New Discoveries in Willamette Valley

Spend a weekend here sampling Oregon's new pours.
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Oregon and the Willamette Valley AVA have established their oeuvre with Pinot Noir, but their repertoire is growing. A newfound love affair with Oregon Chardonnay has received notice in The New York Times, and several dedicated winemaker evangelists, such as Rollin Soles of Argyle Winery, are touting the joys of Oregon sparkling wine. Southern Oregon, a drier, sparser landscape that looks more like the Blue Mountains of eastern Washington than the Red Hills of Dundee, is producing a surprising array of varietal wines—Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Malbec and even Syrah. (Find southern Oregon wineries at sorwa.org.) A surprising diversity of wine and a spectacular array of restaurants and accommodations are the latest delightful discoveries on the Oregon Trail.

Standout Wineries
Sparkling is the latest story in Oregon, and the epicenter is the venerable but ever-relevant Argyle Winery (691 Highway 99W, Dundee; 503.538.8520, ext. 233; argylewinery.com), smack dab in the middle of the tiny town of Dundee. Founded by the inimitable Texas transplant and sparkling-wine guru Rollin Soles, Argyle also produces superb Pinot Noir and Chardonnay still wines, but sparkling wine is his passion, and the wines show it. Domaine Meriwether (88324 Vineyard Lane, Veneta; 541.935.9711; meriwetherwines.com), named after the explorer, have quietly been producing outstanding bubbly since 1998, creating four different styles that go with a variety of foods, from shellfish and salmon to pork and duck. Oregon winemaker Tony Soter of Soter Vineyards (10880 NE Mineral Springs Road, Carlton; 503.662.5600; sotervineyards.com; tastings by appointment) is making premier Pinot Noir, but his luxurious sparkling wines are much in demand, with their freshness of fruit, bright acidity and mineral backbone.

WHERE TO EAT
Start your day with a fabulous gourmet breakfast at the Black Walnut Inn (9600 NE Worden Hill Road, Dundee; 503.538.8663; blackwalnut-inn.com), made with eggs from the inn’s own hens and organic produce from its garden. For lunch, stop at The Dundee Bistro (100-A SW Seventh St., Dundee; 503.554.1650; dundeebistro.com), a local favorite for its wine-country feel and fresh local cuisine. Dinner fare at The Allison Inn & Spa’s world-class, 100-seat restaurant, Jory (2525 Allison Lane, Newberg; 503.554.2526; theallison.com), named after the igneous-derived soil of the vineyards of the Willamette Valley, features choice, sustainably raised Oregon meat and produce, an extensive collection of Oregon spirits from craft distilleries, and an amazing wine list focusing on Oregon and hard-to-find wines, with an impressive 50 wines by the glass.

WHERE TO STAY
Nestled on a hillside in the Red Hills AVA, the Black Walnut Inn (9600 NE Worden Hill Road, Dundee; 503.538.8663; blackwalnut-inn.com; $185–$495) offers top-notch service, luscious views of its own vineyards, and a collection of well-appointed, cozy suites with a European vibe. Check into the sun-filled Tower Room, and you may think you’re in Tuscany and decide to stay. There’s even an “Elopement” package for couples who want to escape for an intimate affair. Several excellent wineries (Erath, Winderlea) are just down the road, making this the perfect headquarters for wine touring. A luxury inn with all the amenities in the middle of wine country, The Allison Inn & Spa (2525 Allison Lane, Newberg; 503.554.2525; theallison.com; $315–$1,100) boasts luxurious suites; wedding packages; salon and spa services including massage, steam and sauna; and a swimming pool. Wander The Allison’s gardens, play golf, take a hot air balloon ride over the vineyards or tour some of the Willamette Valley’s 200 wineries. The Allison is truly the new gold standard for Oregon wine country travel.

MUST-TRY WILLAMETTE VALLEY WINES
Argyle 2008 Brut Rosé, $50
Argyle 2001 Extended Tirage Brut, $60
Meriwether 2000 Prestige Rosé Cuvée, $40
Soter 2006 Brut Rosé, $44
Amity 2009 Willamette Valley Chardonnay, $58

Dig Deep Into Wine at the Northwest Wine Encounter

Dig Deep Into Wine at the Northwest Wine Encounter

An intimate affair for wine lovers who get their geek on over things like the impact of soil, weather, terroir and altitude
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A flight of wine awaiting tasting at one of the educational panels

If you love good wine—really good wine—you’ll want to put Northwest Wine Encounter on your radar.

Haven’t heard of it before? That’s not surprising. The inaugural event, which I attended last spring, was an intimate affair with space for just a few dozen wine lovers who got their geek on over things like the impact of soil, weather, terroir and altitude on winemaking, learning about these during educational panels led by some of the region’s finest winemakers. And, of course, it helped to taste through flights of really fine wine as the winemakers offered insights and perspective.

The return engagement, on the weekend of April 28-30 (from $485/person including lodging, events and gala dinner), will follow a similar format and will once again be held at Semiahmoo Resort, a lovely spot overlooking Semiahmoo Bay, with the U.S./Canadian border and Peace Arch in view across the water. This year, there will be room for around 100 wine lovers (sign up for Northwest Wine Encounter here).


Winemakers and guests enjoying Friday night’s bonfire at Semiahmoo 

This quintessential Northwest location was chosen to complement the local wines that are the focus of the weekend. At Semiahmoo, Mount Baker frames the view in one direction, the San Juan Islands and Puget Sound in another. At one time in its history, Semiahmoo was also the site of a salmon cannery. Hard to get more Northwest than that.

The 2017 winemaker lineup includes a few superstars from Oregon and Washington: Chris Figgins of Leonetti Cellars, Walla Walla’s oldest winery; David Merfeld of Northstar Winery, Chris Upchurch of DeLille Cellars; Tony Rynders of Panther Creek and wine grower Mike Sauer of Red Willow Vineyards. New this year is the addition of a British Columbia winemaker, Walter Gehriner of Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery.

 

At last year’s events, the panel discussions were interesting, but the Friday night kick-off event was almost worth the price of admission alone. It had the air of an informal party where everyone was enjoying each other’s company. All the winemakers were in attendance, pouring and chatting about what they love most: making wine. The party eventually spilled out onto the beach where a bonfire warmed the crowd. Marshmallows optional, wine required.