The first grapes in the Willamette Valley were planted in the Dundee Hills, and it remains the most densely planted locale in the valley and state. This loop, with stops at Erath Winery, Torii Mor, Bella Vida Vineyard, and Argyle, introduces visitors to this historical home of Willamette Valley Pinot noir while supporting the community’s health and future through Yamhill Community Action Partnership, founded in 1980. YCAP’s mission is to advocate for and assist people toward self sufficiency, whether that means helping with a utility bill, distributing food to pantries throughout the county, or connecting struggling young people with support and resources. (Pictured at left, Youth Outreach teens stand in Newberg to show support for those facing emotional and mental health issues.)
YCAP has four focus categories:
- client services and housing, which assists hundreds of individuals and families annually with transitional shelter and emergency financial support, among other services;
- energy services, which provided 1,500 clients with emergency utility bill support last year and weatherized over 30 homes;
- youth services, which include providing young people ages 11-21 with a safe place to hang out or stay overnight, longer term housing and life skills training;
- a food bank that collects and distributes 1.5 million pounds of food to over 35 partner pantries and sites.
The partners in Destination Dundee will be making donations to YCAP through a portion of tasting fees. Learn more about YCAP in this video.
Lawn Games For Wine Lovers: Memorial Weekend Recreation
Lawn games for wine lovers: memorial weekend recreation
Everyone wants to get outside on Memorial Day Weekend. With the Valley in full bloom, warm weather becoming more and more common and incredible views in every direction, wine country is the perfect place to soak up the long-awaited sun. During the holiday weekend, many wineries are offering activities beyond the tasting room, several of which are family friendly and all of which are more fun with a glass of wine in hand.
One of the most timeless lawn games in the U.S. is Bocce ball, which visitors can play at Hamacher and and Apolloni. Bocce tests aim and distance perception, making it both challenging and relaxing—and, conveniently, it can easily be played with one hand holding a beverage. Meanwhile, Domaine Divio and Utopia will offer the French answer: Pétanque. Domaine Divio’s brand-new Pétanque court will be inaugurated May 19th and open for guests during the holiday weekend. With essentially the same court and rules as Bocce, Pétanque, which originated in Provence, uses stainless steel balls that are a bit smaller and heavier than Bocce balls.
“Pétanque is the French version of Bocce ball,” explains Domaine Divio co-owner and winemaker Bruno Corneaux, a Burgundy native, adding, “actually, I think the Italians stole it from us.”
Alfredo Apolloni (pictured at left), who grew up in a winemaking family in Italy before founding Apolloni Vineyards, has a slightly different take on Bocce’s history. “The early Romans were among the first to play a game resembling what we know as Bocce today,” he explains. “Beginning with Emperor Augustus, Bocce became the sport of statesman and rulers. The Romans introduced the game to far-away countries in Europe such as France, along with viticulture.”
Like debates about their provenance, lawn games can work up an appetite; in addition to the many wineries serving appetizers or snacks during Memorial Weekend, several have picnic space available for those bringing their own meal. Visitors to Arborbrook, Monksgate and ROCO may bring a picnic lunch to enjoy with a bottle of wine on the grounds.
For those who enjoy exploring on foot, Tyee has several miles of neighboring hiking trails, and at Hyland Estates, a stroll by the filbert orchards, experimental vineyard and pond is a wonderful way to experience the winery. Patton Valley will host a vineyard market featuring local food and craft vendors. And Archery Summit invites guests to take a self-guided tour of their barrel caves—a particularly good option for escaping from early-summer heat.
The following wineries have listed games, picnic spaces and other recreation as part of their Memorial Weekend offerings. View the full list of Memorial Weekend events and their descriptions here.
MonksGate Winery & Vineyards
Patton Valley Vineyard
Tyee Wine Cellars
Yamhill Valley Vineyards
A Backstage Pass for Memorial Weekend
A Backstage Pass for Memorial Weekend
Among the many reasons to visit Willamette Valley wine country over Memorial Weekend—fabulous events, new releases, the beauty of bud break, and more—one of the most exciting is the opportunity to experience wines and wineries not normally open to the public.
Many of our region’s smallest producers and independent projects are appointment-only or do not have a tasting room. For these, the holiday weekend is a chance to host an “open house,” often in collaboration with other small producers, that offers a glimpse of their hard-to-find wines and a chance to meet the folks behind them.
