March 27, 2014

Ghost Hill Cellars

Perched along a long gravel road near Monks Gate Vineyards, sits Ghost Hill Cellars. Yes, there is a story behind that name.  A man was killed for his pot of gold, and stories be told that his ghost appears near a tree across the road up the hill.  Read the legend on their website here.  The owners of Ghost Hill personally haven't see him, but others in the area claim they have.  Well, I didn't see anything unusual this day, but met friendly owners, Mike and Drenda Bayliss who, like Monks Gate's owners, usually are the ones pouring your wines (pictured above).  This farm has been in the family since 1906, and worth finding this gem as well as Monks Gate.  Make sure you go to both vineyards.  However, Monks Gate is open Thursday- Mondays, whereas Ghost Hill Cellars is open only Saturday/Sundays, 11-5pm.  $10 tasting fee, but refundable with a purchase.  Ghost Hill features Pinot noirs, Blanc and a Rose.  All delicious and highly recommend!  Kristen

Monks Gate Vineyards

Monks Gate is little mom/pop boutique vineyard for sure, but I have heard rave reviews about them and their wines for years, so finally got to visit recently.  Yep, I agree with the cheers--hospitable, down to earth, great wines. Ron & Linda Moore, owners, just moved their tasting room from a barn into the garage (pictured) with new stained concrete floors. Their followers I guess were not liking the new floor over the dirt that was once there!  Definately old, run down buildings on the property, nothing fancy here, but if you are looking for very friendly owners who are usually pouring your wines, and some great bites to eat on Sundays starting in April (you can purchase and sit at picnic tables on the grounds), then you want to make this a stop maybe on your way out to Carlton.  They have had a nice following for years, but finally with the help of their daughter, they are starting an official wine club.  You can't beat the tasting fee: 5 wines for $5 dollars (Ghost Hill has same pricing for about 4 wines just around the corner, so make sure you stop in at both places). Open Thursday through Sundays, 12 to 5pm, I'm sure you'll find a wine you want to take home with you.  I will go back.  Kristen

Terra Vina Wines

Some of my favorite wines around, Terra Vina has moved their tasting room to McMinnville (pictured) which is expansive and nicely decorated.  They feature over 10+ wines, many full bodied with grapes from Washington that include Cabernet's Sauvignon, Blancs, Syrahs and more. They of course also feature Pinot noirs, too. Karl & Carole Dinger are gracious hosts with a passion for wine.  Karl is the skillful winemaker!  We have three separate folks we know personally who are long term wine club members. We know they have a huge following and still growing!  They are a neighbor of the Inn and have a tasting room on their property which opens on major holidays (Thanksgiving, Memorial, Labor Day).  If you are in McMinnville, you can't miss them on the corner on 3rd street, and we always highly recommend them to our guests!  Kristen & Linda

March 23, 2014

Ardiri Winery & Vineyards

Ardiri Winery & Vineyards, located in the Chehalem AVA (same AVA as the Inn) is a bit of a drive as is the farthest north of the AVA.  But what a treat as my recommendation would be to visit Blaskslee Vineyards first, then onto Alloro Vineyards (both in Sherwood), then head to Ardiri as they are OPEN until 7:00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays (which is highly unusual as I don't know other wineries/vineyards open this late unless you are at tasting rooms in downtown Newberg).  Anyway, with many sitting spaces to soak in the views and stunning Mount Hood on gorgeous Oregon sunny days (like we had this weekend pictured above--can you see the mountain?), I found the staff to be unpretentious, know what great customer service is, and pour about 5-6 wines for your $10 tasting fee (Pinot noirs, Picpoul de Pinet (white varietal).  They also have five fireplaces (3 inside and 2 out)  to sit and relax and drink your wine.  Fun place and would recommend if you are coming in on Hwy 99 from Portland to wine country.  First stop: Sherwood wineries mentioned above, then over to Ardiri just a bit further out!  Kristen & Dan

