Kevin and Rich went exploring wine country on Friday, Nov. 28th when most wineries are open to the public. The first stop was Coattails in the Chehalem Mountains in Newberg, where we tasted at the Beaux Freres facility. We tasted a “Horsetail” Pinot Noir that was listed at $28, “Coattails” Pinot Noir listed at $74 and a Cabernet Sauvignon listed at $125. We also tasted three barrel samples of 2014 Pinot Noir. The “Horsetail” Pinot Noir was very light and spicy. Not a lot of concentration or length of finish as one might expect at this price but a well made wine. It didn’t amaze but was well priced at $28. I gave this wine an 88. The “Coattails” Pinot Noir was a crowd pleaser but a little over the top for me. While the concentration was higher the oak influence stood out with this young wine. It was a bigger style with plenty of structure. I gave it an 87, the price bringing down the score a little bit. The final wine was a Cabernet Sauvignon. I didn’t score the wine because it wasn’t grown in the region.

The second place we visited was Crowley. They had a tasting with about six smaller wineries. We purchased three bottles (Et Fille, Crowley and Toluca Lane), we will write up results when we blind taste them.

The third place we visited was Longplay in Newberg. The owner, , put on some classical jazz and poured us several Pinot Noir. We tasted Lia’s Vineyard and Jory Bench Reserve of both 2011 and 2012. The Lia Vineyard 2011 and 2012 was $27. The 2011 displayed bright red fruit and spice notes. I enjoyed an elegant styled wine that showed bright red fruit and had a nice finish for the price. I gave the wine a 90. The 2012 was riper as it should be (2012 was a warmer year than 2011,) it still had bright acidity and displayed herbal notes of sage. I liked the 2011 slightly more because of the brightness, I gave this wine an 89. Then we tried the 2011 and 2012 Jory Bench. The 2011 was very elegant, what I would call a feminine wine. It had red fruit, floral notes, a hint of mushroom, quite a bit of complexity for a $38 Pinot Noir. I gave it a 92. I very much enjoyed this wine. The 2012 was more of the same only a little darker fruit and more earth. I preferred the 2011 only slightly, I gave this a 91.

This was a pleasantly surprising line up. I like the fact that these wines were elegant, far from over the top. They emphasized fruit, not oak. Throw in your choice of music while you are tasting and I highly recommend visiting this winery.

The fourth place we visited was Brooks between Amity and Salem. Rich had never visited this winery before. They are known for Riesling and Pinot Noir. The first wine we tasted we tasted was the 2011 Willamette Valley Riesling. The aromatics were very impressive right off the bat, lots of citrus and minerals. Talk about acidity! This was like sucking on limes with limestone notes. Searing acidity made my mouth water. With very little sugar to hide the acidity, it wasn’t shy revealing what it was. I gave it a 91. The next wine was the 2011 Ara Riesling. This didn’t have quite the intense nose the Willamette Valley had, but it was pleasing and subtle. Showing a hint more residual sugar I noticed more peach with citrus fruit on the nose. Not quite as searing on the palate, it had noticeable acidity but more stone fruit on the finish. I gave this wine a 90. I imagine most people would score this higher than the Willamette Valley because the slight residual sugar balanced it out. I preferred the Willamette because of the boldness of the acidity and minerals. It had an identity and it wasn’t shy about it – I like that. The third wine we tried was the Bois Joli Riesling. It was just under 3% residual sugar. A food friendly wine that had great balance of acid and sweetness. I got pure peach on the nose and palate, slight hints of minerals and citrus were noticeable. A balanced Riesling that would compliment many foods. I gave this wine a 91. All three Rieslings were very impressive. The first Pinot Noir we tried was a 2011 Janus. Like Tanzer I gave this wine a 91 because of the balance of earth and red fruit. At 12.3% alcohol this wine is far from over extracted, it demonstrated earth as well as ripe fruit. The nose was impressive to me, a wine I wanted to swirl over and over. The next wine we sampled was the 2011 Temperance Hill. This vineyard is at a high elevation in the Eola-Amity Hills. It showed coniferous forest and red fruit on the nose with hints of herbs. The intensity of the nose was lacking but I assume that a little time will bring out the best in this wine. The palate was elegant and balanced showing off a brightness as you might expect at 12.2% alcohol. What a refreshing change having wines that are below 13% rather than the opposite end of the spectrum!. I gave this a 90, a point less because the nose was less pronounced. The final wine we sampled was 2010 Rastaban was a small 300 case production that Steven Tanzer gave a 93 point score. I gave it a 90, just slightly less than the other two Pinots. The nose was very subtle and the palate had a little more spice than I was expecting. A very nice wine but I preferred the Janus at $38 compared to this at $55.

We finished the day at Walter Scott, a place I had visited on several occasions. We tried three chardonnay’s and four pinot noirs. All I have to say about this winery is that it is a must see. All the wines are well made, having a nice balance. Ken Pahlow and Erica Landon love picking early so that the wines demonstrate a sense of place and maintain the vibrant acidity of the Eola-Amity Hills. I didn’t rate any of the wines under 90 points. This is one of my favorite wineries to visit.

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We are now open for tours Thursday-Sunday. Please call ahead to inquire about availability.