Our group in front of the oldest block of vineyard at Domaine Drouhin

Our group in front of the oldest block of vineyard at Domaine Drouhin

Winderlea owner Bill Sweat talking vineyard management.

Winderlea owner Bill Sweat talking vineyard management.

 

WILLAMETTE VALLEY, OR. – Wednesday was a delightfully staggering day of great wine in Oregon’s premier wine region. We had three winery stops planned and managed to squeeze in a fourth.

As a guy who often answers questions about wine and wine travel, I’d quickly add that I’d never recommend more than three. It’s a bit of a long story not worth repeating here but was a wonderful day of tasting some of the best the Willamette Valley has to offer.

Our group started its morning in the vineyards of the iconic Domaine Drouhin winery. We did a brief walking tour of the winery and ended with a great side by side tasting of Oregon Pinot and French Burgundy. It’s an experience in winelover should indulge for a surprisingly reasonable $30.

My travel group clearly had two big winners. They loved the usual top bottling of Laurene. It’s long been the signature bottle from Drouhin’s Oregon, SRP $75. But the biggest hit of the stop may have been a Drouhin Burgundy that’s nearly impossible to find in the U.S. The 2010 Savigny-les-Beaune Clos de Godeaux was elegant wine – floral, spice, and a subtle intensity. I have never consumed much Burgundy because of the price points, but for $48 this French bottle rocked.

Drouhin is far more corporate than any other Willamette stop on our trip. But they hold such an important spot in Oregon’s wine history it’s a must for any visitor.

It was then on to Winderlea for an incredible lunch and tasting with Bill Sweat and Donna Morris. Bill was super talking about the couple’s short history with the winery and the vineyard’s long history of producing great fruit. Members of the tour group asked some great questions about growing grapes and the challenges faced each season.

We then traveled into the Chehalem Mountain sub AVA to Vidon, a small production – mostly private – winery with great wines.

Owner Don Hagge was out of town and that was a huge disappointment. With only one person in the tasting room it was our least satisfying stop of the trip. Fortunately, the wine did not disappoint. Don’s 2010 3 Clone Pinot was a near unanimous picks as one of the best wines of the week. Several bottles will be flying out of town when this group leaves.

The fourth, and originally unplanned, visit was to Saffron Fields which I discovered Sunday. The hospitality of Daniel Santos was genuinely appreciated for putting a time frame and tasting together with less than 24 hours notice.

The group loved the wines made for Saffron by Jay McDonald and Tony Rynders. Saffron Fields is the kind of place you may never find without some inside tips. Rynders name won’t mean much to most readers but he is the winemaker who put high-end producer Domaine Serene on the map!

Additionally, Saffron has a funky and wonderful tasting room experience with an open air concept and modernistic art. We left after completing four wine club membership forms = I’m sure Daniel was happy. We were.

Today is a really must-do day without wine. If you come to Portland and Willamette for the wine you just must take a day to visit the Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood. That’s our plan and should be great fun. None of my 8 wine travelers have visited the beautiful Gorge before. I compare it to seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. It will be fun to see their reactions.

Our group gathers around to hear Santos talk about Saffron Fields.

Our group gathers around to hear Santos talk about Saffron Fields.

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