birthday weekend in Dundee

We have a lot of stuff – two houses full of stuff, in fact. My yarn stash and my closet could both use some culling and thanks to my beadwork hobby, I have more jewelry than I can wear. So a few years back, Ted had a brilliant idea for my birthday, and surprised me with tickets for a trip to Venice (we were in the Netherlands at the time). Since then, we’ve made it a tradition, and have kept that up since returning to the US. Two years ago we went to Seattle, last year we went skiing in Jackson Hole. This year, he planned us a trip to a place most people out of Oregon have never heard of, that I’ve been wanting to visit for a while: Dundee, right in the heart of the Pinot Noir wine country. It’s only about 45 minutes away (if there isn’t much traffic) but being based there allowed us to to visit a lot more of the local wineries than we could easily do in a day trip.

We took the day off Friday and headed out in the morning, timing it to arrive around 11, when most of the tasting rooms open. That day we visited: Methven Family Vineyards; Brooks Wines; Grochau Cellars; Keeler Estate; and Coelho Winery. Then we checked in at our B&B for a nice nap. (Mostly just because we could, not because we absolutely needed it. With so many wines to taste – usually 3 to 5 at each place – we shared one tasting at each winery, and were careful to just taste and then pour out the rest.)

A few notes: I hated the Gamay wines at Methven, through their Pinots were decent. The Gamays had the strongest manifestation of a weird chemical flavor that we encountered on and off all weekend – maybe it’s something in the local soil. Brooks was one of our favorites of the whole trip; they have a beautiful tasting room and some excellent Pinots. Grochau Cellars was just reopening after being closed for three months, so I don’t think we got to taste everything they had to offer – I’m particularly curious about their red blend. We did taste their Mourvedre, a French grape we hadn’t tasted on its own before. (It was OK but not spectacular.) Keeler is more focused on their vineyard than their winemaking, but we’ll be having their grapes again, since they sell to Montinore, one of our favorite wineries nearer home. They have about 200 acres, of which only 40 or so are in grapes. Beautiful place. We finished with Coelho, who (we were told) makes wine in a Portuguese style – though we’ve mostly had heavier reds from Portugal, while the majority of these were Pinot Noir.

The B&B was in a 1908 house, furnished in period but comfortable, and featured some of the most amazing breakfasts I have ever seen. We were the only guests there, since this is low season, and the owners went out of their way to make us comfortable, including providing a half bottle of wine with a “Happy Birthday!” note and making me tea one evening when I was coughing (probably swallowed some dust!).

Dinner than night was at the Joel Palmer house, whose cooking is centered on wild mushrooms. Yum. Unfortunately I’d had a bit of an upset stomach the night before; the wine seemed to be sitting OK, but I didn’t want to overstress things, so Ted got the 5 course tasting menu so I got to taste everything without actually eating much. We ordered a bottle of wine from their private label, which turned out to be the worst Pinot Noir we had all weekend. Oops. But the food was excellent.

On Saturday we hit some of the tasting rooms in the middle of town: Argyle, Chapter 24, and Dobbs Family Winery. Then we headed a bit further out to Sokol Blosser. We were going to stop at Domaine Drouhin, but it was closed for a private event so we stopped nearby at Domaine Serene instead, then White Rose, and finished up just uphill from our B&B at Torii Mor.

More tasting notes: I really wanted to go to Argyle, because we’d had and liked their sparkling wines before. Those were good as expected, but we’ll be keeping an eye out for their excellent Pinots too. Their big new tasting room was crowded and noisy, though! That made it odder that Chapter 24, right next door, was empty except for us. This was a pure winery, who buy all their grapes from other people. They focus on blends that try to encapsulate the essence of the whole region, so that was interesting – bit pricy, though. Sokol Blosser was our highlight for Saturday. They do everything well: tasting room, reds, rose, whites, sparkling wines. It was fairly crowded; unfortunately it was pissing down rain all day, so no one could take advantage of the beautiful views from their terrace. Domaine Serene had an even bigger and prettier tasting room, but their prices seemed too high to be justified by their wines. White Rose is on top of a hill with fantastic views, but oddly, their tasting room has no windows. The room was dark and crowded and feels more like a rathskellar; the wines were good, but again, expensive. In fact, their 2013 White Rose Vineyard Pinot Noir set a new record for priciest wine we’ve ever tasted. Torii Mor is in the middle of forest, so has smaller views but a beautiful setting anyway. Their Pinots didn’t seem to be anything unique, but they’re doing some interesting experimenting; we brought home a bottle of their brandy.

Actually, quite a lot of wine followed us home; there were only about three places where we didn’t buy a bottle or three. Besides the brandy, we ended up with three bottles of sparkling wine, at least one white, a number of Pinots Noirs, and several rosé – we are finding that a good rosé de pinot noir is versatile, refreshing in summer, and often the bargain of the vineyard. And you see comparatively few of them in the supermarkets where we usually buy wine, so we stocked up. We tried to be good about making notes on the bottle for which wines are good to drink on the deck watching the sun set, vs the ones that will be best with more strongly-flavored foods.

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