One of the things that anyone who has ever blogged before knows is that it is like exercise… once you stop it is hard to get started again. I have had a ton of different things that I wanted to post, but the majority of them are longer entries and I haven’t had the time to sit down and write for an extended period of time. I am going to make an extra effort over the next few weeks to write a few.
As anyone who has read this blog before knows, I love wine and particularly Pacific Northwest wine. Last year, Beth Ann and I organized a wine trip to Walla Walla and this year we wanted to do something different so we organized a trip to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Great Pinots in addition to a fantastic city – Portland – as home-base. How could you go wrong?
It all started Friday afternoon. After a quick 3 hour drive down to Portland, our first stop was a microbrew joint where we could warm up our taste buds with some of Oregon’s finest homebrews at Bailey’s Taproom.
The next morning we got up early and hit the road at around 9:30am in two 18 person white stretch hummers. Is there any other way to transport 32 of your friends around to 6 Willamette wineries? It was a beautiful bluebird day, and we started out at Argyle where we were set up at a few tables outside and proceeded to taste some nice white wines, a few different champagnes, and their Pinots. It was a great start but I could tell that people were wondering if Willamette had the picturesque vineyards similar to Napa and Walla Walla. Our next stop – Domaine Drouhin – was a good intro to the Willamette countryside.
#2 on the wine trail was Domaine Drouhin and was it spectacular. Not only were the views from the winery stunning, but the wine was tasty, and we were able to do our tasting in the bowels of the barrel room. Among the 5-6 wines we tasted, my favorites were the 2005 Domaine Drouhin Laurene Pinot Noir and the Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet. While they were clearly on the pricey side, I thought that they were worth the value and I ended up purchasing them both.
The 3rd stop was Sokol Blosser where we stopped for lunch and for some less expensive, everyday drinking wines. I had pre-ordered sandwiches from Elephant’s Deli in Portland and they both hit the spot and perfectly complemented some seriously good value wines like the Meditrina red blend and the Evolution white blend.
After lunch, we were ready to step our game up a little bit and the next stop was a personal recommendation by my friend Greg Harrington of Gramercy Cellars in Walla Walla. Carlton Winemaker Studios was the place. Greg recommended Carlton because they make quality wines, but also because of the principles on which the studio was founded. From the website:
The idea behind The Carlton Winemakers Studio was to create a space where artisanal wine producers could come together under one roof and have access to a state-of-the-art, gravity-driven, efficient facility which would not only produce, but also promote their ultra-premium wines: all this without the extremely high up-front cost of building individual production facilities.
The winery is not in the hills and thus not extremely picturesque, but it had a cool little patio where we sat in the sun and enjoyed the lovely afternoon while tasting wines from 6 of the ten different wineries. My personal favorites: Hamacher 2007 “H” Pinot Noir, the Andrew Rich Vintner 2007 Rousanne, and the Carlton Winemakers Studio 2007 Malbec.
By this time, we were falling behind on the itinerary, but we still had two wineries left and I didn’t want to miss out on either of them. Willakenzie was next so we boarded the Hummers and headed back into the hills. People were definitely starting to feel the effects of all of the wine, but that didn’t stop them from buying a few bottles of the H “for the road”. Looking back on it, it was clear that we didn’t know what we were in for because when we arrived at Willakenzie, we saw that the tasting menu was 9 different wines. Each of them was fantastic and the views of the vineyards were gorgeous (see pic on the left). It might have been the wine, but I left with a bunch of new purchases including: Pinot Gris, Pierre Leon Pinot Noir, and the Kiana Pinot Noir.
The final winery was a special one for me because it is owned by the family of one of my brother’s best friends from college – Mike Medici. His grandfather, Hal Medici, started Medici Vineyards in 1976, and it is one of the oldest vineyards in Willamette. Wow, were we lucky. Hal was there and he not only did he give us a personal tasting but he gave us a tour of his facilities where Medici’s winemaker – Peter Rosback – also makes Sineann, a Oregon cult wine. Hearing his passion for wine, entrepreneurship, and family brought tears to everyones’ eyes, and we left feeling like some of the luckiest people to have gotten such an intimate glimpse into his life. Plus, we tasted some amazing wine. If you can get your hands on Medici and/or Sineann wines (they are hard to find), definitely pick some up and consider yourself lucky.
The ride home after the wine tour was a sight to behold. Lots of people napping in preparation for a 5 course pre-fixe meal at Andina. The food at Andina was delicious, filling, and for $60 per person very reasonable. It was the perfect place for group dining, and it looked like it would have been just as good if not better with a smaller group as well.
While some people went back to the hotel to pass out after dinner, I wanted to get the full Portland experience so we went to the Doug Fir and sat around a fantastic outdoor firepit and recapped the hilarious stories and events of the day. Too much fun…
All in all, a great weekend of good wine, good food, and good friends. The only issue is going to be finding a place to top it for next year’s wine trip!
For anyone planning a trip to Willamette, you can see our full itinerary here (thanks to our insane trip planner/advisor Beth Ann) or by clicking on the SkyDrive image to the right. Let me know if you have any questions though.
We have taken a few other trips to Willamette and here is another great itinerary that we put together for smaller groups of people: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BzB0oQXdtzXNWERieWIzTUxQajg/edit?usp=sharing