AWG Correspondent

Rob Boss

Utopia Vineyard and Cellars Photos

Utopia Vineyard and Cellars Review

Regions: Willamette Valley AVA, Chehalem Mountains AVA, Ribbon Ridge AVA, Oregon

Reviewed: June 25, 2015 by Rob Boss
Published: August 27, 2015

(Photos by Jai Soots)

Instinct plays a big role in wine. Instinct plays into the selection of everything from vineyard site and harvest dates to the selection of what wine to drink with particular friends on a birthday dinner. When we rolled up the driveway of Utopia Vineyards, smack in the middle of the Ribbon Ridge AVA, I had a feeling this would be a hidden gem. A pair—yes, two—bocci courts lay in front of the parking area, and I thought there must be some fabulous parties.

We were greeted in the tasting room by the proprietor, vineyard manager and winemaker, Dan Warnshuis, who gave us a quick lowdown on his operation. The meticulously farmed vineyards were planted in 2002, and have since been LIVE certified. The first, very limited, release was in 2005. Now they're up to 2400 cases.

Dan's first pour was his 2014 Estate Rose of Pinot Noir. I got strawberries, pink grapefruit and watermelon for the nose and palate—straightforward, in other words. Nice and refreshing for a summer day. Up next was a 2014 Viognier from Folin Vineyard. "Ron Folin is my buddy," Dan explained as he poured, "and I trade fruit with him." Seems like a good trade. The wine showed peaches and apricots, and it was delicious. Somehow I knew this tasting was only going to get better.

Next we went into Pinot Noir, beginning with the 2011 Estate. Although it's all estate fruit, it's still a blend of 11 different clones. The nose was awesome, full of sage, spices and crushed fruit. The palate was a mélange of bright, focused cherry, raspberry and strawberry, tasting like they were fresh from the plant. I noted that he was pouring a 2011 when most of his neighbors were pouring 2013s. Holding that extra time in the bottle paid very real dividends, and another year would suit them just fine.

Utopia's "reserve" wine is called Paradise. The 2011 is a blend of Wadenswille, Pommard and Dijon 777. One hundred percent whole cluster fermentation gives it plenty of tannins to age with, and I wasn't surprised that it was a little shy that day. It had a spicy nose, with cherry, raspberry and strawberry flavors on the palate, and it was definitely showing potential, but this is a wine to wait for—and it should be worth it. I bought a 2010 on that basis, even though it wasn't open for tasting that day.

Last of all was a current vintage of 2014 Riesling ice wine. The nose was a nice, big apricot aroma with peach underneath, with virtually every variety of peach flavors to follow. Jai suggested serving it over ice cream, and Dan enthusiastically admitted to doing just that. But again, the age worthiness came to my mind and I wondered what sort of spicy notes might be bestowed on anyone patient enough to hide it for five years…

The afternoon was coming to an end, and they were closing up when Dan said there was a bocci tournament in an hour, and invited us to join in. Another time, but it did underscore what a comfortable place the Utopia folks have created. We left with our loot, planning to return on another day. Maybe we'll take him up on it then.

Address & Contact Information: 17445 NE Ribbon Ridge Rd. Newberg, Oregon 97132. Telephone: 503-687-1671, website: Tasting Hours: May 1-Nov 30: 11:00-6:00; Dec 1-Apr 30: Sat-Sun 11:00-6:00.

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