Rallison Cellars was our first stop of the day. Enjoying a Pre-release of Sparkling wines made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and then a blend of both. Jared is the winemaker at Rallison Cellars and I have to say that his wines are among some of my favorite. He has a quaint tasting room, but is only open by appointment. It is well worth the phone call to him. Each year Jared adds a few new wines and vineyards to his portfolio.
Domaine Roy & Fils was our next stop on this day. This is a new winery to the Dundee scene. There was a write up about them in Wine Spectator and we just happen to find them. We stopped in to their beautiful tasting room which eventually will be for private wine tasting. The tasting room will actually be downstairs in their production area. Because they offer a personal tasting staff person to every group, plan for at least an hour to taste and visit.
Barrel Fence Cellars tasting room is a quaint little place. Herb is the owner and winemaker. Herb makes 2 different types of wine from 2 different locations. He makes an Oregon Pinot Noir, a New Zealand Pinot Noir and a New Zealand Style Sauvignon Blanc. All were very yummy, which is why I bought them all. Herb has property in New Zealand where he makes his two New Zealand wines and then has them imported back into Oregon. I really enjoyed my time there. I highly recommend the visit.
Erath Winery is one of the oldest vineyards in Oregon. Dick Erath planted his first vines in 1965 and becoming one of the pioneers of the Oregon Pinot Noir. The tasting room is a very warm and comfortable place. I enjoyed all the wines and the staff was very entertaining. Thanks for making this a special visit. Erath has a Rose' of Pinot Gris which I thought was very interesting and good.
For most people when they visit a tasting room, they are going to simply try the wines. There is really no thought into what they want to gain from the experience nor do they probably even know they should get anything from the experience. They go, try the wines, and may or may not purchase any wine. The tasting room staff has the span of 15 - 30 minutes to seduce you, by telling you how amazing their wine is and getting you to believe you can't possibly live without a bottle or 2, right?
Let me tell you of a recent experience I had while visiting The Four Graces in Newberg, OR. Every Thursday, my husband and I make a trip to Newberg, OR to visit our favorite Fresh Fish place. This day we decided to stop for lunch in Dundee before heading to the market. We had plenty of time to visit a winery on the way and have always wanted to stop at Four Graces. Tip #1, if you want to get as much attention as possible, visit a tasting room during the week. We arrived at Four Graces and took a few photos of the property. It is a beautiful location with a great lawn. In the summer time, I can see this as a happen place.
Once we entered the tasting room we were immediately greeted! Tip #2, this should ALWAYS happen. As cheesy as it may sound and sometimes weird, whenever you get greeted at the door with a "Welcome", you immediately feel loved.
We were greeted by Paul, who is the Tasting Room Manager. Paul is from the UK, and you know how people love accents. :) Paul is the perfect example of "Amazing" customer service. He is very knowledgeable about the winery, the wine, the process in making the wine and everything else that it encompasses. Yes, it is his job to know that, but sometimes you get a half assed answer or someone who really doesn't care to tell you this information. Tip #3, unfortunately, that person could be having an off day, which would suck as you have to always be on when you are pouring wine. Try engaging that person a little more to see if you can get them to loosen up.
We tasted through some amazing wines. Paul is very good at his job. Never applying pressure, but always describing and informing us about the wine. The main goal is to get you the wine taster to feel the love and passion for the wine. Because when the tasting room staff can connect with you, you will be hooked.
I feel that customer service is one of my strong qualities, but I never get to see me in action, I would hope that my customer service and enthusiasm portrays just like Paul's does. See when you have a passion for something, you just exude that to anyone you speak with.
We did walk out with 4 bottles of amazing wine (great job Paul) and I can't wait to go back. I encourage you to go visit Four Graces.
Paul, you gave us an amazing experience at the Four Grace's and I look forward to coming back! Tip #4, the one thing you should ALWAYS walk away with from a winery visit is an amazing experience. The experience is what will bring you back!
The 2014 Harvest is going down in the record books as the earliest harvest we have had. It was one of the hottest years with very little rain. All the vines did a little struggling to search for that water. In the end, I think this year has been one that has produced some of the most amazing fruit.
As growers would drop off their fruit, they were talking about how this has been a record producing year for them. One grower said he has 2-3 times the amount of grapes from the same vines as last year. WOW!
This year, I was able to be a participant in a full blown harvest season. Minus the actual grape picking, which I have done before, I have done it all.
We started harvest on September 16th at Oak Knoll Winery. This is the earliest harvest we have had. The benefit of having a harvest this early is that the weather is still nice as apposed to a November harvesting in the rain and cold.
If you ever thought you wanted to be a winemaker, you should do some heavy duty soul searching. It is like when a mother goes through 24 hours of hard labor, and you ask her if she will do it again by having another baby. I thought about this question a lot as I was going through the long days. See, when I got into the wine industry, I thought I wanted to make wine. Then I decided that I was a better wine reviewer, that my services that way were much better. Then after moving to the Oregon Wine Country and participating in harvest as well as working at a winery, I have decided that, YES, one day, I too want to make wine.
The making of the wine is the easy part, you know after it is barreled and you are just waiting on it to do its thing. It's the work prior to all that, that is the hard stuff.
When you arrive at 6am and process over a 50 bins of fruit in one day, which turns into a 14 hour day, you start to question yourself! Like, what the hell am I thinking?!
When processing so much white wine that you despise the winepress because you have to clean it and you are dog tired. Thanks to Ike, I never had to clean the inside of the white press. Whew!