March 18, 2014

Alloro Vineyards

Alloro Vineyards has stunning grounds and views, and a Tuscan style tasting room facility pictured above.   Their website really doesn't do them justice. Wonderful and helpful staff were pouring our wines, and we had three tastes (Chardonnay and two Pinot noirs, all estate grown). We brought our daughter this day (see her in the vineyard?!) and walked the sprawling grounds.  We then enjoyed a light lunch at a front table, soaking in the sun and views. We paired our cheese and crackers with a bottle of their 2011 Pinot noir...and relaxed for over a hour.  It was what I needed!  They had a great bottle of Chardonnay as well, but we opted for the Pinot noir instead.  I feel that when you experience a place that has memorable wines, inviting grounds and delightful staff, you just can't go wrong. So Alloro would be one of these places for me, and will return (Update!, we did visit again the next weekend, and was just as perfect as the first time!).   Open Friday-Sundays, 11-5pm.  They are in the same AVA as the Inn (Chehalem Mountain) but located in Sherwood, which is about a 20 minute or so drive from us.  $10 tasting fee but waived if you buy two or more bottles.  Cheers!  Kristen & Dan

March 6, 2014

Winter's Hill Vineyard

What a delight to stop in and taste some amazing Pinot noir at Winter's Hill Vineyard. I hadn't been to their new building yet, but stopped in recently.  You taste the wines where they make and store the wine (pictured below) which was fun.  Winter's Hill makes all great Pinot noirs, and the group I was with that day, all agreed!  We felt they were reasonably priced wines, and ALL estate grown and produced.  This is a very friendly, family owned operation (the Gladhart family, with Delphine Gladhart, his wife, the distinguished winemaker).  Bring a picnic lunch in the summer to enjoy lunch and views with a bottle of their wine.  They also make a Pinot Gris and dessert wine, but when tasting their 2008, 2009 and 2006 Pinot noirs, they were hands down my favorite out of all the wines poured.  We send many guests their way, and will continue to do so.  They are also close neighbors/share driveways with Vista Hills Vineyard, White Rose and Domaine Serene. So a great place to stop and shop at at several wineries while on this hill.  Kristen

February 27, 2014

De Ponte Cellars--Lonesome Rock Firehouse, Carlton

A beautiful new tasting room in downtown Carlton was recently opened late last year by De Ponte Cellars. Their main tasting room/winery is near Vista Hills off Hwy 99, but this tasting room (an old firehouse that's been refurbished) was completely remodeled to perfection (and expense I'm sure!).  Two oversized glass garage doors will be open each summer to invite guests inside (pictured), and many places to sit and drink throughout the tasting room, including the back with tables overlooking lovely landscaping. Their 2011 Clay Pinot noir was heavenly, yet their Melon de Bourgogne (white varietal) was not my favorite (to each their own, right?!).  Anyway, they feature other Pinot noirs mainly, but a must stop if you are tasting in Carlton (directly across from Troon tasting room).  Rae Baldwin was a gracious host and owner who showed several B&B owners around.  You should feel welcomed here.  Kristen

Cana's Feast

I've blogged about Cana's Feast Winery before, but here's a short update as I tasted again at this winery this week. The grounds are improved, but I was there in the winter time, yet it didn't look as bad as last time I visited. I have always loved their wines, as they feature a variety including the usual Oregon Pinot noir.  They also purchase grapes from Columbia Valley, Washington to make a Barbera, Tempranillo and Sangiovese. I bought a bottle of Rosato and Syrah before leaving this time because the Syrah was absolutely wonderful, and they always make a great Rosato every year, too, that I just couldn't pass up.

They currently host each month a three course dinner for $60/person ($55/person if you are a club member) with wine included.  However, if you buy a case of wine, your dinner if free. If two cases are bought, then you and your guests' dinners are free. Pretty good deal. Think you can find a wine you may like.  Tasting fee is $10/flight and that includes six to seven wines.  The $10 is waived if you purchase $25 dollars or more in wine!  Kristen

