Monday, June 7, 2010

Boutique Wineries Offer Rare Tasting Opportunites

Like the “Shot Heard Round the World,” Memorial Day triggers the start of the wine tasting season and since many of the smaller boutique wineries are only open two holiday weekends a year, it was also the shot that signaled me to get out and taste as many of them as I could.

Quailhurst Vineyard Estate
Founded by: Dr. Marvin Hausman
Winemaker: Joe Dobbes
Vineyard: 35 acres planted in 1998 on 75-year-old estate

Quailhurst has a stunning location, perched high atop Parrot Mountain in Sherwood and makes exceptional estate wines of high quality and character. The grounds of their unique estate also feature riding arenas, stables and pastures to support their horse breeding and Dressage center located adjacent to the grape vines.

Hawks View Cellars
Founded by: Jack and Willie Kemp
Winemaker: Ryan Harms
Vineyard: 130-acre estate, 45 acres since in 1991

Hawks View Cellars is a relative newcomer on the scene and making a huge splash with their finely crafted wines, comfortable tasting room, stunning five-peak view and their proximity to Portland.

Vercingetorix (VX)
Founded by: the Hall family in1959—owned and operated by the grown children since 2009
Winemaker: Laurant Montelieu and Jason Silva
Vineyard: 11 acres planted on the 210-acre riverfront farm


No, it’s not the name of a newly discovered dinosaur but rather a fun and unpretentious winery tucked away in Newberg next to the Willamette River. Vercingetorix is named for a Gallic hero who is recognized for saving Burgundy’s Pinot noir from Roman invasion, VX converted an old apple orchard to vineyards and is producing grapes using a Geneva double curtain trellis (Oregon growers typically use the Scott Henry trellis system).

Durant Vineyards at Red Ridge Farms
Founded by:Ken and Penny Durant in 1973
Winemaker:Partner with different winemakers who their purchase grapes such as Jesse Lange and Dean Fisher.
Vineyard:Over 60 acres of some of the oldest vineyards in the Red Hills of Dundee.1

Durant Vineyards sells their fruit to 73 premium wine producers in the Valley, finally creating their first estate wines in 2003. Their tasting room is located on Red Ridge Farms, which also showcases the family’s herb and specialty plant nursery, a unique gift shop, intimate Bed and Breakfast and Yamhill Valley’s first olive oil pressing facility. Cottonwood Winery and Cancilla Cellars were also pouring wines there for the holiday weekend.

Le Cadeau/Aubichon
Founded by:Tim and Deb Mortimer in 1997
Le Cadeau Winemaker:Different for each bottling
Aubichon Winemaker:Jim Sanders
Vineyard:: 28-acres of rocky soil planed in 1999

Aubichon purchases all their fruit to produce their acid-driven wines while Le Cadeau uses only estate fruit from their Parrot Mountain vineyard located on basalt and volcanic soil. Le Cadeau wines are each made by a different winemaker and each show an honest commonality of vineyard.

Ken Wright Cellars
Founded by:Karen and Ken Wright in 1994
Winemaker:Ken Wright
Vineyard:55 acres located throughout the Willamette Valley

Ken Wright has the distinction as being known for being one of Oregon’s first winemakers to craft single vineyard designates. I have to put this out there too, though they very nicely let me in at closing time, they were also the first tasting room I’ve visited to charge me a fee. And though I at first balked at the $20 charge (I don’t drink, I don’t eat, I don’t linger and I’m going to write about them), but Ken Wright was so damn charming, in the end I nearly forgot I paid them money to blog about them.

Carlton Cellars
Founded by: Dave Grooters and Robin Russell in 2001
Winemaker: Dave Grooters
Vineyard: 22 acres in the Yamhill Carlton AVA planted in 2003

Carlton Cellars opened their modest tasting room in 2007, debuted its first commercial bottling in 2007, and as a tribute to the ocean, which so profoundly influences and defines its wine, they’ve named each of their wines for a special place along the Oregon coast. Saturday, June 19th kicks off their not-to-be-missed Summer Vineyard Lunch Tour where for $35 (or $90 for all three), you’ll enjoy a lunch feast and tour of the vineyard at three integral times of the growing season (bloom, lag and veraison).

