I live within an hour of the Willamette Valley. Being so close, you’d think I would spend plenty of time down there, exploring wineries, meeting the producers and consuming plenty of delicious Pinot Noir. And I do…but I, like everyone else, get stuck in a rut. I don’t take the time to truly explore the wonders that the region has to offer.
When the opportunity arose for me to visit 3 unique Willamette Valley producers, I took it. These were producers who were on my go-to list, but for some reason, I hadn’t made it out to them. Why hadn’t I made it to them sooner? I don’t know. With school and my volunteer efforts with my local wineries, my excuses are endless. Now, with the spectacular views and the beautifully crafted wines, I now have 3 more amazing places on my list. Over the coming weeks, each of the wineries I visited will be highlighted.
Youngberg Hill: The first winery stop was Youngberg Hill. The owners, Wayne and Nicolette Bailey, encourage your senses to fully take in what the hill is about, from the vineyards to the rooms in the bed and breakfast. “Everything is in sync with nature,” says Wayne. And for good reason. This biodynamically farmed winery takes pride in being good stewards of the land. With bioswales, a few head of cattle and a connection with the earth, the atmosphere they are producing is hard to beat.
According to Wayne, “Organic only takes you halfway.” Through diversification of the ecosystem, the Bailey’s are taking organic production to a new level. According to The Biodynamic Association, biodynamic farming requires that a the farmer generates as much health and fertility as possible from what’s available on the land. This means that every insect and animal, the unique characteristics of the layout of the property and the unique soils upon which the vineyards are planted play a vital role in the way that the grapes are grown.
What about the wines, you ask? Well…to summarize them into a few words, I’d use the following: Stunning. Elegant. Mystifying. Food-friendly. This is where Wayne’s experience as a food and beverage consultant shines. While he didn’t aspire to be a winemaker or a grower at first, he got to know vintners in France through his consulting position. When that job was complete, he stayed in France for an additional two years and got to know the production side. He came back to the states, armed with knowledge and a desire to grow Pinot Noir.
When asked why he picked Oregon over anywhere else, he said, “The Willamette Valley is the best.” He continued on to say that he sensed a feeling of “home” in McMinnville and in Oregon. He wanted his three daughters to experience what he did growing up in a farming community in Iowa. A sense of pride, dignity and community.
My personal recommendations from Youngberg Hill are the 2014 Aspen Pinot Gris (SRP: $20) and the 2011 Jordan Pinot Noir (SRP: $40). The Aspen is fruity, but still has a great backbone of acidity. The Jordan screams “Look at me! I’m worth your time and money!”
The next time you’re in the Willamette Valley, make sure that Youngberg Hill is on your list. For the whole experience, book yourself a room! Their daughter Natasha summed up the feeling of Youngberg Hill perfectly…”It’s so quiet, I can hear the stars.”
Disclaimer: My tasting fee was waived in exchange for a blog post.