(Posted by Dave)
When we started planning our trip to Oregon some months back, Stu and I spent a considerable amount of time researching places we would like to visit in Portland, the Willamette valley and at the coast. (Sue and Kristi, in unison: “No kidding!”)
Arriving in Portland in mid-morning, Sue, Tau and I headed off to Trader Joe’s for groceries and Hollywood Espresso for lunch.
This seemed as good a jumping off place as any to our overnight stay in Portland. Hollywood Espresso serves up Portland Roasting coffee, wine by the glass and terrific Panini sandwiches served up by efficient and friendly staff. Not a bad start to our week away.
Then off to McMenamin’s Kennedy School for a night of “Math” before heading down to the coast (see our Oregon 2007 set on Flickr). On the way to the coast, I had wanted to stop by Penner-Ash Wine Cellars in the hope of tasting their 2006 riesling, only to discover that it will only be released in August. We did enjoy the winery (slate, timber frame and glass), where the unpretentious tasting room overlooks the fermentation tanks. Extremely friendly and down-to-earth staff, and got to speak with the assistant winemaker regarding the riesling before enjoying the vineyard views while feeding Tau some lunch. Note the picture of Tau clutching his Dog (Caper). His Dad clung to his bottle of Penner-Ash Viognier just as tightly leaving the winery.
Monday was spent hanging out in Manzanita before Stu and I headed back to the Willamette valley on the Tuesday for a day of wine tasting and a chance to catch up during the drive. First stop was Shafer Vineyard Cellars, a winery Stu had highlighted as wanting to visit. The tasting room was (wo)manned by Miki Shafer herself. What an absolute sweetie! Miki’s warm personality makes you feel welcome in her winery “home” while sharing her vineyard’s wine and history. Stu and I were particularly impressed by the 2005 Pinot Gris Reserve.
Next stop, Carlton Winemakers Studio. I thought this would be good bang for the buck considering as many as ten independent wine makers use the studio to produce small lot wines. In particular, I was interested in tasting some of Andrew Rich’s creations (ex-wine maker for Bonny Doon), as well as the 2005 Lazy River Riesling. The studio is a certified LEED building, which Stuart educated me as to the significance of en route. The tasting room is like sitting in a trendy bar. CWS has a set weekly tasting menu but the very friendly and educated staff member threw in a tasting of a Pinot Gris and the Lazy River Riesling for free. I wasn’t that impressed by the riesling but it did have pretty unique flavors. The wine that most impressed me was the Dominio IV Wines 2004 Tempranillo “Oso”. An extremely smooth and balanced red. The best thing about wine tasting is that you can travel from a Mom-‘n-Pop winery to a trendy state-of-the-art facility next and yet thoroughly enjoy the unique experience at both.
Staff at Carlton had recommended The Filling Station in Carlton for lunch. What’s up with folks in the Willamette valley? So damn genuine and friendly! Carlton is a tiny town with wine tasting shops and restaurants occupying most of the brick buildings.
Next, it was on to Erath and quite frankly the best thing was the view (below.)
Not that Erath makes terrible wine; Stu and I just weren’t impressed. Maybe we had been spoiled by Shafer and the Winemakers studio — I don’t know. We payed our tasting fee, shot a picture or two and left.
In closing, I’d say the Willamette Valley is a wine region worth visiting. The spectacular scenery, superb wine and interesting, genuine folks make this a worthwhile trip.