Or when your arms hurt so bad from tilting bins over the destemmer, that you appreciate that their are grates over this hopper, so that should you fall in, you will not be destemmed yourself. Thanks to Jeff, the winemaker, he did all this tilting.
My job, well, I got to shovel stems from one bin to the next. I got to get inside the stem box when both were full and stomp them down. I got to lift bins, rinse them out and push them out of the way. Seems like a fluff job, but I will tell you it isn't. I have muscles that I didn't know I could have. My arms are still sore just to think about those extremely long days. My body hurt so bad at night, that no amount of pain cream could make it feel better! I was successful in NOT getting stung by any bees! Ike, was not so lucky, he got stung twice!
I cleaned so much that I think I became water logged. You don't realize what a mess you create with grapes skins. They are everywhere. Just when you think you have it all cleaned and are beaming with achievement, you find a pack of grape skins laughing at you in a corner you missed.
The red press, I will claim as mine. I have been the one to clean this one. Much easier because you don't have to crawl inside something. One thing is for sure, you figure out real quick how to be less messy. You find that if you move the box catching all the skins and seeds after the white press, just a little to the left, you catch it all. That flushing out hoses inside the stem box instead of on the ground, you create less mess. Ike and I figured this out and in the end, cleanups were way better.
I knew what punch downs were, they are a great Ab workout. But pump overs are arm bruisers. What's the difference? One you use a metal flat wand type thing to push down the cap on the red wines. Pump over is when you use a hose from the tank you are pumping over to bring the juice gushing out threw a hose you are holding to push down the cap. Yes, you would think this is easy, but if you are a fireman, then you know that the power coming from that hose requires a greater grip and a little more control. I did on a couple of occasions redecorate the ceiling from white to red. :)
Cleaning out a poly tank is much easier and quicker than a stainless steel tank. I did the poly tanks, for the most part. Ike and I would shovel out what we could of the stainless tanks. We would then put a fan on the top to push all the gasses out the front of the tank so that winemaker Jeff could get inside and push the rest out. Team work is what we had. We were a team of 3!
White pump overs were pretty painless. You pump all but the lees and then you filter those. That was more of moving from tank to tank and cleaning filters.
Filling barrels is pretty fun. You get to use your sense of touch because the wine filling the barrel is very deceiving as to where it is at. Can't report to many over fillings at this point.
Did I mention the amount of water and cleaning? You must like water and you MUST invest in a pair of rain boots. Your feet will appreciate it. You must also not care if you get dirty. You will go home with grape stained clothes and skin.
We are pressing the last of the reds off on Oct 23rd. This will be my last day for Harvest. I can't tell you how excited I am to try the wines we processed this year. We did Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Chardonnay and Niagara. For the first time, winemaker Jeff is trying a White Pinot Noir. He is bringing back an oaked Chardonnay, it has been since 2008 that he made one of those.
I will be able to attest to the 2014 vintage of wines like a pro! Thank you Oak Knoll Winery, winemaker Jeff and cellar master Ike for allowing me to participate. It was an awesome experience!
I was invited, along with 7 other people from Oak Knoll, to sample some Pinot Gris at the Oak Knoll Winery. Like every good winemaker, it is always a good idea to taste your competition in order to keep yourself current. Oak Knoll's Sales Director acquired several bottles of Pinot Gris that were in or right around the same price range as the Oak Knoll Pinot Gris. In total, we tasted 18 Pinot Gris, all Oregon. 3 of which were actually Oak Knoll's.
First we had a nice lunch, because all responsible wine drinkers DO NOT spit, must have. Then on to our tasting. We tasted the first set of 8 and then the second set of 8. What was really interesting, but probably not surprising, is that there were very few wines we all agreed to our 1, 2, and 3 choices. Although there were 4 that most agreed on.. But like I tell wine tasters, there are no wrong answers in tasting wine. You taste and smell what you taste and smell.
I really enjoyed this exercise, Although Pinot Gris has general characteristics that one can count on to be there, the styles of winemaking are different. We did taste a couple of Pinot Gris from the exact same vineyard. The tastes on these were very different. This could have to do with the winemaking styles, whether the grapes on some rows got more or less sunlight, or more rain or the elevation of the vineyard if it is sloped.
There was one Pinot Gris that we all agreed was awful, smell and taste, but upon further investigation, meaning I went and tried another bottle of this particular wine, we realized the bottle had been corked. Whew... because I really like this winery!
Thanks Oak Knoll for inviting me to join in this tasting! I had a ton of fun learning more about the Pinot Gris Grape!
On the slopes of the northwest hillside just beyond Portland’s urban heart lies the picturesque, family-owned Abbey Creek Vineyard. Our first vines were planted in 1981 by Dr. Robert & Sandra Simmons for farm deferral purposes. The fruits of their labor were sold to local wineries until 2006 when son in law Bertony Faustin had the crazy notion of keeping the fruit onsite and starting their own label.
Abbey Creek produces about 500-700 cases per year and are pretty much DTC driven. When we got to the Downtown location in North Plains, OR, there were about 10 people in the tasting room. It is quaint and has the potential to be a great place to come have some wine with friends and maybe have some snacky type items available. I see lots of fluffy couches.
The wine club is limited to 50 people as of right now, which makes his wine club a must "get into". Bertony is a great entertainer. He was pouring for everyone and maintaining a great conversations among all his guests. You can tell he is totally in his element and is not rattled easily when his tasting room is full! He gives great attention to each and every person who walks through the door.
If you get a chance to go down and visit, it will be well worth it! Tell him Kim said hi!
Here are the wines we sampled: