Oregon White Wine All Stars Tour

To most wine drinkers, "Oregon wine" and "Pinot Noir" are synonyms, and it's not hard to see why. Over the last forty years, Oregon, and particularly the Willamette Valley, has proven itself as an ideal growing location for Pinot Noir, and Oregon wineries have the awards, high scores and retail and restaurant acceptance to prove it.

Oregon wineries are now trying to convince the wine drinking public that they're not one-trick ponies; they want to expand the words associated with "Oregon wine" to include Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Riesling. To that end, all three varieties have an advocacy group dedicated to increasing consumer and retailer awareness.

Numerous Oregon wineries are recognized leaders with one of the three main white wine grapes grown in Oregon, but only a few excel with more than one. Fortunately, four of these wineries can be found between the cities of Newberg and McMinnville, creating the perfect one day Oregon white wine road trip.

The intinerary is anchored by Eyrie Vineyards in McMinnville and Chehalem in Newberg. The town of Dundee provides the second and third stops, Ponzi Vineyards Wine & Bubble Bar and Argyle Vineyards; the Dundee Bistro is also a great place to stop for lunch. All four of these wineries make some of Oregon's best Chardonnay. Eyrie also specializes in Pinot Gris, and Argyle makes award-winning Riesling. Chehalem and Ponzi are recognized leaders with all three varieties. Each of these wineries also makes exquisite Pinot Noir, of course, but after visiting these wineries, your synonym list for "Oregon wine" may be expanded to include a couple additional varieties!

Eyrie Vineyards

Eyrie's founder David Lett, fondly remembered as “Papa Pinot,” was the first to plant Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley and the first to plant Pinot Gris in North America. Eyrie Vineyards, located about 30 miles southwest of Portland in the Red Hills of Dundee and now managed by David's son, Jason, produced its first vintage in 1970. Nine short years later, a 1975 Eyrie Vineyards finished in the top three at the 1979 Gault-Millau French Wine Olympiades.

Eyrie's initial claim to fame may have been its Pinot Noir, but the winery also produces some of Oregon's highest rated Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. Eyrie's Chardonnay and Pinot Gris are known for their incredible richness and complexity, primarily the result of extended lees aging and full malolactic fermentation. Eyrie produces an Original Vines Reserve Chardonnay from vines that were originally planted in the 1960s and an Estate Chardonnay ($27). At only $14.50, Eyrie's highly acclaimed Estate Pinot Gris is one of the best wine values in U.S.

Eyrie's tasting room is open Wednesday through Sunday, 12:00 - 5:00 and three flights available:
- Discovery flight, 3 wines, $5
- Exploration flight, 6 wines, $15
- Library tasting, usually 2 wines for $10
The tasting fee is waived with a purchase of $60 or more. Please see our Eyrie tasting room review for more information about the Eyrie tasting experience.

Address & Contact Information: 935 NE 10th Ave McMinnville, Oregon 97128. Telephone: 888-440-4970, email: info@eyrievineyards.com, website: www.eyrievineyards.com.

Argyle Winery

Argyle Winery was founded in 1987 by Rollin Soles and Brian Croser and is known for its award winning sparkling wine, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling. On March 1, Soles' assistant, Nate Klostermann, assumed the head winemaker role as Soles stepped aside from the day to day operations of the winery to devote more time to his own label, Roco. Argyle has been recognized as a Wine Spectator Top 100 winery for its white, red and sparkling wines, and its Extended Tirage Brut is considered by many to be America's best sparkling wine.

Similar to Eyrie, Argyle's Chardonnays are rich, round and complex. Argyle's single vineyard Nuthouse Chardonnay ($33) brilliantly displays mineral, fruit and spice flavors and is both mouth-filling and crisp. Argyle's Rieslings ($18) are characterized by their viscous texture, great acidity and intense apple and pear flavors and floral aromas.

