Abacela is America’s leading producer of tempranillo, which is the most noble wine grape of northern Spain (where Rioja and Ribera Del Duero wines are made), which has a climate is very similar to that found in the Umpqua Valley near Roseburg. Abacela makes in some years, such as 2000 and 2009, a special bottling of ‘Southeast Block’ tempranillo ($55) and, in most years, a Reserve Tempranillo ($45). Both have the scent of brewing tea leaves, the softness of low acidity, and mouthwatering tannins, but five-plus years in a cool cellar are needed before the complexity of these wines emerges. They also make an excellent, reasonably priced white wine, also from a Spanish varietal, called albariño ($18), which smells of peaches and citrus. Earl and Hilda Jones, owners; Andrew Wenzl, winemaker.
Although the winery and tasting room are in a newly refurbished building, Adelsheim is one of Oregon’s oldest wineries. Try their Elizabeth Reserve pinot noir ($52), made from old-vine fruit, with seamless intense black raspberry flavors. Jack and Lynn Loacker, owners; Dave Paige, winemaker.
From the underground caves of this winery come many of the very the best wines made in Oregon, including a single-vineyard pinot noir ($85) grown in the Red Hills Estate vineyard, with mouthwatering tannins and amazing palate persistence that will make you want more than you should have if you are driving! If you can convince the tasting room to open a bottle, there is also a very rare white wine made here that is not commercially available, from pinot gris grapes grown on the very special hillside of the Red Hills Estate vineyard ($45). It is full-bodied and unctuous and far richer than other pinot gris wines (except a Grand Cru from Alsace), even ones typically made in Oregon (although the Hawks View pinot gris is a close second to this one!!) Leucadia National, owner; Anna Matzinger, winemaker.
Argyle’s sparkling wine made from a blend of pinot noir and chardonnay is the best buy in bubbly made in America. There are a couple of different versions of it, and the best is their ‘Extended Tirage’ bubbly, ($55), every bottle of which rests on its lees (dead yeast cells), gaining complexity for about a decade before it is released for sale. It has a deep, rich, yeasty scent reminiscent of real Champagne. Petaluma Australia, winery; Rollin Soles, winemaker.
Makers of delicate pinot noir sourced from vineyards surrounding the hamlets of Carlton and Dundee, Belle Pente makes a wide variety of wines, and among the best is the raspberry/cherry-flavored Yamhill-Carlton District pinot noir ($25), one of the best values in high-quality red wine made in Oregon. Jill and Brian O’Donnell, owners and winemakers.
Although their Bergström Vineyard pinot noir ($75) is richly textured and opulent, it is their chardonnay wines that truly stand out. Try the ‘Sigrid’ chardonnay ($78) for a whiff of elegant, expensive French oak barrels, and then try the ‘Old Stones’ chardonnay ($30) which is almost as good, at a fraction of the price. Josh Bergström, owner and winemaker.
One of the trailblazers making great Eola Hills pinot noir for many years, Bethel Heights makes richly textured, cherry-flavored pinot, with the best bottlings coming from their Justice vineyard and Southeast Block vineyard ($50 each). Ted and Terry Casteel, Pat Dudley, and Marilyn Webb, owners; Ben Casteel, winemaker.
In the hamlet of Elkton, perched above the rushing waters of the Umpqua River, is Brandborg, where they make excellent white wines, particularly from gewürztraminer and Riesling (each $16); the gewürztraminer oozes clove-like spiciness with the scent of honeysuckle, and the Riesling is refreshingly tart with Granny Smith apple flavors. Terry and Sue Brandborg, owners; Terry Brandborg, winemaker.
Notable white wines are now made under the Brooks label, especially ‘Amycas’ ($15), a blend of pinot gris, pinot blanc, Riesling, and lord knows how many other white wine varieties! Plenty of crisp green apple flavors with good palate persistence. Janie Brooks Heuck, owner; Chris Williams, winemaker.
