Oregon Exploits: Visiting the Willamette Valley

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Last fall with members of the Society of Wine Educators conference, I was able to visit Adelsheim in Oregon. I confess I had no idea about the importance of this winery to the founding of the Oregon wine industry. I had heard of David Lett, whose winery I wrote about last week, but I didn’t know much about the other founding members of the Oregon winery industry. Adelsheim bought their property in 1971 in the Chehalem Mountains. They were the first winery in the area. David Adelsheim planted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay thinking it was the perfect terroir for these grapes. Time has proved him correct.

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They own more than 200 acres of land in the Willamette Valley, with 180 acres planted to vines. The soils in the area are a mix of volcanic and sedimentary soils. Their winemaker is Gina Hennen.

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Adelsheim is also a member of “LIVE”,  which was created in 1995 by a group of winegrowers from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. “LIVE uses a comprehensive set of rigorously applied, science-based standards and procedures that ensure both wine grape farming (viticulture) and wine making production (enology) are as sustainable and have as minimal an environmental impact as possible,” according to their website.

While at the conference, I attended a seminar on Chardonnay from Oregon. Two of the Adelsheim wines were in the lineup, both their Stoller Chardonnay and Caitlin’s Reserve. The former was made using 100% Chardonnay. It spends 12 months in French oak, 17% of it is new oak. Not inexpensive, I enjoyed it a lot. I found it to be pleasing with apple and pear notes together with honeysuckle and brioche undertones both on the nose and palate. I could see drinking this wine with Asian food or a creamy mushroom risotto.

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The Caitlin’s Reserve Chardonnay was also 100% Chardonnay aged in French oak, 25% of which was new, for 10 months. This one would go well with Salmon or a seafood soup. I like both of them and I thought that they were a very welcoming winery.

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They held a group tasting for other producers as well. There I was able to taste wines from Ponzi, Willamette Valley Vineyards and Alexana, among others.

Williamette Valley Vineyards in an interesting one. Started by Jim Bernau in 1983, the winery has 10,000 owners and has its common and preferred stock listed on the Nasdaq. In addition to making wines, they are very attentive both to the natural habit, having introduced raptors and owls into their vineyards as well as to the health of workers in the winery. They support Salud!, which provides healthcare services to Oregon’s seasonal vineyard workers.

I was really impressed with the quality of the Oregon wines in general and the Chardonnay in particular. Today is a perfect day to be writing about Oregon Chardonnay because it is the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration. I wish I were participating but I’m content with my memories of these wonderful wines.

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