Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Honeymoon: Colene Clemens and Soter Vineyards

Wednesday May 1, Ribbon Ridge and Yamhill-Carlton AVAs, OR

Colene Clemens Vineyards

After leaving Ayres Vineyards, we next moved on from the extreme southern end of Ribbon Ridge to the extreme northern end to newcomer Colene Clemens, whose panoramic views must surely be unparalleled in all of Oregon wine country. As we climbed the long hill to get to the summit, it quickly became apparent that the views up at the tasting room were going to be spectacular. And indeed, at the top, the views are stunning. If for no other reason, I really appreciated coming here so that I could get a better handle on the lay of the land. We were right where Ribbon Ridge AVA abuts Chehalem Mountains AVA.

Looking Southeast: Chehalem Ridge on Left; Ribbon Ridge on Right
But the views are not the only stunning features: unlike the no frills wineries that we visited earlier, no expense was spared at this winery and the tasting room/winery was amazing, a post and beam building with stacked stone foundation and chimney with a low, gently sloping roof. You can tell from the roof pitch that we are not in snow country!

Stunning Arts and Crafts Meets Pacific Northwest Winery

Of the four wineries we visited on our tour with Jack, this was the only one open to the public, but traffic was very light on a Wednesday afternoon. Facing the building, to the left is the crush pad and a large extended patio bounded by a stacked stone wall. And what a gorgeous crush pad, if such utilitarian things can be called gorgeous, it is! During lunch, the swallows trying to build nests up under the crush pad were making quite the ruckus.

Now, That's a Crush Pad!
Speaking of lunch, Jack furnished a beautiful lunch that you can see below and we sat outside on the patio and munched on it while starting our tasting of the Colene Clemens wines. I really liked the tomato-eggplant spread, but it was the smoked salmon that really tasted great with the 2011 Pinot Noir rosé. This was the only wine I drank all day. When I am out tasting wine, I am learning and evaluating and thinking about the restaurant wine list and I can't do that with a buzz! Ann calls it "Ed mode." That's her code for working while having fun.

But I have to admit that being driven to a gorgeous winery on a spectacular sunny spring day to have someone lay out a spread for a patio lunch and then bring you wine to taste, this, my friends, is a terrible thing to endure!

Lunch, Courtesy of Our Driver, Jack

Delicious with Lunch!

The Scenery *Sucks* at Colene Clemens
After lunch, we went inside to the tasting counter to finish tasting the wines we didn't taste outside and were blown away by how spectacular the tasting room was. It was as nice as any hotel lobby I have ever seen. But little did we know, we would see a tasting room later in the afternoon that would blow us away totally and more than this one.

Hotel Lobby or Tasting Room?
As we tasted through the wines, I couldn't help but conclude that after the previous two wineries and their world-class wines, the wines here were not quite in the same league. Don't get me wrong: they were competent, delicious, and I would drink them again. But they didn't speak to me as did the morning's wines. And the prices seemed a little on the high side. But that rosé, I could drink a bunch of that! Really great wine!

Soter Vineyards

Soter Vineyards, the next and final winery of the day was our first of the day outside Ribbon Ridge. We made the 20-minute drive to the Yamhill-Carlton AVA just east of Carlton to the eponymous winery of Tony Soter, famed founder of Étude Wines and consultant to Napa legends such as such as Araujo, Niebaum-Coppola, Shafer, Spottswoode, Viader, and Dalle Valle.

After making the long drive on an unmarked gravel driveway up a hill crowned by what appeared to be Douglas Firs, we arrived at a hilltop building that upon first inspection could be a utilitarian building. But the closer we got, the more this appeared to be a building straight out of Architectural Digest. The deep gables on each end, the deep and shallow lean-to roof over the entry, the long line of clerestory windows the length of the roof, and finally the epic glass entryway gave me to understand that this building is much, much more than the warehouse or old train station it appears to be at first glance. This phenomenal piece of architecture has to be seen in person to be fully appreciated, but you can see more details on the architect's web page. Unfortunately, the sun was all wrong for me to get a good shot of the building exterior.

Upon getting out of the car, we were greeted immediately and enthusiastically by a young female Chocolate Lab named Xoco. Xoco belongs to Hallie Whyte, the wine club manager at Soter, who hosted our tasting.

Who's Having More Fun: Ann or Xoco?
We proceeded to enter the tasting room through the glassed-in entryway that you see behind us and we were astounded to see that the building is a totally open room with arched trusses above, an exquisitely furnished kitchen to the left and a floor to ceiling fireplace on the right. Hallie greeted us with a glass of the sparkling wine that Soter is known for. It was a very, very good sparkling wine with complexity of nose and palate; I could drink a lot of this.

Nice View, Huh?

As you can see here, there is a long wooden tasting table in the center of the room and glass doors to the rear open to the spring air, with amazing views of the valley floor below us from the chairs on the back portico.

Tasting Anyone?
After looking around for a few minutes, we sat down to a really wonderfully conducted tasting that started with rosé, then to Chardonnay, and finally to Pinot Noir ending with the heavy hitters from the estate itself.

Tasting in Style

The Only Winery with Non-Riedel Oregon Pinot Glasses

Part of Our Tasting Line Up
After tasting the line up, I really loved the sparkling wine and I thought that the North Valley Pinot had potential for our wine list as an every day drinking wine. But I really loved the 2010 Mineral Springs Ranch (the estate) Pinot. It has awesome cellar potential. On the other hand, I found the 2009, a much warmer vintage, to be too concentrated and too ripe for my taste.

Happy, Happy Hour!
We bought a bottle of the 2010 MSR for our happy hour later on and said our goodbyes to Hallie and Xoco. Jack ferried us back to our B&B, tired and happy. After grabbing a couple of Pinot glasses from the rack downstairs, we went upstairs and retired to the little balcony off of our room where we enjoyed what was left of the stupendous 2005 Ayres Pinot Blanc that Brad had given us early in the day, after which we opened the MSR. After a day of hard work at tasting, I have rarely been happier with a glass of wine that with that Pinot Blanc. This is a wine that I will never forget; it has been added to my tiny pantheon of life-changing wines.

As we sat and looked out at the hawks flying below us, we had a chance to reflect on our day and its superlatives.

Best Tasting: Patricia Green Cellars/Jim Anderson
Best Wines: Ayres Vineyard
Best View: Colene Clemens
Most Spectacular Tasting Room: Soter

I really want to thank Jack Cranley of Backroads Wine Tours for a spectacular day. Thank you for making all the arrangements and thank you for listening. Winos that are serious about seeing the best of Willamette should seek Jack out. Guzzlers need not apply.

1 comment:

  1. You are so welcome Ed! It was a pleasure having you, and I hope we can do it again some time. I think it's awesome that the Pinot Blanc from Ayres was "life-changing" for you. That was a seriously good bottle of wine!


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