Sometimes, while out touring the countryside, often lost but looking for a specific off-the-beaten-path winery, I make a game out of spotting hawks. It goes back to living in the mountains in Colorado where my main source of entertainment on long daily drives to town was catching glimpses of those magnificent birds of prey who made their presence known only when their empty bellies forced them to find the quickest and easiest meal around—carrion (kind of like fast food for animals). That gift (the sight of these impressive birds) while beautiful in and of itself, always seemed to serve a greater purpose, feeling much like an omen, a prophecy of what the day held in store for me. If it was a One Hawk Day, it would probably be a good day, Two Hawk Day—even better. A Bald Eagle Day? Well, who knew what could happen—and so on and so on.
So when I passed not one, not two, but three separate (and fresh) coyote roadkill incidents in the span of 10 miles or so (without seeing a single hawk), I naturally wondered what kind of bad sign this could be. Thoughts of spiritual warnings were flitting like spring birds in and out of my head as I pulled into Kramer Vineyards, where instead of spotting hawks or eagles, I turned my head and saw the familiar twists of my friend Fred Gunton’s handlebar mustache instead and knew all would be just fine.
Kramer Vineyards, located just outside Gaston, was founded by Trudy and Keith Kramer in 1983 after some earlier experimentation with berry wines. On their 20-acre parcel, they’re growing Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Pinot gris, Riesling, Muller Thurgau, Carmine and Muscat with four acres scheduled to plant to Petite Munier and Gruner Veltliner.
When you arrive at Kramer, expect to be greeted by either or both of the resident labs, Cassie and Kosmo, and rest assured, they’ll keep you company while you linger on the delightful deck savoring the estate-driven wines. There’s a lovely wine barrel fountain (with fish), which serves a dual purpose, both providing guests with a little ambiance and also being the town’s largest dog bowl.
Kim Kramer-Kreiger, one of the winemakers, was pouring a selection of 2005 and 2006 vintage wines in their Reserve tasting lineup that were quite memorable. The 2005 Pinot Noir Heritage was a deep red color with a strong nose of red fruit (cherries, plums, raspberries) and a pleasing perfume of roses and a hint of vanilla. This wine opened up slowly, then revealed cherries, strawberries, cola and attention getting spice that’ll keep you coming back for more and make you wish you had a case.
Kramer Vineyards also produces a fantastic Merlot with from grapes from Walla Walla, Washington. The 2007 Merlot was rich and lush in my mouth, layered and complex showing pretty blackberry and plum fruit flavors on top of coffee, chocolate and a seductive finish of clove that’s spicy and sweet at the same time. I wasn’t crazy about their whites, didn’t try the Rosé, but the reds give anyone good reason to visit.
Still not knowing what message those coyote’s were trying to send me, I left Kramer feeling a bit mystical, wondering if there was a story there I’m supposed to tell. I often look to the universe for signs about which direction I should take at a certain crossroad, so I wondered. Am I at a crossroad? Is this a sign that’s meant to detour me? I realize now, in reflection, that I haven’t visited many wineries since this day… perhaps I took that detour after all. I’m a bit unsure of where I am, but I'm pretty sure it’s exactly where I need to be and with hope, my next day will be full of hawks, eagles and exceptional wines! Until we sip again…
Fred Gunton of Entertaining Wine Tours provides amazing personalized and customized tours of the Willamette Valley’s small boutique wineries, large estates and hidden gems. Give him a call to arrange your unique wine country visit today, you’ll be glad you did.