*Disclaimer: I received this wine as part of a sample from Willamette Valley Vineyards*
After Carey and I returned to the east coast from our trip to the Willamette Valley last March, we truly had a lot to reflect on. It wasn’t just a visit; we’d felt taken in. Every vineyard and winery we visited, big or small, we felt the same passion, the same skeptical enthusiasm: “you came out here from where? Saratoga Springs? Upstate New York?”
The Willamette Valley wine community is fiercely proud of the niche they’ve carved out in the global wine world. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay dominate with complexity, finesse, and individuality—Pinot Gris serves as an easy, less expensive opener. They understand what works with their terroir, and they don’t fight it. Regardless, I saw little interest in expanding or experimenting varietally within the Willamette Valley—the focus for that was further south.
Ironically the first and last wines Carey and I tasted on our trip were from Southern Oregon—a Del Rio Vineyard Syrah from Tyrus Evan, and an outstanding Reserve Tempranillo from Abacela Vineyard and Winery. This was a theme that persisted—there was incredible interest in how Southern Oregon was progressing. From Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah to Tempranillo, Barbera, and Sangiovese—S.O. is bringing serious diversity to the Oregon wine scene.
Willamette Valley Vineyards has a line of Rogue Valley wines from Griffin Creek Winery, one of which, the Merlot, we tasted at the WVV tasting room—an ’06 Syrah and ’07 Cabernet Sauvignon arrived after we returned home.
2007 Cabernet Sauvignon tasting notes:
A well-formed Cabernet with dark and developed fruit—black cherry, plum, and juicy black berry. Peppermint patties, round tannins, and a very full mouth feel with not a hint of cheek pucker. A heady herbal attack followed by rousing fruit, a rich black top soil accented with a trace of gum rubber, and a nice sweet, silky finish. Complex dusty earth and mineral expression—crushed travertine, sun-bleached and stony. Approachable and distinguished. Perfect to pair with dark chocolate.
2006 Syrah tasting notes:
Notably smooth, almost whipped in texture. Mineral rich and understated—no sloppy jam, a great acidic balance. Sultry. Black raspberry balloons unmistakably from a mixed and muddled juicy black fruit bed. Deep meat and tobacco flavors nicely rough-up gentle textures—manning it up a bit. Signature Syrah spice after the swallow. Outstanding with Humboldt Fog goat cheese and Serrano ham.
Our friends Christine Collier, social marketing director at Willamette Valley Vineyards, and Chris Jiron, Oenology student and local cellar rat, teamed up to write the Southern Oregon Wine Blog. They are on the front lines, documenting one of the most diverse wine growing regions on the cusp of another Oregon wine revolution. Be sure to check them out.