Tuesday, December 1, 2009

2009 Yamhill County Winery Tour

To my friends who enjoy a glass of wine....
and those who don't.

As Ben Franklin said:
"In wine there is wisdom,
in beer there is freedom,
in water there is bacteria."

This year, I did some research and picked Carlton, OR for our Thanksgiving Weekend wine adventure. Sandra, Brian and I headed out early on Saturday morning.

Wilson Carl founded Carlton in 1899. Its name is a conjunction of Carl's town, a stop on the railroad. I really wanted to hit some back road wineries of Yamhill county as the last few years we have stayed close to home in Washington County.

Our first stop, sorta by accident was Shea Wine Cellars. It took us about an hour to reach the center of our wine destination and Brian pulled into one of the first wineries we saw. Founded by Dick Shea in 1996, Shea Wine Cellars produces world class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Their 2009 Open House tasting ($10) included a light and intensely aromatic 2007 Chardonnay and 6 Pinot Noirs (5 from 2008). One of them, the 2008 "Homer" (which sells for $82 a bottle) was superb.

Our second stop was Laurel Ridge Winery; founded in 1974, Laurel Ridge is one of the oldest vineyard/winery sites in Oregon. They are one of only a handful of Oregon wineries making sparkling wines by the traditional French "methode champenoise". The 1998 Brut Grand

Laureate was spicy and dry....perfect for the holiday season. A real treat, we tasted the only Port of the day....an 04 Cab Franc Port (which Chick bought a bottle of).

Lemelson Vineyards was just down the road....a beautiful winery and tasting room. We tried 6 wines, two white ($15) and the rest Pinot Noir. They grow their grapes organically and practice sustainable farming. I am disappointed I didn't buy the 06 Chardonnay, a real gem of the day.

We then stopped by Belle Pente, which means "beautiful slope" and eloquently describes the hillsides that surround the Yamhill/Carlton area. Their first vineyard was planted in 1994. Very young wines - excellent pairing of Oregon cheeses for $10.I've always been a big fan of Ken Wright wines, especially their chardonnay, so my main purpose in this years Carlton trip was to stop by their winemakers studio in downtown Carlton. Aside from the 08 Pinot Blanc and the 07 Celilo Vineyard Chardonnay ($20), the rest of the tastings centered on their Futures Barrels - so very young underdeveloped wines that they wanted you to "invest in". Strange concept to be drinking recently barrelled 09 wines. I spent most of my time sitting outside the door watching people (Chick and Brian listened to the history of the 2009 harvest) and lamenting that I spent $20 - truly a "Carlton" rip-off.We ended the day in the heart of downtown Carlton tasting wines from Owen Row - several reds and amazing cheese pairing. Owen Roe O'Neill was a Seventeenth century Irish Patriot who dedicated his life to upholding the highest principles of political equality and freedom - how this ties into their wines, I am not sure - but I enjoyed their pinots.

Aside from the great wines of the day, Carlton is an amazing place for shopping, antiques, food and art. I think another trip is in the works.....a chance to explore downtown and more Yamhill County wineries.



Thanks to Follow My Bliss for the great quote on wine!