Hitching a Ride on the Oregon Trail
Willamette Valley Vineyard

Remember the video game "Oregon Trail"?

Is it true that no one ever made it to Oregon?  Many brave women, men, and children endured the challenges of the voyage to the lush and verdant Willamette Valley in search of a better life.  While today’s Oregon winemakers and vintners are far from being white-topped wagon pioneers, they are blazing a trail in a region of the country that shares so much in common with Burgundy while still being unique and deserving of exploration.  Wine making in Oregon does not have as long a history as it does in California or other parts of the country.  Fortunately for us, farmers and producers are making up for lost time, and Oregon wine is becoming increasingly regarded and valued around the world with each new vintage.

Is this Burgundy 2.0?

Not quite – and that is not a bad thing at all! The similarities between the two regions are striking, as they share comparable climates, are well-suited to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and each region places a great emphasis on wine making that takes place in the vineyard rather than in the winery.  However, they are also separate wine making regions, and comparing Oregon to Burgundy diminishes the qualities that distinguish Oregon as a unique and excellent top wine region.

Great Wines

The Eyrie Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir 2018

Eyrie is a true pioneer amongst Oregon winemakers. This vineyard began in 1965 and is found in the Dundee Hills AVA. This is a family owned operation with five vineyards on the estate property. The vineyard was founded by David Lett who moved to Oregon with big ideas about creating a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay region in the Willamette Valley. Both in the vineyard and inside the winery, the team takes a more hands-off approach and allows the true character of the grapes to come through.

We tasted the Eyrie 2018 Estate Pinot Noir. This one is a blend from all 5 estate vineyards which are organically farmed. Production yielded 1,885 cases and the wine was aged for 22 months on 8% new oak.

Once in the glass, this wine was a nice ruby color that showed some legs when swirled. The wonderful aromas could be picked up as the wine got closer to the nose. There were rewarding smells of red plum, raspberries, dark cherry, cranberry, and even a note of forest floor. Once tasted, the palate gave way to strawberries, cranberries, cherries, a touch of spice, and gentle tannins that were soft like velvet.

Le Cadeau Red Label Pinot Noir 2016

With a bit of age, the 2016 pours a restrained ruby color into the glass with an intense quality due to the aging time in new French oak (11 months in this case). Right from the start the wine smells of red fruit including strawberry, red cherry, and raspberry, with some highlights of oak. What a pleasure. The palate is just as rewarding with notes of plum, red cherry and macerated strawberries. This wine will pair well with poultry, earthy mushrooms, and pork loin.

Le Cadeau Vineyards is located in the south end of the Chehalem Mountains AVA and was founded in 1996 by Deb and Tom Mortimer. Today the vineyard is planted with 16 acres of pinot noir and a variety of clones. This winery is very focused on making wine that gets most of its characteristics in the vineyard. The team has gone to great lengths to match the clones planted to the soil types giving their wines a true sense of Oregon terroir.

We tasted the 2016 Red Label Pinot Noir. This wine is a blend of 10 different barrels from the estate with a yield of 248 cases.

Colene Clemens Vineyards Margo Pinot Noir 2018

The Colene Clemens Vineyard is located near the edge of the Chehalem Mountains and Ribbon Ridge and was founded in 2005 by Joe and Victoria Stark. They founded the vineyard to make exceptional Pinot Noir and they are definitely headed in that direction! The vineyard is planted with 60 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and several of their wines remind us that this is a family business with names taken from grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

We tasted the 2018 Margo Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir. There were 1,671 cases produced and is sourced from a few different vineyard blocks on the estate.

This wine poured a nice bright purple color into the glass. There were hints of strawberry jam, cranberries, and licorice on the nose. The wonderful scents gave way to a palate that impressed even more with flavors of strawberries, ripe red plums, red cherry, and a hint of spice. This is a very good wine that would go well with a crisp roasted chicken or skip the meal and settle in for a night in front of the fire with this bottle to keep you company.

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