Willamette Valley Vineyards: Open Up and Say Yum
In my adult years, one of my own personal mantras whenever I go to Portland to visit the world's largest amount of relatives has been, "I'll be with family; so, in other words, I'll be drinking." Though I say this in jest, it turned out to be true on my last trip to Oregon.
Knowing I write a wine column, my aunt offered to take my mother and me to the Willamette Valley Vineyards. Upon this suggestion, I utilized another personal mantra, one I utter whenever wine is offered: "Just say Yes."
The Willamette Valley Vineyards are located in Turner, Oregon, right off the highway. Makers of Burgundian varietals, with a special penchant for Pinot Noir, these vineyards have been growing since 1983, and grown they have. According to their website, neighboring landowners were talked into selling until the vineyards grew to 50 acres.
Though I'd been to Oregon a number of times in my life, this was my initial visit to the Willamette Valley Vineyards. The first thing that struck me was the magnificence that surrounded us as we drove into wine country; everything was overflowing with lavish greens and unparalleled beauty. Hailing from Colorado, I'm not accustomed to being surrounded by the same kind of appeal. I'm not saying Colorado doesn't contain beautiful things (ahem, I'm here), but we aren't a state filled with glowing greens. Oregon, when it comes to vegetation, rules all.
After parking, we entered the tasting room and were immediately greeted by the staff. They were friendly, knowledgeable, and - as my mom, who rarely drinks, asked them a slug of questions, stopping just short of requesting to see each grape's individual resume - very patient. We were allowed to choose between a free tasting, and one for six dollars. The six dollars tasting allowed us to take home a wineglass. Since most of my wineglasses are a mixture of those bought at Target and those "accidentally" stolen from bars, I decided to go with the six dollar tasting.
We sampled two reds (one was the best Pinot Noir I've ever tasted), two whites, and a dessert wine, a glorious Riesling that I would have drank in excess if given the opportunity; but, it turns out, my arms weren't long enough to reach the bottle without the staff seeing. As we sampled, we were taught about each wine and offered plates of crackers, fruit, and cheese. If there is one way to my heart other than wine, it's cheese; this place was like Heaven, but with more corkscrews (in the afterlife, I imagine the wine just opens itself).
When the tasting was over, and my mom stated loud enough for the whole room to hear that she was, in fact, buzzed, we were given the opportunity to purchase wine. I purchased the Riesling for myself and a 2006 Pinot Noir for my boss. That's right people, I can brown nose with the best of 'em.
As we left, my aunt told me that Willamette Valley Vineyards often has wedding receptions and that my cousin, who married three years ago, considered having his reception here. In the end, he chose a different building, not because it was nicer, but because it was more centrally located to his wedding attendants. How he could pass up having his reception at these vineyards is beyond me. But, then again, this cousin is the son of my uncle, a man who was renown for drinking wine with ice cubes. I guess it was only to be expected.
The trip to Willamette Vineyards Valley was well worth it and one I plan to take again the next time I find myself in the Beaver State. For anyone who is a novice to wineries, these vineyards, with great staff and beautiful scenery, are a perfect place to start; you'll be impressed by the finish.