Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Crushes: Top 10 Most Memorable Wines of 2009

Like the ever-elusive “love at first sight,” sometimes we make a powerful connection with certain wines and might even think they’re “The One.” Something about it appeals to your inner being in some magical and almost undefinable way. It challenges your mind and your heart at once… stirring intense emotion and captivating your attention while luring you in for more. Your heart begins to race, and you feel passion and fulfillment co-mingling together side by side like champagne flutes. But, like fickle love, fortunately the same thing doesn’t appeal to everyone—and in that spirit, I’d like to offer my contribution to the Top Ten torrent and share with you what wines captured my soul and won me over in some undeniable way. And, while I realize some of these wines are completely and ridiculously unaffordable for the average consumer (me) and some are even sold out (☹), the following is simply a list of the most memorable wines I tasted in 2009:

1. Archery Summit 2007 Arcus Estate Pinot Noir ($100)
2. 2007 Bergstrom Vineyard Pinot Noir ($75)
3. Argyle 1999 Extended Tirage Brut (sold out)
4. Marchesi 2007 Barbera ($27)
5. Carlo & Julian 2005 Estate Tempranillo ($30)
6. Alloro 2007 Church Block Pinot Noir ($38)
7. Mystic 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon ($28)
8. Apolloni 2008 Pinot Noir Rose ($?)
9. Purple Cow 2008 Siegerrebe ($14)
10. White Rose 06 Soverae ($75)

My current quest to taste at every Oregon tasting room in a year has allowed me the unique privilege of sampling a lot of wine. I’ve now visited 127 different wineries and having tasted well over 600 wines in a three-month span, I’ve also learned many great lessons, met amazing people that have changed my life and I’ve further honed my eager palate. I think I finally developed a true understanding of the word “terrior” (a French term describing how the soil and location impact the flavors of the fruit) and have now tasted for myself the distinct flavor profiles from specific AVAs (American Viticultural Areas). Further reflection on my experiences reveals I also discovered something about how wine can make a powerful impression and sometimes can even steal your heart. I hope you found some wines that were utterly beguiling in 2009, I’d sure love to hear about them! Until we sip again in 2010…

Cheers and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Chrismas Spirit's Alive in Oregon Wine Country

Oh the weather outside is frightful, but wine tasting is still so delightful. Since you’ve no place to go, let them pour, let them pour, let them pour wine for you. Yes, with a little forethought and planning, wine tasting during not-so-idyllic weather can be the perfect outing. However, on days when the rain, ice or snow is coming down (yes, it actually does all three in Portland… sometimes at once), I tend to avoid the back-country dirt roads that turn into seas of mud and lakes of quicksand, preferring to access those tasting rooms situated along paved roads. I know, it doesn’t sound as romantic, but again, with a little planning, you’ll be amazed at the winter wine tour you could arrange.

Tying Portland to Willamette Valley wine country is the Highway 99 corridor. The Yamhill County sign is the first indication that you’ve left the big city and civilization behind and entered Oregon’s wine country. Immediately past that sign, and just shy of the town of Newberg, is the very first winery you come to along this stretch… August Cellars. I’ve driven past it over a hundred times and yet never stopped. Many years ago, I heard a bad guest review (from someone I respect), which I sadly let influence my decision to visit. I’m glad my quest finally brought me there because it was nothing like I had imagined. The winery’s structure is immediately impressive with what must be 50-foot-high ceilings and rustically urban cement and wood all around. It took over two years to complete the gravity flow facility, which was finally opened for production in 2005 and is now home to six boutique wineries producing small lots of wines. In fact, each winery has their own individual cellar for aging and crafting wines. The real unique thing about August Cellars’ tasting room is their tasting flight changes every week, so guests could stop by frequently and always taste something new and can taste a sampling of these small producers as well. The owners, the Schaad family, don’t have any vineyards planted, but do have 20 acres of farm with Italian walnut and prune orchards (the walnuts are for sale in the tasting room and are amazing… fresh and not bitter at all).

