drinking.  On the second day, it was slightly softer, but it still had the same balanced flavor.  This was a fantastic wine!

2009 Joseph Drouhin Chorey-Les-Beaune

Today I went Christmas shopping with my mom while Jon was at work.  Although we didn’t end up going to the antique shop we intended to, I did get some of my Christmas shopping done for Jon and my father-in-law.

When I got home, I tried out a new recipe for Green Olive and Feta Meatballs.  I served them simply, with some Spanish rice.    They turned out really well, and it is certainly a recipe I will make again!  I was looking for a wine to go with our meal and I pulled out a bottle of 2009 Joseph Drouhin Chorey-Les-Beaune.

This was a wine that we purchased in the Willamette Valley, when we visited Domaine Drouhin Winery.  It is a French wine that they imported to the winery to show the similarities and differences between the Maison Drouhin’s French and U.S. winery operations.  For those of you like me who have trouble reading French labels, Beaune refers to the appellation in France where the grapes are grown, and Chorey is the French village where the vineyards are.  It is located in the Burgundy region, which is known for its Pinot Noir wines.


On the nose, there are scents of smoke, tobacco, and cherry.  The flavors are of cherry, smoke and a light spice.  We liked this wine during our visit, and it didn’t disappoint now.  Well, that’s not quite true.  The disappointment was in the fact that we drank the last bottle!

Feta and Olive Meatballs

1 pound ground beef

1/2 cup chopped green olives

1/2 cup crumbled feta

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1/2 cup chopped onion (I would say these are optional – I didn’t use them, and they turned out great!)

2 eggs

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, then shape into 16 golf ball sized meatballs.  Place a couple inches apart on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.