From Kelsey Ivey Part 2 of her North Willamette Wine Trail adventure with the North Willamette Vintners. Read part 1 here.
Learning to Smell at Patton Valley Vineyards
“Stick your nose in this one!” a young lady proclaimed from across the cool barn, where her group was standing around a table with colorful filled glasses. Shoving the glass in her friends face so his nose practically took a three-flip dive into the rim, she persisted, “what do you smell!?”
Just up a winding road from Plum Hill Vineyards, Patton Valley Vineyards piqued the senses on our second stop of the afternoon – and not just with its wines. A dedicated, estate grown vineyard with sweeping views of the North Willamette Valley, Patton Valley prides itself on crafting high quality Pinot Noir. Emphasizing flavor over production, their wines taste with superb balance that comes with close cultivation. Grown on south facing slopes composed of Laurelwood soil, Patton Valley showcases top-notch, complex pinot noirs that are built on the foundation that great wines are the result of consistent vineyard management and persistence to the craft.
Complimenting their dedication to flavor, Patton Valley set up an aroma board for visitors to sniff their way through. Showcasing the 30 most common scents found in wine, from mushrooms to coffee and grapefruit to eucalyptus, each tasting glass had in it the actual item that creates the aroma. With a flurry of color, texture and overwhelming aromas, each glass popped the senses into overdrive to help pin-point the subtle and sometime not-too-subtle aromas of wine.
The real magic happened though not in the nose but in the mouth with Patton Valley’s third wine, its 2009 Estate Pinot Noir. Flourishing with spice and savory dark berries, this wine peaked with a nice even, medium density and smooth, lingering finish.
Getting Dirty at Elk Cove Vineyards
Leaving Old Highway 47 and past the small town of Gaston, I made my way through the spotty, forested countryside southward to Elk Cove Vineyards. Following the winery’s long driveway, we enter what seemed like a miniature wine paradise to taste wines built from the ground up. A picturesque winery nestled in its own cove of the valley filled with row after row of vines, Elk Cove Vineyards is one of Oregon’s oldest wineries. With over 600 acres on four separate vineyard sites, the winery focuses on Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. Demonstrating their vineyards’ unique soil and microclimate, the winery has also produced single vineyard Pinot Noirs since 1979.
Tasting their wines starting with the soil, Elk Cove featured three of their single vineyard Pinot Noirs with visual information about each vineyard’s soil type for visitors to learn how the different dirts influence flavor.
First up was their 2010 Clay Court Pinot Noir grown in Jory soils in the Chehalem Mountains AVA. With a bright red cherry fruit flavor, light texture and a touch of spice at the tip of the tongue, this wine is made to drink on the porch in the late afternoon. Following, we sampled the Laurelwood soil based Windhill Vineyard Pinot Noir with its blend of bright fruit and peppered earthiness. Breaking through the loess-type soil with its dusty sedimentary, this wine stuck in the mouth with its bright acidity and density. Finally, the tasting concluded with a wine grown in the marine sediment known as Willakenzie. The 2010 Mount Richmond Pinot Noir, which is planted at a lower elevation (300-500 feet), struck a delicious balance between the previous two. With a showing of black current, blueberry and a light center of ripe red berries, this wine swept the palate with its full flavor and hanging mouth-feel.
As the afternoon continued on and I traveled further along the North Willamette Wine Trail, I was delighted to discover more hidden gems around each corner. From Kramer Vineyards with its trio of Pinot Gris to the Cooper Mountain Vineyards’ rustic tasting room, the North Willamette is perfecting its wine making and pulled together to showoff and shine as a unified trail that is ready for wine enthusiasts to walk its line.