Sunday, October 11, 2009

Oregon Pinot Noir

My first impression of Oregon’s Williamette Valley is that the setting seems somewhat ordinary. There’s a typical interstate highway, a Dairy Queen here or there and plenty of weekend traffic congestion.

But turn down a country road and the scene changes. More than 200 wineries are tucked into the surrounding hills. Garlands of shimmering green grape vines tier gently upwards, hugging the low slopes. Although relatively young in winemaking terms, the landscape looks a bit like the Burgundy Valley in France. The eyes adjust to – what appears to be – deep-black gemstones clinging to the vines.

It is harvest time and workers are plucking fat bunches of pitch-black grapes. The Pinot Noir grape is a finicky variety, but it has thrived in Oregon, and loves the cool climate, protected by the Cascade Mountains in the East and the Coast Range mountains to the West. For me, it’s an escape from urban madness, and I relish the opportunity to get lost among the vines for several hours.

At the Sokol Blosser Winery in the Dundee Hills, they are pouring an inky-black Pinot Noir. The Sokol Blosser Winery is family run, and the 85 acre estate is organically-certified. It is one of the original wineries in the region and was started in 1971.

A sip of Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Noir is both shadowy and sweet, with flavors of black cherry and earthy minerals. It is a delicious plunge into darkness on a brilliantly sunny Oregon afternoon.

I sampled the food, wine and spirits of the Portland, Oregon region September 27 through October 2, 2009.

©2009 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved


Louisette passion retriever, cat, memory Katanga said...

Lovely foto of a nice country.
Greeting from Belgium

My Carolina Kitchen said...

What a gorgeous place. Two hundred wineries - I would have never guessed. Thanks for taking us along. I've never been to Oregon, but I think I should put it on my "to do" list.

A Feast for the Eyes said...

I hope to explore more of Oregon, someday, since it's my northern neighbor. You captured such lovely vistas. While I'm primarily a beer drinker (imported, please and thank you), hubs and I enjoy a lovely glass of pinot noir. Ah, the Queen's red wine!

veron said...

I've never been to Oregon. Reminded me for a minute of Napa Valley.

Fresh Local and Best said...

I've always wanted to visit Willamette because of all the fantastic pinots produced. I had no idea there were 200 wineries! I think I would be able to spend an entire year just visiting these establishments!

Kalyn said...

Lovely, and I don't think I've been to this part of Oregon.

Helene said...

I love Oregon, it's beautiful. Great wine.

Kitri McGuire said...

Thank you so much for the lovely write up and beautiful pictures of your experience at Sokol Blosser. All the best to you, and cheers!

Kitri McGuire
Marketing Communications Manager
Sokol Blosser Winery

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Louisette - thank you! Glad you stopped by!

Sam - it's good to know I've got plenty left to sample on my next visit.

Deb - Portland has a huge microbrew culture, so worth a visit.

Veron - similiarly beautiful to Napa, but more rural countryside when you head off the main road.

Fresh - you should plan a visit! There's lots to do, and a great cheese company, too.

Kalyn - I was not disappointed - and it's really convenient to Portland.

Helene - You are lucky to live "closer."

Kitri - it was a lovely visit - I could have spent all afternoon sipping on your beautiful deck.

Stacey Snacks said...

I am a freak about Oregon Pinot.
I will only drink it from the Willamette Valley...the BEST! Though pricey, and sometimes $55. and up per bottle, I have been finding a good one for 20 bucks, called Rex Hill. I love it.
Lucky you!

~~louise~~ said...

I never knew Oregon had such a vast selection of wineries. Will you be bringing home a few bottles? (I hope, I hope:)

Thanks for letting us tag-a-long, T.W.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Another wonderful road trip -- I love being an armchair traveler on your wanderings through some of the most beautiful and food-rich parts of the country.

Velva said...

I love Oregon wine country and Pinot Noir is my favorite varietal. A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Willamette Valley and really loved it.

Thanks for sharing!

Jann said...

Gorgeous country~love this part of the U.S. You captured some special moments! Thank you so much for showing us these beautiful shots!

Mike said...

It's always nice to hear good things about your home! For those that don't live around here, you may consider a few of the Pinots that are local Willamette Valley favorites..

Benton Lane, Patricia Green Cellers, and Elk Cove all have a superb Pinot. If you can find one of those three, I am sure you will not be disappointed...of course there are many other small vineyards around here that are excellent.

Bob Wood said...

Always glad to see attention being paid to my homeland and I'm glad you enjoyed yourself. The day you visited was indeed a pretty one and I was out and about myself, returning from a day trip to Pacific City, a quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem. I have a beautiful picture of the vines from the balcony at Bethel Heights that my girlfriend took and I wish it were possible to post it in a comment.

Next trip, though, rather than stopping at the more visible wineries, try some of the ones that are less accessible and require appointments to taste. That's where the real treasures are. The Oregon wine board and the Oregonian have good guides, but here are some names for you: Westrey, Belle Pente, Seven of Hearts, J.K. Carriere, J. Albin, Patricia Green, Ayres, Brick House, Cameron, Le Cadeau, Biggio-Hamina, Barbara Thomas, Scott Paul, La Bete and Eyrie.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Stacy - I'm with you. We should start a Pinot club.

Louise - believe it or not, I brought home a nice Muscat.

Lydia - perhaps you'll be my tour guide for Rhode Island soon.

Velva and Jann - It's a great spot!

Mike and Bob - thanks so much for the additional recommendations. You are right that I need to spend more time exploring the back roads, and with your lists, I'm ready for my return.