Following the Oregon Wine Trail in California

Master class surveys Oregon Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, followed by a broader tasting including other varietals.

I hit the Oregon Wine Trail on March 4th – albeit in SanFrancisco at Terra Gallery & Event Space – courtesy of the Oregon Wine Board. The event started with a master class in Oregon wine at which participants tasted 11 Pinot Noirs and four Chardonnays and learned about Oregon’s wine history and significant winegrowing regions.

Five Pinot Faves

Among my favorite Pinot Noirs (all 2017) from the session:

Maison Roy & Fils Willamette Valley was noteworthy for its smoothness and lack of winemaker intervention.

Irvine & Roberts The Elevation Block, whose grapes grow at 2,400 feet, has just the right touch of oak to accentuate its flavors.

Kelley Fox Wines Maresh Vineyard seduces with appealing aromas; it’s delicate yet deceptively potent.

Coeur de Terre Héritage Reserve Estate was the power Pinot, at least among this group, but not overdone.

Johan Vineyards Estate, another wine with a seductive nose, balances richness and acidity.

“Not a lot of excess” in either the Pinots or the Chardonnays at Oregon Wine Trail master class.

No-Excess Chardonnay

Of the Chardonnay pours, the 2017 King Estate Kennel Vineyard (engaging mid-palate fullness) and 2017 Martin Woods Yamhill Valley Vineyard (elegant perfume, complex) stood out. One of the master-class panelists, Bree Stock (on the panel with her were Christopher Tanghe and Evan Goldstein), noted of the Chardonnays that “there’s not a lot of excess in these wines,” but the same could be said of the Pinots.

Hot tip: The two least expensive and most widely distributed wines, the 2017 Underwood Pinot Noir and the 2018 A to Z Wineworks Chardonnay, both showed very well. The Underwood comes in cans as well as bottles.

More Than Pinot and Chard

As much as I enjoyed and benefited from the class, the subsequent tasting was a revelation all its own. In addition to the expected Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the 50-plus producers also poured wines from some of the state’s 80 other grape types. Of particular note:

Idiot’s Grace Wines 2016 Cabernet Franc, 2017 Chenin Blanc, and 2017 Dolcetto, all from the Columbia Gorge AVA (American Viticultural Area)

The Italian grape Dolcetto is part of the diverse Idiot’s Grace Wines lineup.

Grochau Cellars 2017 Bjornson Gamay Noir and 2016 Bjornson Pinot Noir, Eola–Amity Hills AVA.

Brandborg Winery 2015 Gewürztraminer, Elkton Oregon AVA.

Project M Wines 2017 Schlüssel Riesling, the driest of dry and so good, Willamette Valley AVA.

Project M winemaker Jerry Murray holds his 2017 Riesling.

Pricey Chards Deliver

00 Wines 2017 VGW (Very Good Wine) and 2017 EGW (Extremely Good Wine) Chardonnays both made me swoon; these Willamette Valley AVA wines are pricey but deliver.

VGW and EGW Chardonnays from 00 Wines.

Lush Wines to Finish

Antiquum Farm 2017 Juel Pinot Noir and 2018 Luxuria Pinot Noir, both lush Willamette Valley AVA wines, benefit from founder Stephen Hagen’s meticulously over-the-top farming techniques, which include year-round grazing by sheep, geese, and chickens.

The founder of Antiquum Farms describes his vineyard approach as grazing-based viticulture.

Patton Valley Vineyard 2016 Lorna-Marie Pinot Noir is a blend of the Willamette Valley AVA winery’s best blocks of organically grown grapes. Marvelous finish on this one.

Elk Cove Vineyards 2017 Mount Richmond Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir won me over with its complexity; I also liked the 2017 Five Mountain Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir.

2017 Elk Cove Vineyards Mount Richmond Pinot Noir.

Two Sparklers to Go

Argyle Winery started making sparkling wines in 1987; the 2016 Vintage Brut  and 2009 Extended Tirage Brut, both Willamette Valley AVA, cleansed the palate perfectly at tasting’s end.

Daniel Mangin is the author of Fodor’s Napa and Sonoma and coauthor of The California Directory of Fine Wineries Napa and Sonoma and Central Coast editions. He writes about California food and wine for Napa Valley Life, Marin Magazine,, and other outlets.

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