Willamette Valley – Memorial Day 2014 – Day 1

Our epic weekend tastings started by heading south from Portland with a plan to take in some wineries along the way in Dundee and south of McMinnville, which would put us close to our stay at Youngberg Hill B&B late in the afternoon. It doesn’t take long to get from Portland to Dundee so we were there shortly after places start to open at 11.

As preface to these notes, there weren’t any wines we tasted that we thought were bad. On the contrary, everywhere we went, the quality was excellent. No doubt, a lot of the reason for that was because everywhere we went was either a return visit for me or had been recommended in advance by someone. In fact, I got so many recommendations in advance there was no way to take them all in. I guess that means I’ll just have to return another time.


1st up along our route was Argyle. It’s right off the highway leading through Dundee. While good, I think our impression of the Pinots was they all seemed pretty lean and very light bodied. We tried the 2012 Reserve Pinot, the 2011 and 2012 Nuthouse Pinots and the 2011 Clubhouse Pinot. The latter I liked better than the former ones. Without a doubt though, our favorite wine by a landslide at Argyle was the 2010 Brut Rosé. My notes gave it which for me means I loved it and I’d buy it again and again. Winery tasting notes can be found here.


I’ve been to Lange on previous visits but I always find good Pinot Noir there and this visit was no exception. And aside from the wines, Lange has a great view and there’s always something beautiful in bloom.

My favorite of the ones we tasted at Lange was the 2012 Magma Opus Pinot noir. Of all the tastings we did, this was one of only two wines I ended up bringing back home with me.

On Friday and at that hour, we were the only people doing a tasting. Maybe it’s typical or maybe it was because we the only ones there but a couple of the tastings were done – like this ‘Soil Series’ set – side by side. I always like that approach because it’s much easier to compare one to the others several times.


Stoller is another winery I’ve been to before. I enjoyed the wines and the grounds around the winery are beautiful. There’s a great view from inside the tasting room. I included a photo below.

Stoller included a couple of Chardonnays. The 2013 Dundee Hills Chard was stainless steel fermented and it suited my taste better.

The standout wine for me though at Stoller was the 2013 Pinot Noir Rosé. You can see a photo above. Denise bought two of them.

I guess we looked like we were enjoying things (and Denise was having a great conversation with the woman helping us) so she let us try a couple additional wines. One was a 2008 Pinot Noir. I did not catch any other info about it, but it was fantastic. The other wine we tried was a 2011 Syrah from their Single Acre series.


As we wound our way to our our stay for the duration, the rest of the afternoon was spent south of McMinnville. Perhaps no surprise, Brooks is another winery I’ve been to before. But Brooks does several Rieslings so I knew it would offer something different. From my notes, I enjoyed the 2010 Willamette Valley Riesling but I really, really enjoyed the 2010 Temperence Hill Pinot Noir.

One of the things I like about Brooks is that it is a very small place. Often what comes with being small – and certainly no exception here – is they spend a lot of time with you and the attention and service you get is outstanding. The people behind the counter at Brooks have been exceptionally knowledgable and friendly and somehow they always find just one more interesting wine you weren’t expecting before you leave. (We also learned that Lumpy’s is the place the wine folks go when they just want a beer.) Sadly we didn’t find time to pull into Lumpy’s when we drove by the next day. 😉

Bethel Heights

Bethel Heights was new for me and a nice find. It had been recommended before the visit by a friend of Denise’s and by one of the folks at one of the wineries above. Given it was Memorial Day weekend we were again surprised to find so few people in the tasting room. I think we may have been the only people in there when we stopped by. The standout fav by far in my opinion based on my notes was the 2013 Pinot Blanc. Loved it. Others I really enjoyed: The 2012 Estate Chardonnay, the 2013 Pinot Gris and the 2012 Riesling. Of the Pinot Noirs, I particularly liked the 2012 Aeolian.

One additional thing that Bethel Heights was doing, I think, because it was Memorial Day weekend was having 3 local cheeses available to try with the wines. I wish I could remember exactly what they were but I didn’t jot that down or take a picture. One though was definitely an aged Gouda. Anyway, it was a nice addition.

Bryn Mawr

Bryn Mawr had also been recommended earlier in the day and was literally a stone’s throw from Bethel Heights. Bryn Mawr is also a very small winery. If my notes are right, their 2014 vintage expectation was somewhere in the 2K to 3K case range.

We were spoiled here by being the only people in the tasting room late in the day and perhaps because of that and because it’s a very small place, the wine maker Rachel Rose personally gave us our tasting. You can see her in the photo below.

Like Bethel Heights, they had a nice local cheese plate out. But in this case, I’ve got some notes. It included Blueberry Havarti and some smoked Fontina along with some Marcona almonds. The cheese was from Willamette Valley Cheese Company.

Standouts for me at Bryn Mawr were the 2013 David’s Cuvee Pinot Blanc, The 2013 Rosé of Pinot Noir and the 2009 Reserve Pinot Noir.

Youngberg Hill

The finally stop of the day was both winery and B&B. We arrived after their normal tasting hours but they greated us with a nice glass of Youngberg Hill Pinot Blanc. And excellent way to finish the afternoon. As you can see by the photo, we enjoyed it from the deck overlooking the valley.

One final note regarding dinner. That night we were off to a fantastic little place in McMinnville called Thistle. If you make the trip to McMinnville, definitely check this place out. I had the rabbit and it was fantastic. Unless you’re looking for it, the sign to the place is not obvious so keep an eye peeled. It’s a small place made up of 3 rooms. At one end, the kitchen is visible and everyone looked busy. At the other end, there’s the small bar. In between, a few tables in what looks to be the main dining area. We were lucky enough to have reservations and scored a nice table.

2 thoughts on “Willamette Valley – Memorial Day 2014 – Day 1

  1. Pingback: 3 Days In the Oregon Wine Country | Rambling Roads

  2. Pingback: Willamette Valley – Memorial Day 2014 – Day 2 | Rambling Roads

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