August Cellars produces some interesting wines, which John poured for me in their loft-style tasting room. The 2007 Riesling had amazing aromatics, but I took special notice of the 2007 Pinot Noir Oregon Oak Barrel Select, aged in Oregon White Oak barrels made by a local cooper in McMinnville. I’ve heard some winemakers experiment with the Oregon barrels, blending them with French Oak, but this is the first “All Oregon” wine I’ve personally seen—Oregon fruit, Oregon winemaker, Oregon production and Oregon Oak barrels… fantastic. The wine was a lovely lighter style, but perceptibly complex at first smell. It made its grand entrance, swirling with sweet cherry pie, juicy plums, soft vanilla, and it ended with a deep bow of exotic and spicy cinnamon. Also of particular appeal was the 2004 Pinot Noir Aubre Vert Vineyard; the only Pinot noir August Cellars produced from grapes actually located within their Chehalem Mountain AVA (American Viticultural Area). It was a worthy ambassador of the region… big, dark and a bit jammy with rich and earthy aromas of fig and cocoa (one of my most favorite combinations) and an explosion of wild black raspberries, black plum and vanilla filling my eager taste buds. This wasn’t your classic “pair with salmon” Oregon Pinot… though delicious, it would perhaps hold up better with heavier foods like meats, pastas and stews. While I’d passed by August Cellars countless times without stopping, the next winery on my tour I had visited prior, and it figured both warmly and prominently in my memories.

Conveniently located just a half-mile or so down the highway is Rex Hill which is built around the carefully preserved original fruit and nut drying facility. On my initial visit to Rex Hill, my six-month-old son sleeping in heavenly peace next to my husband and I while I consumed and enjoyed my first few post-pregnancy sips of wine. Memories alone can be intoxicating—but back to Rex Hill in the present day.

Open Rex Hill’s magnificently hand-carved wooden cellar door and enter into an arena where, in addition to sipping premium wine, you can also learn to hone your sniffing skills by studying and identifying individual smells around Rex Hill’s essence table. Imagine a circle of glasses, each filled with a unique essence… raspberries, rose petals, lavender, clove, ginger, cinnamon, vanilla, and even moist earth and wet stones sharpen your sense of smell and educate your palate. I’ve seen some experts describe a wine’s aroma as cat pee… I’m glad they didn’t have that essence. Tasting Room Associate Hugo Gutierrez admits the table’s not easy to maintain, but appreciates how uncommon it is and recognizes the importance of having an accessible yet serious wine education component within the tasting room.

A warm fire cozied up the tasting room’s intimate seating area adjacent to the central bar where Hugo and I engaged in a meaningful conversation about freelance writing and his passion to bridge the weak relationship between the wine and the Hispanic communities. All the wines were tasting quite good, but Rex Hill makes a number of single vineyard designates that really shine. That day I tasted a 2006 Rex Hill Jacob Hart Pinot Noir that was focused and well balanced with lush red fruit, floral rosehips and a rich, dark, moist earthiness underneath it all. The supple round tannins lent that silky feel as the wine slid gracefully across my tongue, almost sneaking down my throat. Rex Hill (owned by A to Z wineworks) biodynamically farms 17 acres of Pinot noir and keeps one row of Muscat that is tended to by the staff. Each staff member adopts a few vines and tends to them throughout the growing season ensuring everyone has a connection to the plant and to the earth.

Well, the weatherman was wrong again (surprise), the expected ice and snow never came and I was easily able to continue on my quest to conquer Newberg in a day. At the Dark Horse Wine Bar (offering new tasting flights each week), I tasted cult favorite Sineann Wines, some older wines from Medici Vineyards as well as some exciting Merlots, Cabernets and Zinfandels from Ferraro Cellars. Another easily accessible downtown winery worth stopping in even if the weather is good is Chehalem. The visually interesting tasting room’s set in a refurbished automotive repair shop from the 1940’s with massive, old-growth Douglass Fir beams juxtaposed against updated bright colors and modern fused glass art. The wines were stellar, and being in the mood for a good white, I found one in the 2008 INOX Chardonnay. Stainless steel fermented and stunning with a crisp, not overly tart citrus fruit flavor coming through. It was a great evening sipper all on its own, though it did pair perfectly with my husband’s charming company.

This particular wine tour taught many lessons, some of which I thought I already knew. First off, and almost obvious, I was reminded to have an open mind about everything and always form my own opinions. Secondly, I learned to never listen to the weatherman when planning my day (Did I really need to learn that lesson again?). Lastly, and most importantly though, it got me thinking about the hectic holiday season. Between the shopping and the parties, it’s easy it is to lose track of the real yuletide message. So, while I’d love to ask Santa for a trip to someplace warm and tropical, a good stable job or the Cellar Crawl Collection (Five winemakers, five barrels, five vineyards… 25 different expressions of Pinot noir!), all I really want for Christmas (if I celebrated Christmas) is peace—for me, for you and for the rest of the world. So have yourselves a merry little Christmas—and a glass of wine. Until we sip again…


