We have the fortune of living at the edge of Oregon’s wine country (part of it anyway.) We’re a 15-20 minute drive to two of our favorite wineries,Owen Roe, and Terra Vina but this isn’t about them. On Thanksgiving weekend, we often get together with good fiends and make a day of it, visiting new wineries. Sometimes we have a plan, sometimes we don’t. This year we knew we wanted to visit Bergstroms on Ribbon Ridge and end up at Chehalem in Newberg before heading to dinner. Our friends drove down from Seattle, and stayed at the Allison Inn and Spa in Newberg
The Allison Inn & Spa
The Allison is new, at about a year old and was designed to cater to wine country visitors. Texture and scent predominate with the beautiful open kitchen inside and herbs and olives making up most of the landscaping. Decorated inside and out with a variety of stones and wood panels the melange of textures are appealing, yet low key and allows it to sort of blend in with the hills. After a leisurely breakfast, we took off cross country towards Ribbon Ridge in the Chehalem Mountains AVA, wandering through oak savanna into the rounded hills overlooking the fertile Chehalem Valley. We climbed to the top of the ridge, where Bergstroms perches like a crown, looking off across the valley towards Penner Ash. We started off enjoying the Sigrid Chardonnay, then nearly choked on the $78 price tag. We wandered back through the stacks of oak kegs and stainless 55 gallon drums racked into walls and tagged with grease pencil notes on vineyards and characteristic. We tried several of the 2009 new release Pinot Noirs from the Shea, Old Stone and Bergstrom vineyards. As a whole they were OK, nice nose, strong start with cherries and a meatiness, and then... where did it go? I’d drink a bottle, but the $40 to $80 price points seemed kind of unwarranted to me.
Beaux Freres Winery
Our next stop was just down the hill at Beaux Freres where we were greeted by Otis, the chocolate lab. The winery itself is unpretentious and feels like it fits the countryside. The wines we were tasting were pre-release Pinots and in some cases hadn’t even been bottled yet. There was some promise there, but it’s like looking at a four year old and wondering what they will be like when they reach twenty four. I don’t think it was doing them a great service serving them up this soon. Our friends picked up a case and a wreath, we bid Otis adieu and pointed the M5 towards our next destination.
The view from Dundee Hills
We decided to check out Domain Drouhin to the south in the Dundee Hills AVA. We climbed to the top of the hill, only to find a locked gate with the winery closed for the holiday weekend, so we headed to Domain Serene, which was also closed (one of the hazards of winging it in your wine tour planning) so we finally settled on the Vista Hills Winery. The winery has a spectacular view and the sun broke through transforming the whole world in a golden glow of long autumn light and lingering fall leaves. They offered a nice selection of noshes and the amazing view. Oh, you noticed that I didn’t mention the wine? It was OK, but we didn’t bring any home. Maybe it was that it was the third winery of the day, maybe it was because there are several hundred wineries making good Pinots in the area and they can’t all be starting string.
Evaluating some of Chehalem's finest
After our visit to Vista Hills, we rolled back down the hill, through the charming but slightly schizophrenic town of Dundee. It can’t quite decide whether it is a chi-chi wine town or a down home farming community.
We made it back into Newberg just in time to visit the Chehalem Winery. They do a great job with whites and we tried a nice Riesling and brought home a few bottles of 2008 Stoller Vineyard Pinot Blanc and 2009 3 Vineyard Pinot Gris. Both are nice crisp whites that show off the Chehalem style.
The wood fired grill where chops and steaks become art
Next to spending some quality time with our friends, dinner at Jory at the Allison Inn and Spa was one of the highlights of the day. We sat at the counter watching over the crew busily whipping up delicacies. An amuse bouche of duck pastrami and cress, followed by a salad of confit of duck on a bed of black quinoa and Carlton pork chop fire grilled with shredded smoked pork and vegetables wrapped in Bok Choi. Nearly all the ingredients are local and they were expertly prepared along with the opportunity to chat with the chefs and watch them in action. If you ever find yourself in Newberg looking for a great place to eat, stop by Jory, we highly recommend it.