September 27, 2013

Willakenzie Estate

Willakenzie Estate has the largest club membership in the valley of about 2400 members or so I was told.  That is HUGE!  The winery is expansive,  and has a new tasting room that I had not been to yet. So before visiting the new tasting room at Saffron Fields, which is Willakenzie's newest neighbor, I wanted to be sure to see Willakenzie's new tasting room (pictured).  Wines here, from Pinot gris to Pinot noir, are always good with price points from $21-48 and more.  $20 currently is their tasting fee for one (a bit steep perhaps for 4 wines poured) but if you are venturing out that way, bring a lunch to sit on their new patio (or take your edibles to Saffron Fields as also have a beautiful patio with outdoor fireplace/pit!)  Kristen 

September 23, 2013

Saffron Fields

We were invited to a new tasting room opening for those in the industry last week.  Saffron Fields has some stunning architecture and unique artwork.  We were told they will eventually have a winery on their grounds, but that is still a few years away. As you enter their doors, you take in views of the northern countryside with lush rolling green hills. The have oversized glass sliding doors which open to an expansive patio area (pictured).  The experience was wonderful, and I could have sat there all evening drinking wine!  Current wines are made by three different wine makers, and all are Pinot noirs except one yummy Reisling. This winery is a bit of a drive but if you will be visiting Willakenzie, Lenne or Beaux Freres, these vineyards/tasting rooms are very close neighbors so make sure you also drop into Saffron Fields as well.  They have a Koi pond that surrounds half of the building.  They have a nice outdoor "fireplace" to sit and sip your wines, too.  Wines are good and tasting room/views even better.  Kristen & Dan

September 17, 2013

Owen Roe

I have been drinking Owen Roes' wines for years, and normally tasted and purchased in stores and restaurants, but finally made it to the winery itself this past weekend to check out the winery.  They were having their wine pick up party with club members (picture below) so it was a full house, but not too bad of a crowd.

I thought I would drive up to a spectacular looking building with views of the valley, but was surprised to find a regular looking pole barn-type building that looked like a working farm, but of course it's a winery when you get closer. They were pouring in one part of the structure that housed their wine barrels (now it doesn't smells like a farm, but a setting quite like it!). They are moving their wine tasting room closer to the Inn in the next 6 months I was told (appointment only and closer to Rex Hill winery) so that will be a great move for them, and us!

They were pouring their 2012 wines, about 9 of them.  Pinot gris, several pinot noirs, cabernet sauvignon and blanc, blends and more.  They use  Washington grapes to produce just some of their wines including their bold cabernet sauvignons, which I am a huge fan.  Although I thought most of the 2012 wines needed more years to develop to truly enjoy a bottle just yet, I never hesitate to purchase a bottle or two of their wine as never disappointed. Kristen & Dan

Owen Roe

July 30, 2013

Ponzi Vineyards New Tasting Room - Gorgeous!

Ponzi has an incredible and amazing new winery/tasting room on Chehalem Mountain (my new favorite location of Ponzi hands down, see pics below).  Perfect place to buy a bottle of wine and enjoy a lunch on their lush grounds.  There are many areas to sit and relax, and I could have spent all day there.  In the offseason this will be a great place to taste, as they have a large undercover outdoor space with heaters above you to keep one cozy in the crisp air.

The staff brought us water and a small snack (no charge), and I've never had a winery do that!  They were all so pleasant with great customer service.  They feature Pinot noir (try the 2010 40th anniversary-my favorite), Blanc, Gris, Chardonnay, Arneis, Dolcetto,  Reisling and a dessert wine if you want to enjoy a variety of good Oregon wines.  My recommendation would be first to visit Blakslee Vineyard Estate then go to Ponzi since both are closer to each other (7 miles apart) and slightly off the beaten path, both located in the hills of Sherwood.  Kristen

July 28, 2013

David Hill Winery

Unfortunately, we had probably the worst experience at this winery, and now they have a new tasting room in Newberg, so patron beware!  We introduced ourselves and that we were from a local B&B, and looking forward to their new tasting room in Newberg. Yet to our amazement, a lone staff member greeted us with a rude statement!  Then to our astonishment, when another pourer joined her, she took this staff member to a back back room to talk about us (we figured she did after we left by comments made at the end of our tasting by the second pourer!).  Why we didn't leave I don't know, but think we were just in shock.