Argyle offers four $10 tasting flights from which to choose. There are tables and chairs for visitors who want to stay and chat over a glass, with no shortage of encouragement from the fun loving staff. With great wine and an attentive staff, Argyle has become one of the most popular tasting rooms in the Willamette Valley. Please see our Argyle tasting room review for more information about the Argyle tasting experience.

Address & Contact Information: 691 Highway 99W Dundee, Oregon 97115. Telephone: 888-427-4953, email: tastingroom@argylewinery.com, website: www.argylewinery.com. Tasting Hours: 11:00-5:00. Closed major holidays.

Ponzi Vineyards

Ponzi Vineyards, founded by Dick and Nancy Ponzi in 1970, is now being run by the Ponzi Family's second generation, including winemaker Luisa Ponzi who has produced the wines since 1993. In addition to sampling Ponzi wines at the Ponzi Wine Bar in Dundee, wine tourists can visit the Ponzi Estate in Beaverton and the tasting room at the Sherwood winery scheduled to be open in June.

In contrast to the Pinot Gris produced by Eyrie and Argyle, Ponzi's Pinot Gris ($17) foregoes malolactic fermentation; the result is bright flavors of apple and grapefruit and intriguing floral aromas. Ponzi produces two vineyard designate Chardonnays which retail for $60 and a multi-vineyard Reserve blend which retails for $20. All of Ponzi's Chardonnays undergo complete malolactic fermentation and are aged on their lees to produce wines that are lush and complex but maintain a bright, crisp finish. Ponzi's Rieslings ($20) are full-bodied and typically display mineral notes along with bright fruit flavors.

As if the wide choice of Ponzi wines weren't enough, the Ponzi Wine Bar also offers wines from other leading Oregon wineries in addition to microbrews, Italian coffee, and a range of light fare designed to pair perfectly with their wines. The fee to taste a flight of Ponzi wines is $12. The Ponzi Wine Bar is open daily from 11am – 5pm. Please see our Ponzi Wine Bar tasting room review for more information about the Ponzi Wine Bar tasting experience.

Chehalem – Newberg Tasting Room

Harry Peterson-Nedry, a member of the second wave of Willamette Valley viticultural pioneers, planted vines northwest of Newberg along Ribbon Ridge in 1982 and released his first Chehalem wine ten years later. Chehalem's whites, analogous to Harry himself, who holds degrees in chemistry and English, represent both sides of the stylistic spectrum.

For example, Chehalem makes two distinct styles of Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. The first style, represented by the INOX Chardonnay ($17) and the Three Vineyard Pinot Gris ($19), is fermented in stainless steel and is bright and crisp. The second style, represented by the Ian's Reserve Chardonnay ($36) and the Reserve Pinot Gris ($20), is barrel fermented, lees aged and undergoes complete malolactic fermentation. The result is a creamy, complex wine perfectly balanced with a touch of bright acidity. Chehalem also produces three Rieslings ranging from two to six percent residual sugar, all showing exceptional crispness and balance. As a testament to the quality of the fruit and Harry's skill as a winemaker, all of Chehalem's whites, regardless of style, are recognized as some of Oregon's best white wines and consistently receive high marks from all of the major wine critics.

A friendly staff presides over the tasting room which is housed in a brick, vintage garage-looking place with high ceilings and exposed beams. There’s a wine rack on the wall opposite the door that’s topped with gorgeous fused glass art. There’s no question that the wine is the star here, but the glasswork offers tasters something to rest their eyes on while contemplating winemaker Harry Peterson-Nedry’s delicious art. Visitors can taste seven wines for $15. The fee is be waived with a purchase of $50 or more. As an added bonus, Chehalem also has wine on tap allowing visitors to refill their own one liter bottle - for the same price as the standard 750ml bottle. Please see our Chehalem tasting room review for more information about the Chehalem tasting experience.

Address & Contact Information: 106 S Center St Newberg, Oregon 97132. Telephone: 503-538-4700, email: daniels@chehalemwines.com, website: www.chehalemwines.com. Tasting Hours: 11:00-5:00.

Published: April 20, 2013

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