“Memorial Day Weekend is such a great time to come to Willamette Valley wine country,” says Meg Murray, co-owner of PROJECT M, which is hosting a “small producer speakeasy” in the back courtyard of Pike Road Wines on Saturday, May 26 with fellow small producers Antiquum Farm, Helioterra Wines, Matzinger Davies and Rocky Point Cellars.
“There are wineries opening their cellars to the public that aren’t regularly open. This is a great chance for wine lovers to taste wines poured by the winemakers, hear their stories and support some of these smaller, often family-run, businesses,” she says. “It’s a great time to connect with the people behind the wine, learn what drives them to create and see firsthand the passion for their craft.”
Murray adds that each winery will be pouring limited and new releases not typically available for tasting, adding, “This is a great opportunity to see what some of the small producers are doing in the Willamette Valley in one place.”
There’s no shortage of interesting things to taste among the small producers opening their doors for the holiday weekend. Wineries such as Anderson Family, iOta Cellars, and Westrey will be serving up library gems; delicious snacks and pairings are on the menu at Domaine Roy et fils, Dukes Family, Lingua Franca, and Soter; and August Cellars, Grochau Cellars and Beaux Frères will host special guest wineries.
With exciting verticals and library tastings, great hors d’oeuvres, and winemakers on hand to answer questions and share their knowledge, Memorial Weekend is chock full of rare chances to glimpse the Willamette Valley behind the scenes.
The following wineries have a rare open house this Memorial Weekend or are hosting neighboring producers not normally open to the public. View the full list of Memorial Day events here.
Anderson Family Vineyard
Bells Up Winery
Carlton Winemakers Studio
Domaine Roy et fils
Dukes Family Vineyards
Natalie’s Estate Winery
Tendril Wine Cellars
Westrey Wine Company
Welcoming Bud Break in the Willamette Valley
Welcoming Bud Break in the Willamette Valley
Tasting rooms are slowly gearing up for the bustle of travel season, red wines are mellowing in barrel, and bottling lines are humming along getting whites wines and rosé ready for picnics in the sun. It’s spring in the Valley, and while there’s lots to do in the winery and tasting room, the most important action of the year to date is happening very quietly out in the vineyard.
Bud break is the moment of awakening for a vine from its winter dormancy period. The new growth, which sets into motion a vine’s growing season, begins when plants sense warming earth, rain and ever-so-slowly lengthening days. Roots begin cycling stored nutrients and water through the vine, encouraging it to essentially yawn and stretch its fingers into the air—bursting soft, fragile buds from yesterday’s hard, dark bumps on the cane. These begin to photosynthesize, and the growing begins.
Late April is typical for bud break in much of the Valley, but sites vary widely due to sun exposure and aspect, altitude and several other factors. “I would characterize this as a ‘classic’ Oregon start to the growing season from a historical perspective,” says Tom Fitzpatrick, winemaker at Alloro Vineyard, who saw 90% bud break by April 21. However, he adds, “I don’t think there really is a ‘normal’ anymore. Climate change seems to be delivering dramatic variability in weather conditions and wide swings in the start of the vines’ time clock from year to year.”
Just as with bud break itself, what constitutes perfect spring conditions may vary from site to site based on a host of factors. “What is fantastically beneficial to us this year is the unusually dry weather we’ve been having,” says Chris Lindemann of Evesham Wood and Haden Fig (bud break at Evesham is pictured at left). “Given that we are farming organically and prefer to source our grapes from dry-farmed, organic-practice plots, this luck of dry weather has allowed us to get ahead of the usual inter-vine weeding.” Wetter weather after weeding, he says, “can develop a situation where the remnants of the weeds out-compete the cover crops.”
Vines are vulnerable during bud break. Frost is always a potential concern in cool-climate winegrowing regions, especially when buds break early. Since cold air moves downward and settles, air flow, elevation and slope position are crucial to frost protection—just one of the reasons winemakers put such an emphasis on site selection. “Thankfully, [frost] is not an extreme threat for a properly chosen, elevated site like Alloro,” says Fitzpatrick.
Pests such as rust and bud mites love to munch on the vulnerable buds, so growers must be vigilant about them, too, he adds. Fortunately, a simple sulfur spray keeps them at bay. Finally, winegrowers must keep adequate soil moisture in mind—since lack of moisture during bud break can stunt vine growth—and try not to use tractors excessively this time of year, since the weight can compact the soil and reduce drainage.
While challenges can turn up during bud break, ultimately, it’s only the first step in a long growing season. “What we’ve found is that the date of bud break is less important in the grape growing process—and defining the quality of the vintage—than are those last ten steps ending with the conditions surrounding the harvest and pick date,” Lindemann explains.