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Top 10 Favorite Oregon Wineries

Nearly every time I’m in a tasting room and I’m chatting with the other guests about my quest, the most common question I’m always asked is “So, what are your favorite wineries so far?” As I start rummaging through the hidden pockets of my brain, I find a treasure trove of gems (can I really narrow it down to just ten?). I begin to rattle off a list and I watch them scramble for paper to write down what I have to say as if it’s some secret stock tip. I’ve visited over 120 Oregon tasting rooms now, and though if you ask me tomorrow, the list might change, at this moment in time, I do have a few favorites—some for the wine, some the view and some the whole experience.

So today, while talking with my son Devon about blogs, he mentioned that people his age (and people who use Digg specifically) tend to read shorter articles and really gravitate towards top ten lists. Devon’s 22-years-old, which makes him part of Generation Y, Net Generation and MTV Generation (if we want to label him). His age bracket is defined by having a 30-second attention span and being able to multi-task in ways we never thought possible—doing their homework on the computer, while IMing friends, checking email, texting so and so, all while simultaneously watching TV and listening to music.

For the easily distracted, lovers of top ten lists and those just looking for a quick pick of my favorite Oregon wineries, I've compiled my list (not necessarily in any order) into one easy read and this one goes out to you. Until we sip again…


1. Archery Summit
2. Bergstrom
3. Lemelson
4. Trisaetum
5. De Ponte
6. Marchesi
7. Winderlea
8. Lenne
9. Penner Ash
10. Elk Cove

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Is Your Glass Always Half-Full?

When one thinks of Salem, Oregon, wineries and vineyards are probably not some of the first images that come to mind. But, at the southern end of the Willamette Valley, just beyond the boundaries of Oregon’s capital city of Salem, lies the Eola-Amity AVA (American Viticultural Area) that includes a vast array of wineries both unique in taste and experience.

Visit Redhawk Vineyard and Winery, but be prepared, you might feel like staying a while… heck, you might just even move in. At least that’s how it went for Jude, who popped into Redhawk while on vacation from California three years ago and has since been “adopted” by the family, working in the winery and pouring in the tasting room. As it turns out, she’s also my mystery fire-starting goddess, lighting fires and rescuing her neighboring winery’s guests from the unfriendly cold (I ran into her on a previous day’s adventure at Mystic—click to read the post).

In 2005 John and Betty Pataccoli purchased Redhawk Vineyard and Winery lock, stock and wine barrel. Though the place was pretty rundown, the Pataccolis made significant upgrades to the winery, cellar/tasting room and vineyards and Redhawk is now producing quality wine they aim to sell at reasonable prices. John and Betty created a place for guests to sip wine while regarding the mountain and valley views from the huge floor-to-ceiling windows.

While Max the Dog gravitated between lounging like a king on this throne and roaming the cellar in search of sausage handouts, I enjoyed the wines in the entertaining company of Jude and John. Redhawk crafts a lighter style Pinot noir called “Grateful Red,” which was originally conceived by the ex-hippies who founded the place. The wine had such a cult following that John kept it around—which turned out to be a smart decision, as that wine now accounts for half of his production. When John bought the farm (so to speak), with it, he inherited 14 barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Pinot noir. In a lucky twist of fate (and almost by accident), he expertly blended them to create a big, flavorful and affordable table wine (which he’s also kept around) called Redhawk Red ($12).

My favorite wines however, were the 2007 Pataccoli Family Vineyard Pinot Noir and the 2008 Syrah Columbia Valley; the Pinot was loaded down with red cherries and raspberries striking a sweet spot on my tongue while the toasty Syrah warmed me up from the inside out with blackberries, cassis, spicy peppercorn and hints of anise. The finish on the Syrah lingered long and heavy, like an old fogies’ stogie, I still had a full itinerary, so I bid my farewells and headed off for Evasham Wood.

On the way to my car, I paused to absorb the views of the vineyards and scenic valley below where I met a Redhawk employee who told me about a secret trail through the strand of tall fir trees adjacent to the residence which led directly to Evasham Wood, right next door. He mentioned that it’s quicker to walk there then to drive but the drive up through their vineyards is lovely, so sold on the notion of that experience, I returned to my car.

