Sub-regional revolution (Willamette Valley, Oregon – Day Two)

It’s safe to say that wine regions in the USA, much like in Australia, are big. This makes it difficult to categorise a region as having a certain style or characteristic. This is partly because there are differences in approaches to winemaking, but mostly because there are countless micro-climates and differences in appelation and site within a broad region. The size of the region also means you are covering a large distance when you are visiting, and getting from one appointment to another in time can have complications.

Having tasted the Bergstrom Pinot Noir with Mark Bixler from Kistler, and also noticing its reference in Vertical (new Rex Pickett book), I was intrigued to visit the winery. It’s a relatively new player but has been gaining serious attention from consumers and media alike. This doesn’t surprise me as the wine style is definitely in the more robust and full spectrum. Lot’s of black forest fruit and dark cherry with dense tannin structure. These are wines that in a group of pinots in a blind tasting or wine show would stand out. They are expressive of their location in the Chehalem Mountains AVA, which is characteristically elevated marine sediment soils. The gentleman tasting next to me was clearly a devoted follower, as he was buying at least six dozen bottles.

Bergstrom Winery Block Pinot Noir 2009

The team at Elk Cove had invited me to join them for vintage lunch, so I was in a bit of a hurry to get there on time as I didn’t want to miss out. Elk Cove was the first winery to be established in the Yamhill-Carlton sub-region, way back in 1974. Since establishing they have grown to be one of the most important producers in Northern Oregon, owning vineyards covering 220 acres. Like the vast majority of the Willamette Valley, Elk Cove is proudly family owned and operated, the winemaker Adam is the son of Pat and Joe Campbell that established the estate. Pat makes a mean lunch, a delicious feast of mexican-style faire pork ribs and tortillas, which all the trimmings. Enjoying the good food and discussion we were late in starting the tasting of some fantastic wines, and I ended up being a bit late for the next appointment. I was sad to leave Elk Cove in such a hurry, but I’m sure our paths will cross again.

Elk Cove La Boheme Pinot Noir Vineyard

Similar to Elk Cove, Adelsheim Vineyards was the first winery established in the Chehalem Mountain AVA in 1971, by David and Ginny Adelsheim. Again much like Elk Cove, they have grown significantly in stature and size, now totalling 190 acres of vineyards. The winemaking facility is pretty large, when I visited they had a lot of vats of pinot noir fermenting and macerating. Many other wineries haven’t started vintage but Adelsheim are almost half way through. They make a number of wines, including an Auxerrois which is very sharp on the palate, i.e. high acidity. The pinot noir wines are very generous and soft, and some of the labels feature beautiful drawings as you can see below.

Adelsheim Elizabeth and Caitlin’s Reserve wines

Getting late I could only fit one more winery in, and it had to be close. A former assistant winemaker at Rex Hill Winery, Lynn Penner-Ash established her own winery with her husband Ron Penner-Ash in 1998. She had previously worked at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, the famous winner of the 1976 Paris Tasting. The winery and estate are located on a hill in the Chehalem Mountain district, and has an amazing view, as you can see below. The wines are pretty full-on, dark and earthy. Not heavy per se, but products of the 2009 vintage being quite warm. I was very apprehensive about the pinot syrah blend, but was shocked to discover it was a great wine, and great value at $20. One of the tasting room hosts was interested to hear of my recent studies, as she is considering studying wine marketing at Adelaide University.

The view from Penner-Ash winery

Check out some of the other photos I took on this day by clicking here.

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