First things first. Willamette is pronounced Willam-ette (rhymes with dammit - like Willamette dammit) and not Willa-mette which is how I was pronouncing it before I went there. The wineries here are known for some of the best Pinot Noir's in the world. And there are over 500 wineries in the Valley so you can probably find one that suits your tastes. Here are the four we visited:
Rex Hill Winery
Rex Hill Winery is located in Newburg, Oregon and is specifically known for it's Pinot's. The wine tasting consisted purely of Pinot's - which isn't my favorite - so I didn't participate. So to say this one wasn't my favorite would be correct. (I've only been to one other winery that had one kind of wine to taste - Croteaux on Long Island with it's Rose- so I wasn't prepared that it was only Pinot) But everyone else who tried it liked the wine - and it was a beautiful tasting room with old world charm. If Pinot is your thing, then Rex Hill is your place.( It's been voted one of the "6 Best Wineries to visit in Oregon" - so what do I know?)
Penner-Ash Winery has a beautiful setting with an award winning building in Newburg, Oregon. They specialize in Pinot Noir, Syrah and Reisling. Run by a husband and wife team, including Lynn Penner-Ash, who was one of the first woman winemakers in Oregon, their winery is sustainable and is a gravity-flow estate with 360 degree views of the Willamette Valley. The fireplace was heating up the inside, but the adirondacks were calling our name outside. We didn't do a tasting here but chose a glass of wine to enjoy outside instead.
WillaKenzie Estate Winery
WillaKenzie was a unique winery and experience. It's a family owned winery with wines named after the owner's European family members and ski slopes. He passionately believes that "dirt matters" and that Oregon is the best place in the US to grow grapes and produce wine. Named after the two rivers in Oregon - the Willamette and the McKenzie - WillaKenzie, like most in Oregon, is known for it's Pinots. We all did a tasting here that was conducted by one of the most passionate employees at a winery that I've ever been around. She gave us the history of the vineyard, the owner, his family and the wines. It was quite comprehensive. If you're interested in wine making, get yourself to WillaKenzie. You'll be fascinated. And if you really want to do something different, WillaKenzie is included on a wine tasting by helicopter tour called Tour de Vine by Heli. The price starts at $399. Per person.
Our last winery of the day was Fairsing Vineyard, which was my favorite. Located on the top of a hill with beautiful views, adirondack chairs and a labrinyth outside it's door, Fairsing - which means bountiful in ancient gaelic - specializes in pinot's and chardonnay. Unfortunately, we arrived about 10 minutes before the last pour so our visit was rushed. I did do a tasting and Fairsing had my favorite wines of the day - along with the experience. I would definitely go back - and hopefully have time to enjoy.
How about you? Have you been to Willamette Valley Wine Country? Like their wines?
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