Funny thing about timing—while driving up past the fields of flowing golden grasses lined with stately old Oregon white oak trees, stretches of blackberry bramble and on through Evasham Wood’s 13-acres of organically farmed vineyards, I paused a few minutes to snap a photo. Almost immediately as I resumed driving however, I passed my old boss Jason Ludlow (from Cooper Mountain Vineyards) coming down. Had I walked what was probably a very lovely trail through that cluster of fir trees between the wineries, I would have arrived just in time to bump right into him, which may have been a bit awkward for both of us. Sadly, our professional relationship fell apart when I started this project and discovered he didn’t think regular, uncredentialed people such as myself (non sommeliers) should be writing about wine and didn’t support “wine blogging” in general (not that he ever even bothered to look at my blog). So, apparently with the timing fairy sitting pretty on my shoulder that day, I found myself able to enjoy the wines at Evasham Wood Vineyard in their cozy, sub-terreanian wine cellar after all.

Evasham Wood Vineyard is only open for guests to taste two times per year, and as luck (or good planning) would have it, I happened in for their Fall Open House. The packed cellar was brimming and bustling like an evening cocktail party with guests mingling over wine and platters of catered food (which also made it difficult for owner and winemaker Russ Raney to answer my questions).

Russ produces 5500 cases a year, aspiring to craft wines that are true to both their varietal and the location… terrior. Russ poured a 2008 Blanc du Puit Sec that was 80% Pinot Gris and 20% Gewurztraminer which I thought showed interesting notes of Meyer lemon and candied ginger. The 2007 Pinot Noir Le Puits Sec, all from estate fruit, was his golden child though—well structured, with great balance and good acids. More complex than a cocktail wine, it was clearly built for food pairing (as classic Burgundies are). I hung onto my glass of wine for a while… swirling it, sniffing it, letting it open up so I could explore the many layers which kept unfolding to expose plums, raspberries, earthy truffles and leather, floral rose petals and a spicy white pepper finish. After tasting through the wines, I left the Evasham Wood’s country estate cellar and escaped to the nearby cultural retreat of Cubanisimo.

Step into Cubanisimo Vineyards and you might think you’ve landed in a Cuban cafĂ©. The tasting room is rich in Cuban flavor with bright art contrasted by dark wood overhead, banana-leaf ceiling fans, plantain chips on the bar, tropically-inspired patio and of course, Fidel Castro toilet paper. The owner and founder, Maurice Collado Jr., who was born in Havana and lived with a winemaking family while in college, has ultimately combined his pride in his heritage with a passion for great Pinots. He commissioned Robert Stuart (of R. Stuart wines) to craft his portfolio, which included a charming 2008 Rosado de Pinot Noir that at first sniff was bright and floral with essences of green melon and apricot breaking through and an appealing mouth of succulent white peaches. I was intrigued by Cubanisimo’s 2008 Pinot Gris, which grabbed my attention with its combination of subtle honey and white flowers that stood up against the strong backbone of zesty citrus, Anjou pear and tart green apple.

In my research, I learned the meaning of the word Cuba roughly translates to “where fertile land is abundant” or “a great place” from the indigenous Taino language. With 12-acres of vineyards just planted in 2003, I’m sure Maurice is just beginning to understand how fitting his name choice probably is.

The Eola-Amity region is a far different experience than the crowded and oft-visited Dundee Hills. The wineries are very unpretentious, and if you’re a first time taster, wineries like these provide a less intimidating atmosphere. While at Cubanisimo, I got to enjoy witnessing a gentleman’s first foray into wine tasting. Tasting Room Associate Heather masterly handled him, and though the guest was somewhat resistant, she was gently persuasive and even had him drinking pink wine—I might add that he appeared to be enjoying it too! Well done Heather.

Every once in a while, my experiences on this journey take me beyond wine and I discover something different and truly special. Pop ‘round to the unassuming Orchard Heights Winery on a Sunday for brunch and be prepared for a feast! Start the day with made-to-order omlettes and pasta bar, Belgium waffles, biscuits and gravy or eggs benedict. If the weather’s nice, take advantage of a choice of scenic vistas from either the front deck or back patio. Even if you miss brunch, like I did, Orchard Heights features a large gift shop with an extensive selection of snacks to make lunch from, including macadamia nuts and chocolate from the owners Michael and Gwen Purdy’s farm and factory in Hawaii (where they live half-time).

