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Travel journal: Willamette Valley winery & vineyard tour

Posted by | July 23, 2015

IMG_5932Since 2009, the Washington State University Viticulture and Enology Program has been touring Washington’s American Viticulture Areas to introduce our graduates to the unique characteristics, growers and winemakers of these areas. In May, the tour series jumped the state line for the second time, taking participants to Oregon’s Willamette Valley, through a backdrop of lush green fields and clear blue skies to visit with winemakers and taste some of the best Pinot Noir that Oregon has to offer.

With Portland as a base, our group of 25 WSU alumni and other wine lovers spent three very full days visiting a wide array of wineries, from the legendary Adelsheim Vineyard, to the newest on the block, Bells Up Winery (Dave Specter, Enology Certificate ’12, is the winemaker). Wherever we went, we were always greeted with warm welcomes and in-depth tours with winemakers and vineyard managers who willingly shared technical information and industry experiences.

“I have lived here for almost 40 years and been a winemaker for almost 15 of those,” noted attendee Paul Kaplan, winemaker at Camp Creek Cellars in Eugene, Oregon, “but I have never had the access that [WSU] arranged with some of our best Oregon producers.”IMG_5960

We covered 12 wineries in two and a half days, each offering its own unique setting and generous hospitality. The winemakers freely discussed their techniques, philosophies, equipment choices and more.

David Adelsheim, owner, shared stories and experiences that carried him through his many years of success at Adelsheim Vineyard. Rollin Soles, winemaker and owner of ROCO Winery, related history about the early days of the Oregon wine industry. And Patty of Patricia Green Cellars talked about her experience as one of the first women winemakers in Oregon. At Archery Summit, we enjoyed another warm welcome, wonderful wine and strolling through their cool barrel caves.

Each of the winemakers we visited exuded passion for making wine, and many of the tastes they poured for us showed it. In addition to the Pinot Noir that Oregon is so well known for, we also tasted Chardonnay, Riesling, Viognier, Syrah, Merlot, Pinot Gris and Rosé.

The pure joy of winemaking could not have been made more evident than in the leaping enthusiasm exhibited by Athena Pappas, co-owner of Boedecker Cellars, an urban winery in downtown Portland. While downtown, we also visited Kate Monroe at the Southeast Wine Collective. Located off Division Street, it had the cozy feel of a neighborhood gathering place.IMG_5931

Our group was also impressed and delighted by the delicious food provided by our various hosts. Bill and Donna Sweat at Winderlea Vineyard and Winery and Dave and Sara Specter at Bells Up Winery converted their tasting rooms into elegant lunch settings that provided spectacular views and gourmet meals paired with incredible wines.

All in all, our Willamette Valley tour proved to be another great experience for participants. (See reviews below). Not only pairing fun with new friendships and great wine with food, WSU’s vineyard and winery tours provide valuable, direct education by combining learning with unforgettable personal connections.

– Theresa Beaver, certificate program coordinator

>>Learn more about WSU winery & vineyard tours and sign up for email notifications about future trips.

>>View the Willamette Valley tour photo album on Facebook.

Participant reviews

“My husband and I travel to wine-producing regions to visit wineries frequently, and the level and detail of information that we received during this trip was so far above what is typically discussed during winery visits. As a winemaking/viticulture student hoping to start a winery someday, this was an invaluable experience!”

“The mix of smaller and larger wineries gave insight into making a product either consistent for consumers or reflecting terroir and embracing variables. The vineyard tour at Beaux Frere was especially enlightening.”

“These tours are a great supplement to the V&E program. [It is] very inspiring to see the different scales of economies in various wineries.”

“I learned an incredible amount in just three days – from differences in the soil types and corresponding viticultural practices found in Oregon, to details regarding the use of biodynamic farming practices, to the pros/cons of ‘organic’ and ‘biodynamic’ certification in the context of the wine industry, to common pruning and spraying techniques, and so much more. Plus the personal connections made with people in the industry were incredible. This was an extremely valuable learning experience for me – I really look forward to taking another WSU trip.”