Raptor Ridge Winery
Founded by: Scott and Annie Shull in 1995
Winemaker: Scott Shull
Vineyard: 18 acres on the northeast side of the Chehalem Mountains

Raptor Ridge (who placed third in my recent tasting of Oregon Rosés) acquired its name from all the birds of prey that share the winery’s 27-acre estate. Their vineyard is actually named Tuscowallame, which is an indigenous word meaning “place where the owls dwell.” Taking their names seriously, instead of naming the vineyard blocks after family members (like so many wineries do), each block is beautifully named to honor the foreman who planted it (Adalfo, Macario and Dustin).

Tasting so many wineries in a day left little time for detailed tasting notes, so while I haven’t highlighted the standout wines like I typically do, I would like to mention my favorite wines of the day came from Quailhurst (though the horse stable tasting room added to the overall experience, the smell unfortunately didn’t contribute to the bouquet of the wine at all), Durant Vineyards and Ken Wright.

Inspiration for the photo collages comes from fellow blogger Josh, whose blog PDXploration details cool fun and unique things to do in this fair city and always features gorgeous photography. You can find him on Twitter: @PDXploration.

The whirlwind weekend wrap-up unbelievably continues next with Anam Cara, Laura Volkman, Natalies, Estate, Anderson Family Vineyards, Monks Gate, Ghost Hill Cellars, Stag Hollow and Sejourne. Until we sip again…



Anonymous said...

Wow 8 wineries! Tell me you did that over two days... Otherwise you are now officially the title holder for marathon tasting day!


Sip with Me! said...

Yes Brian, I did over 2 days, except I did 8 one day and 8 the next for a total of 16 over the two-day weekend. In the immortal words of Christopher Cross "I know it's crazy, but it's true." Too bad I was out of town for the first day, I could have hit another 8 and made it 24… now that would've been something!! I am a definitely a marathon taster these days!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for visiting us!
Raptor Ridge Winery

josh? said...

Hawks View Cellars is on my "to visit" list, will have to get your thoughts later.

Nice collages, I thought they looked like little postcards. Thanks also for the mention!

Bernard and Eva said...

Great photos! Very unique and gives a nice overview of what the winery looks like!

Portland Charcuterie Project said...

great pics..and I noticed a few "new" (to me) wineries on/near parrot mt I'll have to try. VX is an old favorite "hidden gem".

Ken Wright is a very charming and friendly person, but first and foremost he's running a business and every single person that drinks that wine pays for it. I think that's something that many wineries in our backyard forget to think about... I'm all for tasting fees, as long as they discount them if you buy a bottle, and waive them entirely once you hit 3 or more. Just think about what it would cost Ken to give free pours on an average memorial day... probably close to 5 or 6 cases in total.

Sip with Me! said...

Thank Josh, Bernard/Eva and Todd regarding the photos. It took a lot more time than I thought, and I lost much of the vibrancy somehow, but it's another work in progress.

Todd, regarding Ken Wright: I really appreciate your comment. You're absolutely correct and I honestly have nothing against tasting fees—so yes, he should charge people, just not me :) I just wanted to mention that they were the first, in 160 wineries, to charge me a fee to blog about them (I clearly wasn't there for pleasure). Just sayin'.

Subtlet said...

Nice write up! Your coverage of Hawk's View reminds me that I really need to get out there. More congrats on the photos too. I'm trying to push myself to take more when I'm out, but I'm so rarely satisfied with the results after the fact! Looking forward to your next post!

Subtlet said...

Nice write up. That reminds me that I really need to make it a point to visit Hawk's View soon. Nice work on the photos too. I keep pushing myself to take more, but I'm so rarely satisfied with them after the fact! Looking forward to your next post!

josh? said...

I use Picasa (google's free photo management program) to make collages, its by far the quickest of the different methods I've tried. Let me know if you want any tips or tricks.

Martrese said...

I LOVE Quailhurst! My husband & I spend all day enjoying their tastings and views (and the horses).

Anonymous said...

Great blog post and what a cool project :) We love quailhurst. Learn more about the horse at

Sip with Me! said...

Subtlet, thanks. I know what you mean about the photos, I was still thinking about all the one's I didn't take (like one of Ken Wright!). Next post is up, see where else you need to visit!

Martrese, you and your husband know a fabulous secret most others haven't learned about (till now!).

Anonymous, thanks for you comment and for more info on those gorgeous animals!!