Orchard Heights was offering a selection of 15 wines to choose from—that’s a lot of tasting and spitting. While I was doing this, a brunch staff member happened through and was astonished I was spitting the wines out, as she had never seen that done before. Really? She works at a winery and has never seen someone who tastes but doesn’t drink? I might have looked as astonished as she did. Keeping with the island theme—and in addition to the winery’s Pinot gris, Pinot noir, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah—Orchard Heights makes their specialty Island Princess wines, which is their dry white wine base with Hawaiian tropical fruit purees added that were unique, exotic and distinctive, especially in this Valley of Pinot noir.

While I was considering how many glasses of wine I have poured for me in a day of tasting, it occurred to me what a lucky woman I really am. But to be honest, I was having one of those days, which is probably hard to imagine when my job is to be out touring Oregon’s amazing wine country, right? Contrary to popular belief though, purposeful wine tasting, as I’m doing it, is more work at this point than it is a good time. So, feeling perhaps a bit philosophical too, I began thinking about how others view my world as well as their own. And at the end of a long day, I wonder how many been have looking at their glass throughout the day with the good fortune of having it always be half full. So what ‘s the lesson here? You tell me. Until we sip again…


Friday, December 4, 2009

Seize the Day and Go Taste Wine

Special holiday weekends provide amazing opportunities for wine tasters. In Oregon’s wine country, it can mean a chance to taste some rare and well-kept secrets. Many small producers that don’t keep regular tasting room hours throw open their cellar doors just a few times a year welcoming new and old fans alike. Thanksgiving weekend is traditionally one of those special weekends, and I was feeling grateful for my opportunity to explore some of these hidden wonders.

Every time I see my friend Thomas (Winemaker for Anne Amie Vineyards), he always asks if I’ve visited Alloro Vineyards yet, and I always reply, “No, not yet.” Well, this weekend I finally took Thomas’s recommendation to visit Alloro Vineyards for one of their twice-a-year celebrations, and am truly thankful I did. Alloro Vineyards is an enviable 70-acre Mediterranean-inspired estate located in the Chehalem Mountains in the Northern Willamette Valley. It’s practically a stone’s throw from downtown Portland, but set in the midst of sprawling agriculture, instead of cookie-cutter houses. The name Alloro is Italian for laurel… and seeing how the vineyard is located on Laurelwood soil, on Laurel Ridge with laurel growing all over the property, the name is obviously a good fit. Historically, laurel symbolized immortality; today it is a symbol of both peace and victory… I can drink to that.

Friends, family and neighbors came from near and far to support founder David Nemarnik and enjoy Alloro’s wines which are an example of Oregon’s finest Pinots… well balanced, elegant and complex. Though Alloro was showing some of their 2008 Pinots, which had recently been bottled, the wine I thought was hogging the spotlight was the 2007 Church Block Estate Pinot Noir. This wine is named for the block’s location—directly across from a pioneer church whose bells can be heard chiming throughout the vineyard every Sunday morning at 10:30. The wine had a touch of sweet strawberry, black cherries and tart raspberry with a hint of smokiness offering intrigue and a spicy finish that added that extra something, something. The tannins were fine and silky but the firm structure would indicate this stunning wine could still benefit from additional cellar time.

Alloro also produces a late-harvest dessert wine called Vino Netarre, which rivals Canada’s best ice wines. A late-harvest blend of Riesling and the gorgeously aromatic Muscat, the wine was dazzling and stood very well on its own, but I couldn’t help but imagine what it would taste like reduced and drizzled over French toast… it could very well be the star of my Sunday brunch! After chatting with a limo driver about our mutual appreciation of the Church Block Pinot Noir and the tasting opportunities weekends like this present, he recommended I visit Styring Vineyards on Ribbon Ridge. Curiosity piqued, I left the Tuscan splendor and bocce courts of Alloro Vineyard and headed off for Styring Vineyards; a boutique winery located atop the Ribbon Ridge AVA (American Viticultural Area) in Oregon’s Northern Willamette Valley.

Founded by Steve and Kelly Styring in 2003, Steve is producing artisan wines but Molly the Wine Dog is perhaps upstaging Steve ever so slightly as the their face and handle on Twitter… she even has her own blog. Styring has a subterranean cave for wine storage (which I didn’t see), but the wine production area was well dressed for their semi-annual occasion with wine, snacks, live music and twinkling lights overhead. There was quite a large gathering and the party crowd was soaking it all in.