So the second staff member started to pour for us. There was this silence and awkwardness thru the long 15 minute "ordeal."  Who wants to taste why feeling  unwelcomed?  As we drove away we also couldn't figure out why the wines tasted "funny."  We kept thinking that each one would get better, you know, the first two must have been a fluke or just not that good of a bottle so you look forward to tasting the rest.  Well, when you have had wine that has been in the bottle too long--that's what we felt each wine tasted like and it didn't get any better--they all tasted like they were on the brink of vinegar!

So, it was just one overall bad experience.  We have referred folks to them on their way from/to Cannon or Seaside beach, but no more at this vineyard/tasting room and now here in Newberg, they won't get our recommendation either, sorry.  Never had an experience like this before.  Of course she may have had a very off day, but you never know who's entering your doors (and that I write a winery blog!).  We have visited countless vineyards/wineries in the Willamette Valley and yet this one, sadly, left a very bad impression.  Kristen & Dan

July 26, 2013

Vineyard Tours

We have guests often inquire about vineyard tours.  Here's a great article that features two local wineries that do (we'd also recommend Cleo's Hill Wines as well, just $5 person for their vineyard tour!):
Sokol Blosser: The vineyard hike shouldn't leave you sweating, but it does cover 400 feet of elevation in one of Oregon's most beautiful landscapes, the Dundee Hills. The hills are pretty much off limits to other off-pavement foot traffic because of private ownership and intense cultivation.

The hike begins in the winery tasting room, which as of July will be brand new. Sokol Blosser is one of Oregon's long-established wineries, with a first planting in 1971 and the opening of a tasting room in 1978. It's a very busy and popular place. As the vineyard hike begins, that day's tour leader Elise Kubisiak looks at the shoes group members are wearing and issues a warning ("You will be drinking and there are gopher holes"), then leads the way into the vineyard. But don't worry, she says, "No one has been lost or injured and no one run over by the tractor."  With that, everyone is ready for an adventure among the grapes.

She leads the way to the high point of the vineyard, while explaining the importance of the red clay loam soil, named "Jory" for a pioneer family. It's the official state soil. "It's unique to parts of the Willamette Valley," says Kubisiak, who resigned at the winery April 30 to tour the world. "It's not especially fertile. It makes the vines struggle, but that builds character, just like people who have live hard lives have more stories to tell." Then she finds one of the insulated cases and proceeds to pour tastes of 2010 Dundee Hills pinot noir, which was "just released today."

The tour continues pretty much in that vein, with a side trip to sample olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salts from around the world at neighboring Red Ridge Farms. The tour ends in a shady outdoor picnic area with a catered lunch -- wine included. The winery also has a schedule of ATV vineyard tours and shorter walking tours. The vineyard hikes cost $75 for non-wine club members. Check the schedule and register in advance at 503-864-2282, ext. 10, or
Domaine Serene: Another of the major wineries of the Dundee Hills, Domaine Serene offers tours and tastings to small groups. Cost is $35 per person for the Estate Tasting, or $50 for the Exquisite Oregon Wines Experience. To begin the latter tour, Lucas Willett leads the way to the vineyard while explaining challenges a winery faces. 

"In 2010 we were slammed by migrating birds," he said. "We installed tape on rows, shadow hawks, air cannons and had people riding the vineyard in ATVs. We were more ready in 2011, but the birds never came. Every year is a different circumstance in the vineyard."

Inside the five-story winery, he explains how a gravity-flow system is used to move the juice through the process with a minimum of pumping. Oregon's signature pinot noir grape has a reputation for being sensitive to excessive movement?  The tour moves past the destemmer, then the vacuum that removes insects and unwanted debris from grape clusters. The barrel room is stacked with $1,500 French oak barrels, which are used for three years and then sold for $50 as planters or outdoor decorations.

