Edible Skinny’s Girls Getaway Trip to the Willamette Valley
Editor in Chief, Edible Skinny
The second part of Edible Skinny’s Girls Getaway trip brought us to the Willamette Valley for a day of whimsy, wine and waxing poetic of the expanding state of Oregon vineyards.
A few years ago was the 50th anniversary of the first planing of grapes in the Willamette Valley by Eyrie Vineyards David-Lett. Today this wine region is home to 530 wineries and almost 20.000 acres of planted vineyards. It’s been quite the evolution, leading to Wine Enthusiast naming Oregon’s Willamette Valley as its “Wine Region of the Year” in 2016.
Hey, Locally Produced, Hey! If you’re looking wine snobbery don’t stop here! Pretentiousness is out the door in the WIllamette Valley. The soul of the area is really a farming community, according to Dave Specter, owner of Bells Up Winery, a community that embraces the soil, weather, and people to create wine full of craft!
All the wineries Edible Skinny visited were in the Chehalem (pronounced “Sha-HAY-lum”) Mountains AVA. Located between Oregon’s Cascade Mountains and the Coast Range, this AVA is more than 100 miles long and spanning 60 miles at its widest point. This area is defined by Laurelwood soil, a basalt base covered with ice age windblown sedimentary soils. It is superb for the cultivation of Pinot Noir, contributing rich and intense flavors to the wine.
Our first stop was the micro-boutique estate winery Bells Up. Making just 400 cases annually, Dave Specter left his Cincinnati legal career in the Midwest to put down winemaking/growing in the Valley in 2012. Bells Up composes handcrafted, classically styled Oregon Pinot Noir with grapes sourced primarily from the northern Willamette Valley. Dave, a former french horn player, names all their wines after french horn dominant musical pieces. The winery name references the music term of lifting up of the french horns, a bells up movement.
Bells Up is 100% self funded with Dave and his wife Sarah running all the tastings. Dave quickly notes, “it’s not about volume; it’s about creating an experience. Tiny producers are the soul of the Willamette Valley.” Their slogan: micro-boutique un-domain. Bells Up focuses on versatile wines that are food friendly. “The best compliment I can get is that it’s really yummy. We have one customer who’s favorite food pairing with our Rosé is Doritos.”
Our Favorite Recommendations:
- Seyval Blanc (Not Available Online) - The only varietal planting in the Willamette Valley and only the second planting in all of Oregon this wine was developed in New York for cold tolerant climates. A teeny tiny harvest, “I created one jug,” exclaims Dave, the flavor is bright earthiness. As if you played in mud, and then took a shower.
- 2017 Prelude Rosé ($22) - Sourced from the first-ever harvest of Bells Up's estate vineyard, this fuller-bodied rosé is named for Franz Liszt’s “Symphonic Poem No. 3: Les Preludes.” With a nose of fresh strawberry, “bada-bing” cherry, and sunshine, it’s the perfect late afternoon patio wine. A white eyelet dress with silver bangles catching the low sun over Aix-en-Provence.
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Our next stop was a stone’s throw away from Bells Up Winery (literally up the hill) at Chehalem Ridge Bed & Breakfast for a scrumptious lunch. Set on a hill overlooking the Willamette Valley, this upscale 10 year old bed-and-breakfast is within 10 miles of a dozen or more wineries. With decks overlooking the stunning mountainside and a view that’s the ultimate Selfie backdrop, Kelly and I thought we might never want to leave.
Owner Kristen only uses handmade and local ingredients, down to special jams and jellies you won’t find anywhere else. The day we dined there our two spread options were Pear Cranberry jam and Grape Jelly made from Pinot Noir grapes from Bells Up Winery. Kristin, a Cordon Bleu school trained chef, usually offers up a fruit dish, bread dish, and an entrée to her guests everyday, with dishes that are familiar but, “tweaked a bit.” She even won a Bed & Breakfast award for being the most accommodating B&B-er to food allergies. First of the menu was hearty Pumpkin Scones with the aforementioned jams and jellies. Then onto Kiwi Parfait with Vanilla Yogurt and Homemade Hazelnut Granola, naturally made with local Oregon hazelnuts. This was followed by a Cheese Souffle with Tillamook Cheddar and Thyme from the garden, paired with a Fennel Orange Salad. Can we say Yumm!!!