On your next trip to wine country, take a moment to appreciate the hard work represented in bud break and the weeks that follow. This time of year sets off a period of incredibly rapid growth for a vine, and today’s emerging buds are the first chapter in the story of the 2018 vintage.
By Julia Burke
Julia Burke is a wine lover originally from Buffalo, New York, who moved to Oregon in August 2017 to work a harvest and decided to stay. She is the Willamette Valley Wineries Association’s marketing and communications coordinator and a fan of Riesling, peanut butter, and the Chicago Cubs.
Helping Willamette Help Portland
Helping Willamette Help Portland
As close neighbors to the city of Portland, where homelessness has risen at twice the national average, Fullerton Wines, Raptor Ridge, Hamacher Wines, and Blizzard Wines, joining with the Inn at Northrup Station, chose to dedicate their 2018 Portland to Willamette Loop to providing shelter and resources to the city’s most vulnerable residents.
They’ve partnered with Transition Projects Portland, an award-winning nonprofit organization that provides critical support to Portlanders experiencing homelessness.
“Portland has garnered a reputation as one of the top places to visit and live in the United States. The Willamette Valley wine industry has helped raise the reputation of Portland, and the Willamette Valley broadly,” says Matt Wieland of Fullerton Wines. “However, this recognition comes with consequences for those struggling to make ends meet.” He adds that Transition Projects is a leading local nonprofit fighting the housing crisis in Portland.
“Through the Helping Willamette Help Portland loop, we can together help fight homelessness and housing insecurity,” says Wieland. “Your support of the Helping Willamette Help Portland loop enables our community to grow stronger while also supporting family-owned, independent wineries in the Willamette Valley. Wine for the win!”
At Fullerton Wines, a portion of all tasting fees from April through June will go to Transition Projects. Other members are offering either a portion of tasting fees or a special flight; ask your tasting room associate how to donate.
Transition Projects provides services including pathways to employment, education, shelter and counseling to more than 10,000 people each year. On any given night Transition Projects provides a safe shelter to around 800 people. For a look at homelessness in Portland by the numbers, check out this Transition Projects Portland Homelessness Snapshot.
It’s not often that a wine country experience and a walkable downtown setting in one of the country’s best small cities are one and the same. Elizabeth Chambers Cellar, Brittan Vineyards, The Eyrie Vineyards, R. Stuart & Co Winery, and Winderlea Vineyard & Winery have teamed up with Flag & Wire, Valley Commissary, Community Plate and the Atticus Hotel to create a walking winery tour showing off their McMinnville location and its best-of-both-worlds vibe. The walking tour aspect is fitting: they’ve chosen SNACK (Student Nutrition and Activity Clinic for Kids), a local nonprofit that provides free fitness and healthy living experiences for local kids and their families, as their Loop benefactor.
“We are very committed to supporting our McMinnville community, so we chose a local nonprofit with a cause that is near and dear to our hearts: teaching children how to live a healthy lifestyle,” says Ellen Brittan of Brittan Vineyards. “Helping them start out life with a healthy approach to diet and activity will make a lasting contribution to their lives, and to our community.”
As Maria Stuart of R. Stuart & Co. points out, this collaboration reflects the local culture well. “McMinnville has always been known for its wonderful community spirit, and you’ll feel that as you explore our vibrant downtown,” she says. “The wineries who choose to make their homes here want to continue to nurture that spirit. The SNACK program represents so much that we value, in teaching kids how to live healthy lives while enjoying great food and fun activity.”
The SNACK program helps kids and their families develop healthy nutrition and fitness habits for life, says SNACK Executive Director Katie Sours, explaining that the program trains Linfield College student interns to teach participating families skills and strategies for healthy living.
Sours adds, “SNACK partners with Yamhill Community Action Partnership and McMinnville Parks & Recreation to offer cooking classes and fitness sessions; provides fun and healthy activities at local after-school programs; and coordinates semi-annual community health fairs to connect families to local healthy lifestyle resources. All services are provided at no cost to participants enrolled in the program.”
A portion of a portion of tasting fees, wines sold by the glass, food and coffee will benefit S.N.A.C.K.
McMinnville is both a fascinating AVA and a thriving community, combining a rich downtown with beautiful wine country. The Taste McMinnville Loop invites you to, as Youngberg Hill’s Wayne Bailey puts it, “Enjoy the quaint community surrounding McMinnville and the town of McMinnville, where we are supporting homeless high school students’ efforts to graduate and improve their chances of success.”