The tour winds up with a tasting of four wines, including the winery's signature Yamhill cuvée pinot noir, accompanied by local cheeses. Lunch can be catered for an extra charge; 503-864-4600,
Beyond the tasting room

  • July 13, 2013

    Evening Land Vineyards

    Evening Land is a new name to the valley, and has a beautiful new tasting room next to Paulee restaurant in Dundee.  Evening Land has vineyards in Burgandy, France and Sonoma Coast, California.  I loved all their wines so I tend to think when I like them all the winemaker knows what he's doing.  Here's a write up in Wine Spectator to learn more of their story.  I definitely think they are worth the stop and taste!  The only other winery in the area that produces wines from France is Scott Paul Wines in Carlton. 
    Other new tasting rooms are also in this space next to Paulee--LeCadeau for one, which I have blogged about before, and is our neighbor to the Inn (by appointment only if you want to taste at their vineyard).  LeCadeau was husband's favorite tasting of the night. Tom and his wife Deb, are hospitable and lovely people.  Their wines can be found nationwide, and they have a great following.  Kristen

    June 18, 2013

    Wine Tasting This Summer in Willamette Valley--Events to Know!

    Go Wine Tasting
    (Willamette Valley Wineries)
    Pamela Heiligenthal By Pamela Heiligenthal   - Oregonian  
    Summer is only a few days away and with the plethora of wine events happening in the Willamette Valley and beyond, now is a good time to plan your summertime fun! Some 200 wineries strong, you are bound to find a perfect event or getaway to sample some of the best that Willamette Valley has to offer. If you are cyclist fan like me, I could not find any upcoming wine and food events that incorporate a bike trip, but if you know of any, hit me up with a comment. Maybe enough comments will entice a winery to host a bike event!
    McMinnville AVA Tasting (June 29, 2013)
    Spend an afternoon learning about wine science, from clone importance to soil types and the geology of a highly regarded viticultural area. Led by esteemed wine writer Cole Danehower (NW Palate), the event includes wine, food and music at the gorgeously-set Youngberg Hill winery.
    North Willamette Vintners' Red, White & Celebrate (July 4-7, 2013)
    Explore the wineries in Portland's back yard while sipping quintessential summer wines, from crisp refreshing whites to the ever-popular Rosés of the Willamette Valley. Each participating winery presents their own take on summer in Oregon wine country with various special events celebrating the season.
    Drink Pink Rosé Festival (July 13, 2013)
    A Rosé-themed afternoon will occur with two dozen participating wineries showcasing their work alongside live music and food from Crown Paella and Coquine. Learn why this refreshing, food-flexible wine is well past the buzz stage and a true Willamette Valley staple.
    Dundee Hills Fueled By Fine Wine Half Marathon (July 14, 2013)
    Celebrating its fourth year, the sold-out Fueled By Fine Wine Half-Marathon blends a scenic and challenging backcountry run with well-deserved festivities at the finish line. Celebrate with local wine, food and music after conquering Oregon's storied Dundee Hills' appellation. Side note: I'm a huge fan of Dundee Hills fruit, can you tell?
    Canines Uncorked (July 20, 2013)
    A host of dog-friendly wineries invite tasters and their four-legged friends to enjoy wines, food, contests and special activities throughout the northern Willamette Valley. All proceeds benefit animals at the Oregon Humane Society. 
    Origin 2013 with Chehalem Mountains Winegrowers (August 10, 2013)
    An early evening devoted to the Chehalem Mountains and the region's excellent winemaking minds. Meet vintners, walk vineyards, sample foods and learn about the magic behind both the Chehalem Mountains and Ribbon Ridge AVAs. Arborbrook Vineyards hosts, featuring the chefs of EaT: An Oyster Bar, Bollywood Theater, Wildwood, St. Jack and more.
    Encompass the Eola-Amity Hills AVA (August 31 & September 1)
    Some twenty wineries and vineyards of the Eola-Amity Hills combine to offer free tastings for those with an Ecompass Guidebook. Once an up-and-coming region, the Eola-Amity Hills is home to some of the most celebrated producers in the state. 
    Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon (September 1, 2013)
    A 13.1-mile run through the delightful terrain of the Willamette Valley. The race begins at Stoller Vineyards and ends in downtown Carlton, where racers will be greeted with wine and live music in this pastoral charming town.

