In October Mike and I took a trip to the Oregon wine country, specifically Willamette Valley near Portland to experience the wineries there. The Willamette Valley is an American Viticulture Area (AVA) with six sub-appelations. This trip we visited four of the six sub-appelations of Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, and Yamhill Carlton. Oregon has about 791 wineries and known for their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. Vineyards in this area produce the same kind of grapes that are found in France (vitus vinifera). By comparison, Iowa has about 100 wineries and two AVAs. The Midwest grapes are hybrid varieties developed to withstand winter temperatures. Grapes grown in Oregon would not survive in Iowa.
We traveled to 8 wineries in 3 days to learn about and enjoy tastings of these fine wines. Most of them charge around $25 for a flight that usually includes a four-to-six ounce sample of different wines pre-selected by the management. Bottles cost about $35 and up. We found every winery to have very friendly staff that offered us industry discounts and freely provided information to our questions. It was interesting to note the commonalities of processes and agricultural concerns. However, Oregon wineries are on a much larger scale, both in terms of land and other resources, very different than the typical Iowa family-run enterprise like ours.
The Valley has some of the most scenic vistas I’ve ever encountered. Many wineries we visited overlooked distant mountains rising from a brilliant hued autumn landscape, acres of trimmed, uniform vines turned golden, and luscious landscaping with a multitude of enormous conifer trees typical of the Pacific Northwest. The architecture of the buildings ranged from sleek, ultra modern stone and steel to small and quirky timber lodge, each one showcasing their particular qualities and story.
Packing our suitcase to come back home was an exercise in balance, cushioning and protective layering of the bottles purchased for our wine collection. We are happy to report all arrived back in Knoxville safely.
Mike Van Natta
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