Linfield College, the Evergreen Aviation Museum, the largest annual UFO gathering in the Pacific Northwest (second in the country to Roswell, NM) and a fantastic wine bar or ten. Though I didn’t see any aliens in town that day, I did hear the voice of McMinnville’s past luring me to the couple of tasting rooms I hadn’t yet visited and found myself magically bellied up the bar at the NW Wine Bar.
General Manager Jonathan Trusty (JT) described the NW Wine Bar as a tasting room and bottle shop on steroids, which was a fairly accurate description. Located in a spectacularly renovated historic location, with high ceilings, stained glass windows and comfortable seating, the NW Wine Bar’s all pumped up, featuring 25 different Oregon wines (the company produces) from 15 wine growing regions and 55 vineyards. Wines are offered by the sip, glass, flight, bottle or case and a tempting menu of small bites, grilled Panini sandwiches, soups, flatbread pizzas and desserts are available to make the experience complete. JT spoke passionately about being able to open whatever bottle he thinks may dazzle a particular guest, knowing he can then add it to the tasting menu of by-the-glass pours for other guests to enjoy as well.
The NW Wine Company, founded by winemaker Laurent Montalieu (of Solena Grand Cru Estate) in 2003, produces nearly 85,000 cases for over 25 different clients out of the old Mrs. Smith’s pie factory. The wine production facility utilizes some of the most innovative winemaking equipment in the US, including two receiving lines to process the fruit at warp speed, two Europress destemmers, 100% temperature and humidity controlled barrel rooms, rare rotary fermentors and a Ganimede fermentation tank that harvests and utilizes the energy produced in the fermentation process (something I’m still not sure I understand).
The wine bar focuses on educating guests about Oregon wine and JT is as generous with his knowledge as my Jewish mother is with food. While JT tasted me through his vision of the NW Wine Company, it was as if the wines all came together to tell a cohesive, synthesized and colorful story of region, winemaking style and limited production wines that have been crafted, nurtured along and allowed to reach a potential they could never have reached otherwise.
It’s for all these reasons (and more) NW Wine Bar is a must visit on your McMinnville wine tour… exquisite wines, a hospitable staff and a chic, contemporary, yet historic venue to enjoy it all in. One tiny caveat, be ready to shell out more than just a couple of bucks for perfection.
As if going from day to night (so if you decide to do this tour, I’d actually recommend going here first), I next found myself in the Golden Valley Brewery unable to both peel the patrons off me or get the bartender’s attention while I stood there aiming to taste their two house wines. Eventually, I was poured a glass of 2006 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir from Golden Valley Vineyard in a granny wineglass (small and thick), but the first swirl sadly revealed chunks of cork floating around in it. When I pointed this out to the bartender, instead of pouring me a new glass, he took a spoon and fished the cork out for me… so kind. After all that buildup, the wine unfortunately tasted overly oaked (or was it over-corked?).
The 2006 Oregon Big Red was an unmemorable blend of Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Grenache and Pinot Noir. The Golden Valley Brewery’s wines are both made by prominent winemakers whose wines I’ve often enjoyed, however, these I did not. I perused the menu and determined the wine’s not what people come here for. If I choose to visit this place again, I’ll be sure to order some pub food and stick with the beer (they looked mouthwateringly deeelish), you should too. Until we sip again…