Willamette Valley Day Trippin: Haute Travel

love in wine country

Erath love in wine country

Just in time to make Oregon Wine Month a reality for me, I made a day trip to Willamette Valley, home to some of the famous Oregon Pinot Noir, among other fabulous wines.  While my visit was short, I had a chance to check out some awesome wineries, and explore the area a bit, and am excited to share the experience with you.

Willamette Valley is about 45 min from Downtown Portland, also an awesome place to visit (but that’s for another post). The drive is mostly on 4-land and 2-lane roads, which can feel a bit painful, but we learned they are in the process of building a bypass from Newburgh, OR to the area, which sounds much better.  Also to note, many of the wineries close at 4pm, so be sure to plan your trip accordingly.

When you drive in Oregon, you are reminded that the frequent rain gives way to lush green, so much so that at first, the vineries are barely visible.  When we finally made it down a country road to the area of our first stop, Erath, we were welcomed by the vines and rolling hills we were awaiting.

vines at Erath

vines at Erath

rolling hills of the vineyards

rolling hills of the vineyards

When we arrived at Erath, our first stop and recommendation by a friend, we were very excited to dive right in.  We tried one Pinot Gris, which was very light and tart, followed by four Pinot Noirs from the winery.  What a great introduction to a wine I thought I knew so well.  I learned that young Pinot Noir was similar to many of the French varietals I know, very light palate with spice and tartness – typical of young fruit.  And more mature versions, like the 2008 and 2010 varietals, are smoother and more jammy, with a more complex palate.  I learned I liked the mature wines, and now know what I should be looking for in a bottle.

Here’s the download of what we tasted at Erath, and what stood out to me. Tasting fee was $10, which you get back if you buy a bottle.

  • 2013 Pinot Gris – very light, floral finish
  • 2012 Oregon Pinot Noir – everyday wine, very light and spicy, and tart fruit flavor
  • 2011 Estate Select Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley – richer palate, tart fruit, and sour taste
  • 2011 Hyland Pinot Noir, McMinnville – essence of port and flowers, smooth, sweet and tart at the same time
  • 2010 Prince Hill Clone 777 Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills – my favorite from Erath – single grape, single vineyard vintage.  Smells like jam heaven.  Sweet with a smooth, spicy finish.

Our next stop was Sokol Blosser, an impressive and beautiful wine tasting room on some very lovely land.  Think about the most modern, most cool house ever, where you can go taste wine. Pretty awesome.  They close at 4pm, so we had to hit this spot earlier in the day.

sokol blosser vineyard

sokol blosser vineyard

Sokol Blosser has several wines to taste ($15 tasting fee), and amazing outdoor areas to sit and view.  I even noticed some cool bottles inscribed with “Happy Mother’s Day”, perfect for a gift for mom.

gift for mom at Sokol Blosser

gift for mom at Sokol Blosser

Sokol Blosser wines

my favorite Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir

Here’s a download of what we tasted at Sokol Blosser, and what stood out to me.

  • 2011 Willamette Valley Pinot Gris – really tasty, circusy, and slightly mineral white .  One of the best of the day.
  • 2013 Estate Rose of Pinot Noir – rest fruit flavor, without the alcohol-taste you usually get from Rose, super light – favorite Rose of the trip.
  • 2009 Dundee Hills Pinot Nior – dry with sour fruit flavor (oddly enough, not a favorite mature Pinot from the trip)
  • 2010 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir – smooth, sweet and spicy, with light tannins.  This was my favorite Pinot from Sokol Blosser.
  • 2011 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir – sour and tart, heavier tannins
  • Evolution Red – I learned Sokol Blosser makes this awesome red table wine, which I have had before, and is a great budget wine for any time.  Fruity and smooth, as blends can be, its a crowd pleaser for sure.

After relishing our time at Sokol Blosser, we asked around for what our next stop should be, and were directed to the Stoller Family Estate, another fabulous and modern tasting room on the lovely Stoller Family Estate.  Stoller was home to our favorite Pinot Noir of the day, a 2008 bottle, which was known as the “goldilocks year” – not to cold, not to hot, just the right temperature for wine tasting.


2008 Stoller Pinot Noir – the shining star of my trip

all the Stoller wines

all the Stoller wines

Here’s my download of the Stoller wines we tasted as well as what stood out to me: (Tasting fee$15, complimentary with 2 bottle purchase)

  • 2013 Dundee Hills Chardonnay – first Chardonnay of the trip, and it was bright and fresh, and very fruity.  It’s unbaked, which I personally prefer, but in general I am not a Chardonnay girl.
  • 2012 Reserve Chardonnay – more oaky and buttery, with a citrusy and light palate
  • 2013 Pinot Noir Rose – a great option for a Rose again, with light and tart flavors, though not the favorite Rose of the day
  • 2011 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir – great Pinot from Stoller, fruity and spicy and light – just right – with light tannins and a tart finish
  • 2011 Reserve Pinot Noir – light, sour and spicy, this wine was just ok for me
  • 2008 Pinot Noir – my favorite Pinot Noir of the day!  This was bold, and jammy, with sweet smooth fruity flavor, and lots of character.  Again, probably due to more time maturing and that “goldilocks” year.

Our last stop of the day was at Durant Vineyards at Red Ridge.  This is a small winery and olive oil estate, with a nursery where you can buy some lovely plants and herbs.  The Olive Oil tasting is separate from the wine, so we didn’t get to partake, but we did get a special treat from the winemaker Isabella Dutarte, who was on site pouring some of her favorite concoctions.  This is happening every Saturday during May 2014, also known as Oregon Wine Month.

I somehow forgot to snap a pic at Durant, but is a cute spot worth checking out.  Here’s the download and what stood out at Durant.

  •  2013 Southview Vineyards Pinot Gris – tart and tangy, I call this a bar white wine (one like what you get at a pub), not my favorite
  • 2012 Raven Vineyards Chardonnay – tart and fresh, with great citrus flavor, and very light oak (they store it in neutral oak barrels which are 2 or more years old, and impart less oaky flavor)
  • 2012 Bishop Vineyard Pinot Noir – tannins are present here, but its a smooth and jammy wine still
  • 2007 Winemaker’s Pinot – delicious and delightful, bold fruit and spice, along with some great light oak – favorite wine at Durant

With four wineries down, I am very excited to have experienced Willamette Valley wines for the first time.  And what a great education wine tasting in the heart of the region can be.  Hope this helps you as you take on your Oregon Wine Month celebrations, or just kick back to have a great glass of Oregon Wine!  Cheers from the Pacific Northwest!



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