23 August 2011

Willamette Wine Weekend

This past weekend, George and I took a little get away to the Willamette Valley in neighboring Oregon. We didn't have a particular reason for going, but I'm so glad that we did. Few and far between are the days we get to spend together...just the two of us. It was nice to have time for serious conversations, hoping and dreaming, and being completely silly. I didn't think that it was possible, but at the end of the weekend, I love my husband even more than I did last Friday.

We started the weekend at our favorite Italian restaurant: Piazza Italia. It's run by an Italian family, and each time we've been there (4 times and counting) the father has been there dancing with flirty customers and the daughter has been there running the show. We love the food, wine, and ambiance. It's a good thing that it's in Portland, otherwise our waistlines would be significantly larger.

We tasted wine on Saturday and Sunday. We usually have some reason for going to a particular winery, and I generally judge experiences based upon the surroundings, the wine, and the character of the characters at the winery.

On Saturday, we started at St. Innocent. We enjoyed a bottle of Pinot Noir made by St. Innocent at our first anniversary dinner at Canlis. Unfortunately, the same bottle of wine is not available any more, and, while good, none of the wine really spoke to me.

The folks at St. Innocent suggested that we try out Bryn Mawr after we expressed interest in Tempranillo. Bryn Mawr is a hidden gem. It overlooks a beautiful valley and produces some very tasty wine. My mouth waters every time I think about the wonderfully sweet but refreshing rose they made in 2010...not to mention their Pinot Noir. Because it was so quiet and off the beaten path, we got to spend our tasting chatting with the owner, Jon.

From there, we headed to our non-negotiable (and the reason for the trip, if there was one): Eyrie Vineyards. Our friends, Sam and Brian, introduced us to Eyrie back in 2009 while tasting over Memorial Day. That day, we met and received a personal tour from the winemaker, Jason. He described himself as just another type of farmer, and that image has stuck with me. Jason took over the winemaking at Eyrie from his father, David, who made my favorite bottle of wine to date: 2004 Pinot Noir Reserve. Of course, Eyrie was tasting some amazing Pinots and some pretty good white wines as well.

We rounded out the day at beautiful Anne Amie. The patio outside the Anne Amie tasting room may be my favorite place to spend an hour. The folks at AA make some great inexpensive table wines. They make some fancier things, too, but George and I find ourselves loving their Cuvee Pinot Noir year after year.

On Sunday, we started at Elk Cove. We dug out the menu from our wedding and discovered that we served Pinot Noir from Elk Cove with the main course of our wedding. The grounds and tasting room at Elk Cove are beautiful, but we didn't love the wine. There's a trend with this sentiment and the first taste of the day...maybe we need to skip the toothpaste before tasting - just kidding.

Then we went to Panther Creek, which is in a beautiful old warehouse in downtown McMinnville. A few bottles of Panther Creek fueled some of our wedding week festivities, so we have lots of happy memories surrounding Panther Creek. Indeed, they still make a great and peppery Pinot.

Sokol Blosser is a staple in the Valley, and it was the first Oregon wine I tasted years ago when visiting our friend, Tracy. They have a great view over the Dundee Hills and make excellent, approachable white and red table wines. I must admit that we tend to gravitate toward smaller operations, and this one felt a bit commercial.

We ended our trip on a very high note. We made reservations to taste at Soter after recalling that they made the sparkling bubbles we served at our wedding as a champagne alternative. The tasting took place in the second home of the winemaker, and I could move there in a minute. The view was spectacular: 360 degrees of rolling hills of vineyards and farms. The wine was spectacular, too. We had a lovely chat with Halle over bubbles and some bold Pinots that are going to be even better in 5+ years. Of course, we came home with some bubbles for future anniversaries.
It was hard to come home after such a fabulous weekend, but we'll keep the memories with us for a long time to come.

1 comment:

Janie said...

Wow. Fabulous weekend. I'm jealous!!! Looks like a lot of fun and the scenery is beautiful.