Making what is now universally regarded as the some of the best pinot noir in the world, Cristom produces several single-vineyard-sourced wines which express a purity of fruit and a laser-focus of crisp red berry flavors. Harvested from a steep, east-facing slope located just above the winery, the single-vineyard Jessie Vineyard pinot noir ($50) offers a touch of spiciness, a floral scent, and raspberry flavors that are at once unique, intriguing, and mouthwatering. Paul and Eileen Gerrie, owners; Steve Doerner, winemaker.
De Ponte Cellars
Both the winery and the vineyard for De Ponte are located between DDO and Archery Summit, and the wines reflect that location, as De Ponte pinots are slightly more supple than Archery Summit wines and slightly more broad-shouldered than DDO wines. Try the Baldwin Family Reserve Pinot ($70), which is richly textured and very long on the palate. One of Oregon’s best and most interesting white wines is also grown and made here, from 30-year-old vines, from a grape variety called melon ($24); it smells like a whiff of salty ocean air and lingers with a richness in the middle of the palate, uniquely the mark of a wine made from older vines. Baldwin family, owners; Isabelle Dutartre, winemaker.
Domaine Drouhin Oregon (a.k.a. DDO)
Try the DDO ‘Laurène’ pinot noir ($65), which is very cellarworthy (take a bottle home and drink it when it is five or even 10 years old) and always complex, with layers of flavors and a silky, supple texture found only in the best pinot noir wines. The difference between the Laurène and the regular DDO pinot noir ($40) is that the Laurène is a “barrel selection” of the top 10 percent of the pinot noir wines made each year at DDO. Véronique, Robert, and Francoise Drouhin, owners; Véronique Drouhin, winemaker; David Millman, manager.
Perennially the source of Oregon’s best value for high quality Pinot Noir, Evesham Wood makes several different wines at a range of prices. One of the best bets is the ‘Les Puit Sec’ (meaning dry well in French and reflective of former owner Russ Raney’s commitment to eschew vineyard irrigation to maximize expression of the uniqueness of each vintage) Pinot Noir, ($36), which has a delicate texture but is full of cherry fruit flavors. Erin & Jordan Nuccio, owners; Erin Nuccio & Russ Raney, winemakers.
Named for the hawks’ nest found in a tree near their original vineyard (Oregon’s oldest pinot noir vineyard, planted in 1967), Eyrie’s best wines are labeled as ‘Reserve’ (or ‘Original Vines Reserve’ in some vintages). Only at the winery tasting room, can you find a bottle of the best wine made at Eyrie in recent vintages, the 2004 Pinot Noir Reserve ($65), which is transparent in color but rich in tart cherry flavors and broad on the palate. Burgundy lovers will swear that the wine was imported from the famous village of Morey-Saint-Denis, home to some of the world’s best pinot noir—which is why the Willamette Valley is now rightly know as “America’s Burgundy.” Diana Lett & Jason Lett, owners; Jason Lett, winemaker.
The pinot noir wines made at Lemelson typically taste like ripe plums, and their best wine is separately bottled from a single vineyard called the Meyer Vineyard ($42), on a steep, east-facing slope situated in the heart of the Dundee Hills near Archery Summit’s Red Hills vineyard and Erath’s Prince Hill vineyard, all three candidates for Grand Cru status among Oregon vineyards. (Grand Cru is the top rating and classification for vineyards in Burgundy, the historic home of pinot noir.) Eric Lemelson, owner; Anthony King, winemaker.
Sourcing their fruit from the marine sedimentary soils of the Yamhill-Carlton District, Lenne’s pinot noir ($45) exhibits a dark cherry flavor that clearly reflect their place of origin: something the French call the expression of terroir. Steve Lutz, owner and winemaker.
The architecturally stunning design of Penner-Ash’s winery matches the consistently high quality of their wines. Their best pinot noir fruit in most nearly every vintage is grown in the Dussin vineyard, which surrounds the east-facing winery. The P-A Dussin bottling ($60) has rich berry notes with a slight leather overtone. Ron and Lynn Penner-Ash, owners; Lynn Penner-Ash, winemaker.
The Pines 1852
Made in the town of Newberg in the Willamette Valley, wines labeled as The Pines 1852 are made from grapes grown in the Columbia Valley AVA. The Pines zinfandel ($39) is a wine of moderate intensity and high alcohol, with mild briary black fruit notes overlaid by the scent of charred oak barrels. Lonnie Wright, owner; Peter Rosback, winemaker.
Quenett wines are made in Washington from Columbia Valley fruit and are available in downtown Hood River at a prominently placed storefront tasting room. Quenett makes a popular ‘Redd Red’ wine ($20) from a blend of syrah, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon, which has a soft friendly uncomplicated texture and an international style often found in other $20 wines made in California, Australia, and at the larger wineries in eastern Washington. James and Molli Martin, owners.
A little known Austrian white wine variety, called Grüner Veltliner ($22), similar to Riesling but a little softer and less tart, is made at Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards It smells like cucumber dusted with dill, and it finishes on the palate with a hint of white pepper. Gloria & Steve Reustle, owners; Steve Reustle, winemaker.
In perhaps the most attractive historic barn still standing in Oregon, RoxyAnn’s tasting room pours up many varieties of wine, and their claret ($26) is surely the most popular. The name used for centuries by Englishmen for the cabernet-based wines of Bordeaux, claret made at RoxyAnn is a blend of Bordelaise varieties, such as cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and malbec, which tastes of mulberries and does particularly well in the climate of the Rogue Valley. Parsons Family, owner; John Quinones, winemaker; Michael Donovan, manager.
If Argyle makes top-notch, reasonably priced sparkling wines, Soter makes the best. Their ‘Blanc de Blanc’ sparkler ($65) is made from 100 percent chardonnay and rests on its lees (dead yeast cells that fall to the bottom of the bottle during aging) for a decade or so before the wine is released. They also make excellent pinot noir, the best from the Mineral Springs Ranch vineyard (located on top of the hill next to the winery, which was converted from an old dairy barn and still looks like one), also called ‘MSR’ ($48). Tony Soter owner; Tony Soter and James Cahill, winemakers.
Making one of Oregon’s best cabernet sauvignons, labeled as Estate ($50), this wine has a richness and black-currant flavor found only in cabernet wines made from fruit produced by older vineyards. A slightly more rustic wine made from cabernet franc ($24) is also richly textured, with a mild scent similar to freshly mowed grass. Pat and Lorrie Spangler, owners; Pat Spangler, winemaker.
Also a source for some of the world’s best pinot noir, St. Innocent makes wines that are complex, multilayered, and long, with red fruit flavors. The White Rose vineyard pinot noir ($60) is St. Innocent’s best, with intense red berry flavors overlaid with the scent of carnations. Mark Vlossak, co-owner and winemaker.
Syncline wines are reminiscent of great Châteauneuf-du-Pape, made from a blend of grenache, syrah, mourvèdre, and cinsault. There is a rich texture to these wines, especially the Cuvée Elena ($30), which has a tarry, blackberry, cherry blend of flavors that reflect the blend of different warm-weather grapes used to make the wine, which is without question the best wine made in the Columbia Gorge in every vintage for the last five years. James and Poppie Mantone, owners; James Mantone, winemaker.
Named after an American Indian word for Mount Hood, the Wy’east vineyard is perfectly perched on an east-facing hillside south of the town of Hood River. They make the best pinot noir wines in the Columbia Gorge AVA, and their ‘Blue Chip’ ($24) bottling is an ethereal, delicate expression of the light red berry flavors that experienced pinot noir drinkers look for. Christie and Dick Reed, owners; Peter Rosback, offsite winemaker.