That community includes, in addition to Youngberg Hill, Coeur de Terre, Yamhill Valley Vineyards, and Brittan Vineyards, who along with Valley Commissary and 3rd Street Flats have selected the Give A Little Foundation as their 2018 beneficiary. The Give A Little Foundation’s recent focus on helping McMinnville’s children was of particular resonance for the Taste McMinnville loop members.
“As a group of family–owned and operated wineries, we want to give back in a way that helps invest in the future of our community,” says Jenny Burger at Yamhill Valley Vineyards.
Give A Little Foundation cofounder Phil Phirages explains, “For the last two school years, we have focused greater effort on helping local school children (K–12). To that end, we have set up a network which includes a Give a Little liaison in every public school in McMinnville. This liaison works in partnership with a designated school employee who identifies students needing special help, and we then provide this assistance in the form of shoes, hygiene kits and a long list of other clothing and supplies.”
To support this cause, take an opportunity to taste the wines and edible bounty of the McMinnville AVA; Bailey says visitors can expect “more structured, more intense, more complex Pinot noir.” Loop members will be donating $1 from each tasting flight fee collected April through June.
Yamhill Valley Vineyards winemaker Ariel Eberle encourages adventurous Loop-goers to experience the community on two wheels. “The ride up to Youngberg Hill is steep, but well worth the effort for the view that you will be rewarded with!” she says, citing bird-watching at Yamhill Valley Vineyards, lovely rolling hills, and a solid appetite for delicious food from the loop’s restaurant partners among the benefits of an up-close experience. “This loop is really special because it shows off the beauty and serenity that this area has to offer.”
The Season of New Arrivals in the Willamette Valley
The Season of New Arrivals in the willamette valley
After the mellow hibernation of cellar season, spring brings a rush to get white and rosé wines in bottle for release parties, wine club shipments, and increasingly bustling tasting rooms. One look at the Memorial Day Weekend events being featured in wine country and you’ll see that the spring vibe in the Willamette Valley is fun, joy, and the renewed energy that only a deluge of Vitamin D can bring. Spring visitors to wine country will discover new releases, exciting projects, and perhaps even a sneak peak at the still-aging wines to come.
Pinot noir and several other popular Willamette Valley varieties make wonderful rosé, so the dawn of rosé season—an increasing craze around the wine world in recent years—is cause for much celebration in wine country. Bells Up will release a rosé as their very first estate wine this spring, made from Pommard and Dijon 667 Pinot noir vines planted in spring 2014. “We’ve made rosé from the beginning (at my mom’s request) using sourced fruit; but this one is super-personal,” says Sara Specter, who founded Bells Up with her husband, attorney-turned-winemaker Dave Specter, in 2013. The rosé, dubbed Prelude and pictured at left, has a special Memorial Day significance. “Many of the rows in our vineyard have been tagged with the names of friends and family who have passed away during this journey, as Dave transitioned from corporate tax attorney to winemaker. This wine is the first of many to come that honors the memory of those people we desperately wish were still here to enjoy a glass with us.”
At Winter’s Hill, spring will mark the release of several wines including 2017 rosé and their 2015 Reserve Pinot Gris—a less common sight than the 2016 and 2017 arrivals. “Since the Reserve Pinot Gris is fermented and aged in French oak, we like to give it some time in the bottle before release to allow the palate to develop more fullness,” explains owner Russell Gladhart.
White and rosé wines are heading to the bottling line and then out to the tasting room and the wider market; joining them are many 2016 Pinots, which have generated quite a bit of buzz. Meanwhile, 2017’s red wines still have months of development left to go. Gladhart uses Memorial Weekend as a chance to give visitors a sneak preview. “We give our fans the chance to taste the 2017 Pinot noir that is still developing in barrel,” he says.
If you’re one of the lucky ones who gets to taste 2017 Pinot in barrel during your winery visits this spring, look for fresh fruit aromas and structure—the wine’s tannin and acidity will already be present. “As the wines continue to age in barrel, and later in bottle, they will develop the complexity and depth of aroma that we love in Pinot noir,” Gladhart explains. Oak and fruit will continue to integrate over time in barrel.
“I sometimes explain to consumers that the wines develop fastest when they are younger. They develop more in the first six months in the barrel than in the second six months; and they develop more in the first year in bottle than in the second year,” he says.
“The wine is a living thing, and it never stops changing, but that change happens more rapidly in the beginning.”