Thursday, June 10, 2010

Small Wine Producers… For the Win!

Nothing could keep me from a Memorial weekend discovery of boutique wineries in Oregon's wine country. In fact, to ensure I wouldn't miss it all, I left the comfort of my family and drove until 2:30am until I finally arrived home in time to catch a few zzz's all so I could present you with the following (truth be known, it was worth all the effort).

Anam Cara
Founded by: Nick and Sheila Nicholas
Winemaker: Aron Hess
Vineyard: 35 acres, planted in 2001, including some of
Oregon's original David Lett Vadensville Pinot Noir clones

The words Anam Cara are Celtic meaning "friend of my soul" and symbolize the long journey they've taken to produce wine. The boys were busy digging holes in the vineyard, while Digger the hole digging dog was busy hamming it up for my camera. Sheila and Nick hold a "Garage Sale" twice per year (Labor Day & Memorial Day), but you can visit by appointment and you'll be welcomed. Though Sheila's Pinot noir's are excellent, and I've heard some think her Chardonnay is the best they've ever tasted, I was completely bowled over by her 2008 Riesling—bone dry and bright with complex yet elegant notes of jasmine, pear and honeysuckle… I love this wine!

Laura Volkman
Founded by: Jim and Laura Volkman
Winemaker: Laura Volkman
Vineyard: 3.5 acres of Pinot noir, planted in 2002

Laura Volkman Vineyards was planted in 2002. A true boutique winery, producing a mere 500 cases per year. With the exception of their Chardonnay, Laura carefully crafts all their wines from estate fruit at August Cellars, located just down the road.

Natalie's Estate Winery
Founded by: Boyd and Cassandra Teegarden
Winemaker: Boyd Teegarden
Vineyard: 2 acres of Pinot noir, the rest of the fruit is sourced from The Dalles and Yakima Valley

Natalie's Estate Winery, located in the Chehalem Mountains AVA, is named for the owner and founder's 12-year-old daughter. The winery released their first commercial vintage in 2000 and is now producing 2,300 cases a year of 12 different wines. The whites are all stainless steel fermented showing bright, crisp and true flavors, while the Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet and red blend were equally impressive. This is definitely a winery to watch.

Anderson Family Vineyard
Founded by: Cliff and Allison Anderson
Winemaker: Cliff Anderson
Vineyard: 16.5 acres on a mountain of fractured basalt with broken rocks hundreds of feet deep forming the foundation for the rocky terrace.

Anderson Family Vineyards has been growing grapes for Oregon's premium wine producers for years, and their grapes can be seen in a current collection (as shown in the photo above). In 2002, they crafted their own wines and released their first commericial bottling. They primarily grow Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (producing some of Oregon's finest unoaked Chardonnay I've had the pleasure of tasting) but have less than an acre of Pinot Gris which was accidentally planted after being mislabeled by the nursery. Producing under 1,000 cases a year, they were clearly thinking of the future when they built their magnificent new winery production and tasting facility.

Monks Gate
Founded by: Ron and Linda Moore
Winemaker: Ron Moore
Vineyard: 20 acres planted on the 50-acre estate

Monks Gate, located in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, is a wonderfully unpretentious taste of history. With the old barn, rustic tasting room and the Moore's country hospitality, you're sure to feel right at home. The story of Monks Gate is as rich as the land. In 1988, on the day Ron bought the property (full of overgrown Christmas trees, scrub oak and blackberry bramble), he was surveying the land when two monks from the nearby Trappist Abbey walked out of the woods. After introductions, the monks inquired about Ron's plan for the land and he informed them he intended to grow wine grapes. They asked if he planned to put up a fence because this path was their shortcut from the Abbey to town, and he told them if he did, he would put in a gate for them, and he did.

Ghost Hill Cellars
Founded by: The Bayliss family
Winemaker: Rebecca Shouldis
Vineyard: 15 acres planted on the 234-acre estate

Ghost Hill Cellars is named for an old legend about from the 1860s when Oregon was in the midst of a gold rush. A miner traveling from southern Oregon to Portland with his hard-mined gold decided to camp for the night at the top of the hill that overlooks the site where the vineyard is now planted. During the night, someone killed the miner and his horse and stole his gold. Story has it, the miner is said to wander the hill with his horse, looking for his stolen gold. The farm has been in the Bayliss family since 1906, with the fourth and fifth generation now at the helm. Winemaker Rebecca Shouldis is crafting some very unique and memorable wines using only estate fruit. Her Rosé was gorgeous, and I so wished I had been able to include it in my review of Oregon Rosés, next year!!

Stag Hollow
Founded by: Jill Zarnowitz and Mark Huff
Winemaker: Mark Huff
Vineyard: 34-acre estate with a 10-acre designated wildlife preserve

Stag Hollow is an Old World-style family estate that's been producing wine since 1994. Stag Hollow will be at TASTE THE PLACE in Portland on Saturday, August 30,from 5-8pm (check their website for more information). They were offering tremendous discounts on their quality wine for the holiday weekend as well as selling futures of their 2008s. A testament to Stag Hollow's quality, their wine is currently being used by the prestigious Joel Palmer House for their private label Cuvée.

Founded by: Kevin and Robin Howard
Winemaker: Kevin Howard
Vineyard: One-acre of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris planted on the five-acre estate.

Séjourné is a small estate winery located within the Yamhil-Carlton AVA which, in addition to the vineyard, grows lavender gardens as well. They have a Wine Room in downtown McMinnville where you can taste the wines and pair them with small bites, but I chose to visit the actual winery and get a real feel for the place. Séjourné literally means "place of rest." The Howards wish is for their guests to enjoy their wines in the warm ambiance of their tasting room or relaxing in the adjacent garden patio while enjoying views of lavender fields, orchards, vineyards and the rolling hills of the valley below.

I was seriously amazed at the number of wineries I visited over two days, but still missed so many; I need more holiday weekends!! Lots of highlights on this day's outings, and it's so hard to narrow it down, but the best of the best for me (wine and experience) was Natalie's Estate, Anderson Family Vineyard and Monk's Gate. Until we sip again…



Portland Charcuterie Project said...

Wow.. you even snuck in a few "unknowns" that I didn't know about... I'm going to have to try a few of these very soon.

Sip with Me! said...

Yeah Todd, it was a busy day—you should have joined me! No crowds at these places, just lots of face time and damn fine wines!!

Rebecca Pittock Shouldis said...


I am so sorry I missed you at Ghost Hill! Did you go by on Monday?? I was on the road. Thank you so much for your support and kind words. I am SO glad you enjoyed the Rose!