Oregon Wine Tasting
When it comes to wine tasting, Napa California gets all the attention – hailing names like Mark West, Beringer, Kendall-Jackson, and so many more. In fact, (thanks to a Google search) more than 90 percent of all U.S. wine comes from California. However, I would like to shed some light on California’s cute little neighbor to the North, Oregon, as the place you should consider for your next wine tasting trip.
This whole idea started due to my obsession with Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. I’m not sure when it happened, but once upon a time during dinner or picking up a random bottle of wine at the grocery store, I stumbled upon a Willamette Pinot Noir, and it was love at first sip. After a few years of extensive wine drinking research, I discovered 2014 as being my favorite “vintage.” So, as my husband and I were planning a trip back home to the states for a wedding in New Mexico and a visit to see family in Washington, we started talking about a stopover in Oregon to explore the wine scene.
We landed to a deep grey sky and pouring down rain – a beautiful Pacific Northwest day. We booked an Airbnb for this trip to be outside the bustle of downtown Portland and stayed right off Alberta Street. This street is bustling with cafes, restaurants, boutiques, and bars. Our first night we ate at Gumba, a food cart pod that boasts some of the best Italian in Portland. This “restaurant” has a 4.8-star rating on Google and has rave reviews from Portland food magazines. I had the pasta carbonara. (The more you read my blog, the more you will learn that I am on a mission to find the world’s best carbonara.) Hubs had a short rib pasta. We went to sleep early to prepare for our wine tour adventure the following morning.
First, there are a plethora of car services for wine tasting in Oregon. After several days of research and emailing, we decided to book the tour through Black Tie Tours. They have a three-hour minimum, but we settled on four hours to ensure we could stop at three wineries. I will tell you up front; four hours was not enough. Our driver picked us up at 9:00 a.m. sharp and we went over the itinerary and he even offered to stop if we wanted to pick up coffee. He was extremely knowledgeable about Willamette Valley and told us that many of the drivers have been with the company for years and have established close relationships with many of the wineries. That fact was proven at our very first stop, Hamacher Winery.
Hamacher Winery is a family-owned vineyard which started in 1995. Eric Hamacher, the founder, was producing wines in California before moving to Oregon in pursuit of the perfect Pinot Noir. The tasting room was closed when we arrived due to preparations for harvest, but after the driver spoke with one of the employees, we were taken on a behind the scenes tour of the barrel rooms and wine rooms, and given a private tasting of some of the reserve bottles. Poof, an hour already gone and we were only at the first vineyard!
Next was Domaine Drohin , which is another family-owned estate with wineries in Burgundy, France and Oregon. The tasting room is two levels, and they have a wonderful outside patio area that offers stunning views of the rolling green hills of Oregon. They also have outstanding white wines, and I was blown away by the Chardonnay.
Our third stop, Domaine Serene , was our favorite tasting room experience. The tasting room sits on top of a hill that looks out over the expansive rows of grapes flanked by the Dundee Hills. You are immediately greeted by your own personal sommelier. There are two tasting menus to choose from, and we added a charcuterie board that is prepared by an in-house chef. While most wine tasting experiences have you standing at a long bar, this was personalized. We could have stayed at this winery for the rest of the day.
Last, we stopped at the Ponzi Vineyards. Ponzi holds a special place in my heart because it was the wine my husband and I had when we were celebrating our engagement. We discovered the winery was close to Domaine Serene and our driver said, “why not?” Ponzi recently opened a beautiful new space, Laurelwood, that includes a large outdoor patio and an all-glass tasting room. When we arrived, there was a large group at the bar, so we skipped the tasting and opted to enjoy a glass of Pinot outside. The tasting room was preparing to close, which made our time brief compared to the other wineries, but the Pinot was superb.
Once we arrived back to the Airbnb, we ordered a pizza and cracked open one of the many bottles of wine that were purchased that day.
I would be remiss to not mention, the next night we celebrated my husband’s birthday with dinner at a fantastic restaurant called Beast. A communal table setting with a pre-fix menu and wine pairings, Beast was a delight to our taste buds. You must have reservations and there are two seatings per night. The restaurant has a sister bar across the street, Expatriate, that is perfect for a pre-dinner cocktail.
Skip Napa and head to Willamette.
Oregon Top Three: