McMINNVILLE, OR. – I normally advise people not to do more than three winery stops in a single day. So on my first full day in Oregon’s Willamette Valley I was able to stick to that rule but stretched things a bit on the last stop.
Alloro Vineyards, Vidon, and Stoller Estate filled my first day of tasting capped off by a great evening at Nick’s Cafe in McMinnville. Wayne Bailey, owner and winemaker of Youngsberg Hill Winery and Inn, hosted me, marketer Carl Giavanti, and a personal friend who owns a small winery north of Chicago. It was a great day.
I was most anxious to visit Alloro Vineyards up in the hill of Willamette Valley just outside of Portland. Two blind tastings with friends rated Alloro the best of four or five small production wines tasted earlier this year.
General Manager and winemaker Tom Fitzpatrick is meticulous in overseeing winemaking operations. We chatted in the winery and tasting room. He uses carbonic maceration in the winemaking process which really shows off the fruit.
The wines are reasonably priced at $40 for the entry level estate wines. I found the Pinot to be well-balanced, bright fruit, and perfect to sip or with food. Alloro also does Chardonnay, a dry Riesling and a dessert wine.
I talked with Fitzpatrick about Oregon’s warming growing season and about price pressures with the Valley’s booming success. His thoughts and comments will be feature in a future post.
After a quick lunch stop at the Alison Spa and Inn, we headed to Vidon Vineyards, always a favorite stop. Don was off to California trying to sell wine so we spent time with Don’s winemaker David Bellows. Bellows holds a in PhD in Molecular Biology from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. That’s some serious winemaking science.
David, resplendent in his Slipper Noodle t-shirt (Indianapolis iconic blues bar), tasted us through a vertical of Vidon’s classic 3 Clones wines – a 2013, ’14, and ’15. We also barrel tasted the 2017 Apollo Chardonnay which was outstanding – perhaps one of the best Oregon Chardonnay’s I’ve had in previous visits. The wine is part of a series of wines highlight Don’s time with the NASA space program.
Bellows was very insightful on the challenge of the warming climate and what it could mean to Oregon wineries. His thoughts will be included in the future post mentioned above.
The ‘we’ throughout the post represents myself and Carl Giavanti. Carl helped arrange interviews with several of these winemakers whom I interviewed via email earlier this year. I wrote a series of pieces about the challenges of the small guys fending off the big-money investments happening in the Willamette Valley. Carl was my guide throughout the day providing valuable background about each winery and the Oregon industry.
Our last stop was “for comparison’ purposes” contrasting the small wineries to Stoller Estate. Stoller recently was honored with USA Today’s “Best Tasting Room in America” honor. From Stoller’s website: “Our tasting room and winery combine environmental sustainability and high-efficiency design, and harvests 100 percent of its energy through a 1180-panel solar panel installation. Notable design features include a green roof, skylights, salvaged timber, and an EV charging station for electric vehicles.”
Stoller produces 68,000 cases of wine under multiple labels compared to the typical 2000-3,000 case operations of the smaller wineries I’m visiting on this trip. Communications Director Michelle Kaufmann was our host for the tasting and share all of Stoller goals of sustainability and growth.
I’ll write something independent about Stoller. Their efforts are setting the bar for how one grows, treats employees, and build a brand with integrity and purpose.
Today, we’re off to Lenne Estate, JL Kiff, and back to Youngberg Hill for a tasting with owner/winemaker Wayne Bailey.