Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Willamette Valley Organic Wine Tasting Fun!

By TravelGirl:
So, you’d like to go on a wine-tasting tour, and your mind automatically goes to Napa Valley or Sonoma, right? Of course it does! Did you ever think of venturing to Oregon Wine Country? The Willamette Valley boasts some of the region’s best organic wines.

We had the opportunity to visit three wineries over Thanksgiving weekend, during what is becoming an annual event for us. Pour. Swish. Taste. Repeat. YUM! This year, we took on the theme of organic wines (read Skinny Bitch, and you’ll understand more about my transition to organic wines!) and assembled a trek that took us through two wineries in the Ribbon Ridge region of the Willamette Valley, followed by a visit to Lemelson just three miles east of Carlton, also in the Willamette Valley.

Our designated driver this year was TravelGuy himself, Alex. Leaving my mother’s house in Tualatin meant we’d have a fairly short drive out to Styring Vineyards, a small, family-run vineyard in Tualatin. Our $5 tasting feed included five tastings. I must say my favorite was Shameless, not because the winery had a plethora of Shameless t-shirts for sale for him and her, or because I think I have no shame, but maybe because they are pinot makers who made a cab. I really don’t know, as I’m not a wine connoisseur, just a girl who appreciates a decent wine. Styring offered semi-sweet chocolate, wafers, crackers and cheese to help cleanse our palates in between tastings. Does food really work to cleanse a palate? Oh, who cares? The cheese was good, the owners of the winery were mingling and available, and we learned the trick of cleaning with Everclear. Yes, Everclear. Styring produces organic wines not as a marketing tool, but as a lifestyle choice. Not only do they forgo the use of pesticides on their grapes, but they use Everclear as their primary cleaning agent. Hmm. Makes ya think, eh?

From Styring, we headed south a few short miles to Brick House Vineyards. Sing it with me now; she’s a brick… hoooouuuse. Brick House is an organic farm most noted for their Pinot Noirs. The ambiance at Brick House was rustic with a true Northwest charm and scent, however, we felt like sardines in a nightclub! The place was so packed that it was difficult to move from tasting to tasting, or simply to relax and chat and enjoy the surroundings of the lodge-like abode. The wine itself featured Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Gamay Noir and was quite good. For their $15 tasting fee, we received an Oregon Pinot Noir Glass and six tastings which included wines, cheese and honey.

Lemelson Winery was our last destination, saving the largest for last. Our $20 tasting fee included 20 tastings (yeah, that’s right), an Oregon Pinot Noir glass, and bottomless servings of gourmet cheeses. I think I consumed as much cheese as I did wine! So much for giving up cheese, as I think I made up for my last several months of avoiding real cheese. Lemelson had the most variety of wines available (after all, they own seven estate vineyard sites, all of which are certified organic!) for tasting as well as the most knowledgeable and friendly staff. Their variety of pinot noir seemed endless, but that could be because we tasted just about every pinot they handcrafted! We could have spent the entire time just chatting and sipping pinot with the owner as we closed the place down, and were guided out of the side entrance because the main doors were locked at closing time.

With bounces in our steps and giddiness in our hearts, we left the valley and headed back into town recapping our full day of wine spectating (can I say that even though I’m just learning to note a fruity tone and an earthy finish?) and cheese consumption (ok, I can easily say I’m an expert in this!).

Though most of the tasting rooms in the Willamette Valley are closed over the Christmas holiday, you will find that most are normally open 4-5 days per week. The next time you’re considering a wine getaway, skip CA and check out Oregon Wine Country. The Willamette Valley will not disappoint. In fact, it will surprise and delight you!

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