AWG Correspondent

Rob Boss

Barking Frog Winery Photos

Barking Frog Winery Review

Regions: Willamette Valley AVA, Yamhill-Carlton Region, Oregon

Reviewed: November 29, 2015 by Rob Boss
Published: July 28, 2016

(Photos by Jai Soots)

Barking Frog Winery’s tasting room on Main Street in Carlton, Oregon is easy to find and draws attention from its name. What’s a Barking Frog, you ask? “It’s a Native American symbol of ecology,” explained owner/winemaker Ron Helbig on our visit. “A barking frog was a sign that all was well in the environment.” That belief is reflected in Barking Frog’s wines, which have been made from sustainably-farmed fruit since 2005.

Our tasting began with a 2014 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir that showed a spicy, peppery nose and pleasant, ripe cherry and strawberry flavors. That was the only Pinot Noir offered and having already tasted about two dozen that day, I was fine with that. The next wines stood out in robust contrast.

The rest of the wines were made from Washington fruit, mostly from the Yakima and Horse Heaven Hills areas (complex appellation laws prevent the actual AVAs from being presented on the bottle). The 2014 Washington Dolcetto was much more intense than an Italian Dolcetto, with deep, dark flavors; cooked fruit; raspberries, cherries; rich and high alcohol. It’s that intensity that I’ve always enjoyed in New World Sangiovese, and Barking Frog made a good show of that. Strawberries and allspice tickled my nose, followed by ripe strawberry flavors and a sturdy, food-friendly structure. Ah, visions of lasagna…

“Intense and opulent” was Ron’s description of his 2010 Barbera, and I couldn’t agree more. Dark, cooked fruit flavors prevailed, with black plums and black cherries leading the way. Pretty good, but I liked the 2014 Cabernet Franc a little better, although it was a little less complex. I always look for dill on the nose with a Cabernet Franc, finding that to be one of my favorite parts. This one didn’t show that, but it did have very intense cooked plum, cherry, and raspberry flavors, reminding me of a Bourgeuil, and plenty of structure for aging or food.

The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon was a little less well-received, though respectable. The nose was pretty “green;” particularly a bell pepper note. However, the black cherry, chocolate, and espresso flavors were not overshadowed. No, the star of the show was definitely Barking Frog’s 2012 Tempranillo. The nose was terrific, showing tobacco, white pepper, and crushed fruit. After that came a well-structured mouthful of ripe, dusty blackberry, blueberry, and boysenberry flavors—and a kick of alcohol. It was a satisfying ending to the tasting.

A quick glance around the room reveals a row of bottles displayed with prize medals—not that I needed that to take the wines seriously. Ron showed his wares with confidence and a “Try it, you might like it” attitude, and didn’t seem to mind if he didn’t suit your taste. There seemed to be no shortage of fans—longtime fans, in fact—stopping by while we were there. Barking Frog has been at it long enough to have built a very respectable base of customers, and their riper, juicier style stands out among the other producers in the neighborhood. There’s a lot to choose from here, and, as always, the different varietals are a welcome respite from Pinot fatigue.

Address & Contact Information: 128 W Main St Carlton, Oregon 97111. Telephone: 503-702-5029, email:, website: Tasting Hours: Fri-Sun 1:00-5:00 and by appt..

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