Three days in wine country bring me to the always tough struggle of wanting to share the wine experience through my writing and enjoying a real vacation.

I posted Thursday’s photo album to my Facebook page but didn’t get it posted here last night. But I was productive this morning. Drew shot nearly all these phots, nearly 30 in the Thursday album here.

Thursday was simply one of the best “wine days” I’ve ever had. Magnificent Oregon Pinot Noir combined with three interesting and gracious winemakers made for a great day with my friend Drew.

I’m not going to write great detail, rather I’ll let the photo album and cutlines do the talking. Lange wines have long been one of my favorites. We started our day by going high up in the Dundee Hills – 750 feet above sea level to be exact – and tasting their incredible wines.

During a 2009 trip I met Jesse Lange and learned a lot about the Lange operation. I had an appointment scheduled with Jesse for yesterday but he had to cancel at the last minute. Instead, patriarch Don Lange joined us and I was thrilled. Don Lange is one of the real Willamette Valley pioneers and a soft spoken, funny, gracious man.

For those who don’t know, Don made his living as a songwriter and musician before starting the vineyards. His college degree is in poetry. It seems more than poetic and beyond my words at 7 a.m. (without coffee) to draw the obviously and symbolic ties in his life. But what a great guy!

Our second stop was just as interesting for differen reasons. Cliff and Allison Anderson planted vineyards in the early 90s and sold their grapes to other producers for years. Now they are making their own wines – Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. They don’t have a tasting room, no signs point to their property, and furthermore, Cliff says they never will.

“We want to provide the type of experience I’d like to have,” he said. They have plenty of visitors and welcome anyone who’d like to visit and taste their wines but don’t want the rat race of a tasting room. At Anderson, the wines will be poured by Cliff or Allison. It’s the type of experience you get frequently in Willamette Valley but not the better known names. It’s also the type of experience that barely exists in California and bigger producing areas.

Everyone told us we had to visit Vidon Winery and we did Tuesday. Don Hagge, owner, winemaker, and local legend, missed us and invited us back. So yesterday we went back to see Don. Don worked in the Apollo space program and is as vigorous today approaching 80 years old as anyone you’ll meet.

He takes a unique approach to his wine making. He uses three Pinot clones which he bottles individually and then blends them for his popular “Three Clones” wines. We tasted the 08 and 09 which were quite different. I seldome use words like “silky, stunning, and elegant” but his wines were that and more.

Our day concluded at another valley icon Lynn Penner Ash. We did the Pinot flight in a crowded tasting room and enjoyed the view.

Today is my last day here and it’s doing to be another big one. If yesterday was “Day of the Dons” today will be “Domain Day.” We’re off this morning to visit and tour the highly-regarded Domaine Serene and then this afternoon Domaine Drouhin. We’ll sneak a couple more visits in and then it’s dinner in downtown Portland tonight and a redeye flight home.

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