Thursday, May 2, 2013

Honeymoon: Cristom Vineyards and The Eyrie Vineyards

Thursday May 2, Eola-Amity Hills AVA and McMinnville OR

Cristom Vineyards

After our delicious breakfast at the B&B, we set out for points south in the direction of Salem to visit the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, the only one of the Willamette sub-appellations that we hadn't yet driven through during our stay in Oregon. I think we both knew instinctively that no matter what we tasted today, it wasn't going to live up to what we tasted yesterday. And we were right, but we had fun nonetheless.

We decided to go to Cristom Vineyards in part because they make one of our favorite domestic Syrahs but also because they are known for their Viognier, a grape that we are all too familiar with here in Virginia. And truth be told, I wanted to drive through the Eola-Amity Hills AVA and see where everything is located. It really helps me have a connection to the wine if I understand where it comes from and what the geography is.

We arrived early in the day, just after 11:00am and on a Thursday morning pretty much had the run of the place. As you can see in the photos, the weather was absolutely fantastic and we spent a lot of time outside at Cristom marveling at the landscaping, especially the intensely fuchsia-colored rhododendrons up against the building.

Spectacular Weather; Spectacular Rhododendrons

Photo Doesn't Do the Landscaping Any Justice

Looking Back down the Driveway

We went in to the tasting room where we tasted through Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viognier, several Pinot Noirs, and the famed Syrah of which we sell a lot at the restaurant. With only an acre of Syrah vines near the winery building itself, I feel really fortunate to be able to get any Syrah at all for our list. We are lucky to be able to sell about 2 cases of this wine each year.

I was more impressed with the white wines from Cristom than the Pinot Noirs. This is a stylistic thing for me. Eola-Amity Hills generally produces bigger, riper, and fruitier Pinot Noir than the other more northerly AVAs and for a guy who likes leaner, higher acid wines, there's a touch of culture clash. All the Cristom wines were well made and I understand why they find favor with their fans.

Ann Being Sneaky with Her Camera
We took leave of the beautifully trimmed out tasting room and had another wander around the immaculate grounds before setting our compass north and heading through Amity to McMinnville.

The Eyrie Vineyards

While I was in Oregon, I wanted to taste old vine Pinot Noir to see how a lot of these wines are going to evolve as the vineyards age. So, why not visit the winery that started it all? From Cristom, we set sail for the The Eyrie Vineyards winery in downtown McMinnville. True, the grapes are from vineyards in the Dundee Hills (the initial vineyard on an old prune orchard), but the winery is in McMinnville in an old dairy. It is still kind of strange for me to visit an urban winery. Although I know intellectually that wine can be made anywhere, it seems somehow unnatural that a wine be made at some distance removed from the pastoral setting where the grapes grew.

I have always liked the lighter nature of Eyrie's wine, where founder David Lett (now deceased) understood that the beauty of Pinot Noir was in its restraint. He's a guy I would have liked to have met. So going to Eyrie was a pilgrimage of sorts for me.

On entering the tasting room, we were greeted by Tasting Room Manager Ed Gans and we tasted through their line up. The age of the vines shows clearly: the wines are certainly weightier than most and even the 2011s seemed as weighty as everyone else's 2009s.

It was too dark in the tasting room to get good photos, but we managed to get these two out in the foyer.

Did You Have to Think about This for a Second?

Showing off Their Longevity; Bottles from Each Vintage
After our very pleasant visit with Ed, we grabbed a bottle for happy hour later and headed off into downtown proper to get some lunch. Our plan after lunch was to tackle Dundee Hills on our way back to Newberg.

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