Okay, I confess. I never understood the hoopla about Oregon wines. Usually, I would try them as one offs in the company of (sometimes dozens) of California examples, and so none of the Oregon offerings really shone for me. They seemed tight or flat or just plain wrong. My low point was without reading glasses selecting a Siduri Oregon Pinot for a blind tasting where my accidental tourist finished dead last out of a field of eleven with the equivalent score of an SAT candidate who got his name wrong. So although Luscious Lush Thea had to threaten me to get me to attend the PreWBC outing planned by the amazing Lynnette Shaw of Solena Estates.---talk about not knowing how lucky you are--- I am six kinds of glad Thea did! From the moment I got off the plane, Portland was a revelation of discoveries, camaraderie, hospitality, adventures, cheese and ---best of all---WINE! I found that spending a day of tasting the wines in their natural habitat and alongside similar bottles, the complexity, quality and delectability of all things Oregonian came flashing through and I was converted. I cannot wait to go back! The experience was so rich with discovery and delight, I can only encourage you to get to Oregon as soon as you can!
Meeting up with a group of intrepid local and imported Bloggers, we got our first two surprises: Voodoo Donuts and a real English Double Decker bus. Fortified with sugar, we took off for the Willamette Valley where we visited Solena Estates first. There we met both Laurent and Danielle Montalieu (owners and winemaker) and learned the great story of how they started Solena (each of the vines in the pictured vineyard were wedding gifts) and even better got the experience of tasting through samples of divine Pinot. In the cool depths of the Solena caves, we were invited to barrel taste Pinot Noir samples from all over Oregon side by side in two barrel treatments. Hyland! Yamhill-Carlton! Guadalupe! Med Toast! I scooted from barrel pair to barrel pair energized by the thief in my hand. The experience was like watching Fourth of July fireworks in that I kept being surprised and delighted by each subsequent sample more and more in different ways. And the grand finale? The finished products masterfully paired. Can you say, "heaven"? Yes! Fresh corn soup with diced fingerling potatoes, pancetta and a refreshing 2008 ElvenGlade Chardonnay. I will be
looking for this food friendly wine in restaurants from now on. And my favorite pinot had to be the 2007 Solena Guadalupe Pinot Noir. From there we were off to Soter Vineyards where my favorite was the 2006 Beacon Hill Pinot Noir which has interesting notes of menthol in initial aroma, followed by flavors of spice, chocolate, coffee and a lovely dark cherry finish. Tony Soter and James Cahill were there to regale us with stories as infused with history and humor as I was infused by their tasty offerings and sweeping vistas. I particularly liked their take on the clonal varieties. I heard many great stories of clonal selection with such definite specificity in my Oregon travels, but at Soter, they used fruit from a vineyard that had 80% of its planting were an unnamed heirloom clone Complex flavors that evolved in the glass. Yum! From there, on to Anne Amie on a hillside so steep some plantings dip below the AVA line. Great stories from winemaker Thomas Houseman and intriguing wines including Muller Thurgau ( a grape developed in Germany as a cross between Riesling and an unnamed local grape) and cool white blends. Thomas also busted out an aged Riesling from 1992 and invited us to imagine where we were in 1992---probably more interesting for him as he started as a Modern dancer in New York and came to Oregon via a love of brewing and an apprenticeship in Mendocino. But to live in the present ---a wonderful wine with petrol, honey, white flowers, sinuous texture.... And of course, fabulous Pinot Noir. After a full day of delicious, I found myself with a serious Oregon wine addiction. To cap the day off, the amazing Mary Cressler, sommelier, educator and Blogger invited the lot of us to her place for smoked BBQ pork butt. Gathered in her backyard with delightful food, great wine and best of all the fabulous company of other bloggers, I blissed out and sighed in delightful anticipation of not only the WBC to come and new discoveries in yet another state, but also to planning a return to Oregon, whose bounty of European inspired wines, abundant hospitality and natural beauty galore inspired me to leave behind all snark. So many thanks to Lynette Shaw, Mary Cressler, Solena Estates, Soter, Anne Amie all my fellow bloggers! Oreogon IS for Pinot Lovers!