The Styrings, whose farming history dates back to early England in the 1100’s, purport that Pinot Noir is their passion, Riesling is their whimsy and Port and dessert wines are their bliss. They were showing a preview of their 2008 Pinot Gris, which was tart and racy with a simple nose of apple and pear. Their 2006 Signature Pinot Noir (with fruit sourced from the Dundee and Carlton Hills) was barrel-aged for one and a half years and then bottle-aged for another year. Aging the wine in barrel for longer than 12 months is a major commitment for a winery because they will have two vintages in barrel at the same time (requiring lots of extra space and additional expensive barrels). The extra time paid off and the wine showed well with plum, black cherries, tobacco complemented by a white peppery finish. Also worth mentioning is Styring’s first vintage of Pinot Noir from their estate fruit. The 2006 Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir was interesting and very earthy, with mushrooms, ripe raspberries and delicate violets. As I drove into the 40-acre farm and vineyard, I noticed a familiar cluster of white boxes and the sign for the bees. I was delighted to find Styring sells their farm-fresh local honey in attractive dessert wine bottles and when I got home later, I was disappointed I didn’t buy a case… I’ll have to remember that for the next holiday weekend!

I drove along the ridge a ways, past groups of wine tasters walking from winery to winery with glasses in hand, and located Redman Vineyards and Winery just down the road. Redman was barrel tasting their 2008 Pinot Noirs which was quite memorable; absolutely nothing beats watching the wine as it’s drawn out directly from the barrel, up into the glass shaft of the wine thief and then released into your waiting glass.

Redman had a tantalizing spread set out for their guests of foods that paired well with their lovely wines but it was owner Cathy Redman and her brother who regaled me with stories that would keep me coming back. Her and her husband Bill realized their dream and purchased the 30-acre parcel in 2004, pulling out the established hazelnut orchard and planting 22 acres to vineyards. Sadly, Bill passed away this past year, but Cathy has released a wine honoring his memory and good nature… Bill’s Blend. The story is, as typical for a winemaker and their family, that Bill and Cathy would often entertain guests. Typically, Bill would go down to the wine cellar and make a blend to pair with that evening’s meal. Their guests, who always loved the wine, usually took leftovers home in a bottle they coined Bill’s Blend. Bill’s last combination was a Pinot Noir-Barbera blend that Cathy has since produced in a very limited bottling. Bill’s Blend 2007 is now available to anyone who’d like to drink a really good hearty red wine and toast to Bill’s memory… here’s to you Bill.

My last stop of the day was Soter Vineyards. I had initially planned to arrive in time for owner Tony Soter’s demonstration of sparkling wine production, but as often happens, I was running on a different clock that day and instead arrived in time to watch the magnificent sunset and colorful view of the vineyards and the Yamhill-Carlton District stretching out in the distance (a great reason for a second visit).

Soter Vineyards is a 240-acre ranch, with 32-acres planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and a choice new winery facility situated high atop a natural mesa. Winemaker James Cahill produces single vineyard Pinot noirs and Oregon’s most elite sparkling wines made in the traditional French Methode Champenois.

Though disappointed to have missed Tony’s Champagne presentation, I was excited to finally be able to taste his wines. Greeted by an evervessant glass of 2005 Brut Rose the color of King salmon, the wine was refreshing, elegant, complex and truly exceptional—it was full of wild raspberries, strawberries with cream, honeysuckle and subtle suggestions of ginger and vanilla—and I longed for the luxury of being able to enjoy my glass. (Though I taste a lot of wine, since I’m working and driving, I primarily spit the wine out. But every so often, I come across something really extraordinary, and a sip must slip by.) With a heavy heart, I poured out the luminous and luscious liquid and filled my glass with Pinot noir. The most outstanding of the brilliant Pinot line-up was the 2006 Mineral Springs Pinot Noir (the second vintage from their estate vineyard). This high-caliber wine was shooting off rounds of red plum, blackberry, cranberry and moist earth with great precision, hitting its mark with a kick of clove and pepper only slightly muzzled by the long, smooth and velvety finish that stayed with me even as I drove away.

Thanksgiving weekend proved to be a wonderful time in wine country… it only took me six years and a personal quest to finally make it happen. I sometimes forget how fortunate I am to have opportunities like these to taste such premium and highly sought after wines so readily available. But that is after all part of the reason I started this journey, to visit these wineries I had heard so much about, to truly experience the gamut of Oregon wine—and at 104 wineries, I am just beginning to understand that scope. But my lesson today has been well learned. It’s an old lesson, but one worth reminding. Carpe Diem—Seize the Day. Don’t let the years (much less a moment) pass you by without embracing all the experiences this wide world offers, especially not overlooking what may lie in your own backyard. Until we sip again…