    June 3, 2013

    Blakeslee Vineyard Estate

    Dan and I stopped in on Saturday to visit this tasting room and vineyard in Sherwood.  Boy, what a treat was in store for us!  The owners, Bill & Sheila Blakeslee were pouring and interacting w/ guests in their tasting room.  We found them to be down to earth and fun, with big personalities.  Their wines were wonderful, and my favorites were their 2008 Eola-Amity Hills Riesling (almost sold out), 2010 Rose of Pinot noir, yet we left with two bottles of Willamette Valley Pinot noir and 1 bottle of their 2010 Willamette Valley reserve.  Yummy!

    Their new tasting room has only been open 6 weeks, and they already have 125 wine club members.  I think their club would be very fun as they have 3-4 events a year including an annual Christmas event for their members.  Pictured is where you taste and can relax on their grounds, and where they hold their events in the outdoor living space and pool area near the home, which is spectacular!  So with good wine, great people and a beautiful setting, you can't go wrong visiting and tasting here, and I wouldn't be surprised if you became club members. Tasting room open Wednesday thru Sundays, 11-5pm.  Summer they may be open 7 days a week, call for hours.
    This recent picture from a friend who went with us to Blasklee in July for an event and took this picture looking at Mt. Hood over the pool (yes, Mt. Hood really is there!). Amazing views.

    May 20, 2013

    Cliff Creek Cellars

    Some of you enjoy Southern Oregon wines, and there are a few tasting rooms in Carlton and McMinnville to sip and sample these wines (Troon and Folin in downtown Carlton, Spangler in McMinnville).  Now Cliff Creek joins the ranks, and opened their tasting room in downtown Newberg Thanksgiving 2012. Cliff Creek has a fun tasting room in downtown Newberg located in an old bank building (pictured).  If you enjoy Sangiovese, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and other red blends from the south, then you might want to stop in and taste here.  My favorites were their Syrah, Red Red Wine and Cadence (port).  We did buy a case of the 2011 Red Red Wine (for $99.00) as was a great buy. Tracy was the best pourer, but all staff so friendly!  Great experience!

    May 7, 2013

    Yamhill Carlton AVA 2013 Event

    This past Saturday was a huge event that is held every May where all the wineries in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA pour their wines (held at Anne Amie vineyards).  So with a huge crowd who came to taste 30 wineries/wines in one venue (for a $25 tasting fee/person to sample as many as you want), it was packed yet fun!  Many wineries present we have tasted their wines before, but some smaller boutique wineries that caught our attention and new to us:  Belle Pente, Roots Wine & Vineyards, and Big Table Farm.  All excellent wines featured our small group thought, and learned they are appointment only to taste at their vineyards.  With over 600 people attending this event, it is better to get there first thing or towards the afternoon, as too many wine enthusiasts were there all at noon it seemed, but fun to at least try once.  Kristen & Dan

    April 10, 2013

    Murto Vineyards/Cleo's Hill Wines

    Yesterday Linda and I were invited to Murto Vineyard's, a local winegrower's vineyard land and home to "sample" a tour that she gives for wine enthusiasts who visit the valley. What a treat if you desire to learn more about the grape growing process--from management of the vines which starts in December, and ends after harvest time in October. So very interesting and lots of hard work, and Linda and I learned a great deal!  Robin Murto (pictured), who is co-owner of Murto Vineyard along with her husband Mike, bought their home with 8 acres in the 1990's. They had no idea what to do with the land until some first wine pioneers in the valley gave them advice to plant Pinot noir grapes (Dick Erath for one). Then several years later they bought and additional 20 acres with vines already planted that was adjacent to their property. Those vines are some of the oldest in the valley, planted in 1978. The Murto's have 5 local wineries who buy their grapes every year (the older the vines the more expensive the grapes), and they try to hold back a few rows to make some wine for their own label, Cleo's Hill.  After the tour in the vineyards (and some beautiful views to enjoy as well, bring your camera), Robin poured two Pinot noirs (2008 and 2009) and one Pinot gris which she pairs with some light bites. If this is something of interest to you, which we highly recommend, we would be more than happy to make an appointment for you. What a great way to get up close and learn firsthand from a winegrower, and a gracious and charming one at that!  No charge either, and you can buy wines after the tasting if you so desire.  Kristen & Linda