Afterwards we got a tour of the 5-bedroom property. Staying in a B&B is slightly adventurous in nature, and with that in mind Chehalem Ridge Bed & Breakfast inspires its guests to explore, both the local area and the other guests that are residing inside its walls. There’s a common area to meet people and no TVs in any of the rooms. The cozy rooms have themes inspired by the state itself from the Oregon Coast to Oregon Wine Country. Go green, there’s a 20,000 kilowatt array, that creates 80% of electricity. Oh and did we mention there are fresh baked cookies everyday? This is a the B&B you want to retire to!
To Book a Room:
Our next winery to experience was Alloro, which set it sights on bringing Old World allure to Oregon. Alloro’s 80-acre estate is an homage to Italian tradition, from its Tuscan farmhouse and culinary gardens to the heirloom sheep that graze the vineyard. The word Allor is Italian for Laurel Leaf, a reference to the Laurelwood filled soil upon the winery resides. This winery sides on the boutiquey side of producing around 3,000 cases a year of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Alloro’s wines are 100% Estate Grown from one vineyard site.
Our Favorite Recommendations:
- 2013 Pinot Noir ($35) - This wine tastes like an Ivy League college interview with a black headband and string pearls. This wine has what is considered a classic Oregon profile with expressive aromas, elegance, and great balance. It’s a blend of the most important blocks from the Alloro Estate, showcasing their site’s distinctive personality including flavorings of Black Cherries, Oregano, and Rose Petal Aromas.
- 2014 Reservata ($45) - A special barrel-selection that delivers darker fruit, more mid-palate weight, and finer texture—with persistence on the palate and a classic take on the flavors of their site. It tastes like a leather booth lean-in on a captivating conversation.
Along with their wines Alloro is also known for their Whole Farm Dinners. Open to the public, this intimate 40 person event pairs delicious food with Alloro wines at their long farmhouse table in the fermentation cellar. 95% of this 5-course dinner is sourced on Alloro property. The winery works with a particular chef in the Spring, planting what they will serve in September.
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Our final stop was Ponzi Vineyards. This founding Oregon Winery has been a leading producer of benchmark American Wine for nearly 50 years, crafting some of the world’s finest cool climate expressions of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris. In the late 1960’s, Disney Imagineer Dick Ponzi, along with his wife Nancy, uprooted their young family from their home in California to pursue their dream of producing world class Pinot Noir. After many research trips to Burgundy and an extensive search for the ideal location, they purchased 20 acres on small farms southwest of Portland, Oregon. Contrary to the existing school of though, the Ponzis believed the climate, soils, and vineyard site met every need of noble cool climate grape varietals. The Ponzi family planted their first Pinot Noir cuttings, and in 1970 Ponzi Vineyards was founded.
Today the winery makes 55,000 cases a year. The Ponzi sisters (who were some of the first females educated on wine in France) continue a half-century legacy of winemaking excellence, innovation and community. In 2013 Ponzi’s 30,000 square foot tasting room opened. Set atop a Northwest facing Chehalem Mountains slope, surrounded by the majestic Avellana Vineyard, the faculty houses a state-of-the-art winery and modern tasting rooms. Designed by Dick Ponzi himself, this facility is the realization of a 40-year-old-vision with fireside seating, covered terraces and bocce ball courts.
Our Favorite Recommendations:
- 2014 Tavola ($27) - Ponzi’s everyday table wine is made entirely from Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, aged in French oak barrels and blended for a delicious early release. A blend of younger vineyards, this cuvée present a nose of graham cracker and lavender and a palate of salted caramel, black tea, and strawberry balsamic.
- 2015 Pinot Noir Reserve ($65) - Created to celebrate the 45th anniversary of Ponzi Vineyards. This cuvée showcases the finest fruit from Laurelwood soils in the Chehalem Mountains AVA. With aromas of cinnamon bark, chai tea, maple syrup, and baked apple with a palate of light tannins and notes of black licorice and vanilla powder.
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Kat Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Edible Skinny, a site dedicated to making your life postcard worthy. She is also the CEO of the creative media company This Way Adventures. You can find more about both brands at http://www.thiswayadventures.com