A Reason to Reisling: Brooks Wine’s 2012 Yamhill Riesling

A fantastic wine with bold acidity and candied fruit flavors.

Brooks Wine 2012 Yamhill Reisling

On the first whiff, Brooks Wine’s 2012 Yamhill Riesling greets you like an expensive perfume with aromas of honeydew, tart peaches, and spring flowers. Then the boutique blossoms further with flavors of jolly rancher green apple and bright citrus. But what I loved most about this new-world wine was it vibrancy and ease to drink. I enjoyed the bottle (too good to share) over a camping weekend in Bend. Between summiting Broken Top, I sipped a glass or two at a picnic table in a high desert pine forest just off the Cascade Lakes Highway. It may have just been the setting that put me in a good mood – but more likely it was this surprisingly delicious wine.

Visit Brooks Wine in the Eola-Amity Hills just west of Salem in their new tasting room Tuesday through Sunday, 11am – 5pm. This isn’t the only amazing Riesling they craft (or Pinot Noir for that matter).

Wine Tasting on Your I-5 Drive

Traveling on I-5 through Oregon soon? Here are a few places that are easy to access from the Interstate. Pop in and visit one of these great wineries on your next trip.

North Willamette Valley
Sineann Winery
Located across from Champoeg State Park, this small, family-owned winery is a short six miles off I-5. You can sample small-lot, high quality Pinot Noir and other varietals from inside the wine production area. They are almost always available for visitors. Give them a buzz before you stop by.

Sineann Winery

Sineann Winery in St. Paul, OR | Photo credit: “Finally, Sineann” by eyeliam is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Central Willamette Valley
Willamette Valley Vineyards, Turner (Near Salem)

Sitting atop the hillside along the Interstate near Salem, you’ll find Willamette Valley Vineyards. It has great views, a nice selection of wines and even daily tours at 2 p.m. The tasting room is open daily from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Fridays until 8 p.m. Food pairings are available as well if you need a bite to eat before hitting the road.

Photo by: Travel Salem on Flickr

Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner, OR | Photo credit: “Willamette Valley Vineyards” by Travel Salem is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

South Willamette Valley
Saginaw Vineyard, Saginaw (Near Cottage Grove)

This rustic farm house built in 1905 is a cute, quaint retreat from the hustle of I-5. Get off the Interstate at exit 176 and unwind with complimentary tastings in the country. Open daily 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. and until 9 p.m. on Fridays.


Saginaw Vineyard in Saginaw, OR | Photo Credit: “110 year old barn now turned tasting room” by Saginaw Vineyard used with permission

Umpqua Valley
Spangler Vineyards, Roseburg

This stop off the Interstate would be great place to stretch your legs, take in a lovely view and enjoy a taste of big, bold reds. Take exit 119 and then the second left. Located only ½ mile off I-5. Open 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily.

Spangler Vineyard, Roseburg, OR

Spangler Vineyard, Roseburg, OR | Photo credit: “Lovely afternoon while pressing Sangiovese at the winery” by Spangler Vineyards is used with permission

Rogue Valley
Del Rio Vineyards, Gold Hill

Visit one of the largest vineyards in Southern Oregon housed in a historic hotel built in 1864. The winery has ample space for a family picnic, so pack some food and relax with a lovely view of the vineyard. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Del Rio Vineyard

Del Rio Vineyards in Gold Hill, OR | Photo credit: “Del Rio Vineyard, Gold Hill, Oregon” by Ken Lund is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Fox Farm Vineyards 2011 Pinot Noir

As a tour guide, I spend a lot of time on the road. Long days, active itineraries, and constant interaction quickly take a toll on my energy and nerves. But after two successful summers, I’ve learned to pack a bottle of wine along to relax with and enjoy in my hotel room in the evening before bed. On my most recent multi-day trip on the road, guiding from Portland to San Francisco, I tucked a bottle of Fox Farm Vineyards‘ 2011 Pinot Noir in my rainbow print suit case.

Fox Farm 2011 Pinot Noir

Featuring notes of black cherry, plum and touch of cocoa, the Pinot Noir sipped smoothly after having several years in the bottle to mature. The 2011 vintage for Oregon was a cold one, so these wines are just starting to come into their own now. Since I first sampled this wine last year, it has rounded out nicely and now finishes with classy earth and dust tones.

Sipping the last drops from the patio of my hotel in Sausalito overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, I savored this trip saver.


Phelps Creek Vineyards’ 2012 Cuvee Alexandrine Pinot Noir

As many of you know, I drink a lot of Pinot Noir – especially from the Willamette Valley. So when I was given this bottle of wine I didn’t think much of it, just another bottle of Pinot to open sometime. It sat in my wine frig for several months and even made it through an apartment move before I found it again.Phelps Creek Cuvee Pinot Noir

From first sip, I knew I had tasted something special. Refreshing different, this wine plays on the palate with balanced fruit and earth to the tune of a rich, not-to-be-forgotten Pinot Noir.

Phelps Creek Vineyards’ 2012 Cuvee Alexandrine Pinot Noir features an earthy aroma of sweet spices and root with a slight note of fig and blue fruit. The color is dark like black cherries while the mouth-feel stays light, smooth, lush. But truly, it’s all about the taste! Layers of earth, pitted-fruit, and dark concentrated fruit builds as the wine flows across your tongue. An even body and light to moderate acidity help to give the wine structure. These flavors give way and turn toward sweeter blue and black fruit as the finish lingers at the back of the palate. Sourced from the best barrels of Pinot Noir grown on Phelps Creek Estate Vineyard in the Columbia Gorge AVA, the wine is crafted using strict Burgundian techniques and spontaneous, native yeast fermentation.

Phelps Creek, located just south of Hood River, is a family-owned boutique winery. Producing just 5,000 cases every-year, they focus their energy on vineyard care and sustainable farming practices to harvest beautiful fruit that showcases the winery’s unique vineyard sites.

Visit Phelps Creek along the fruit loop this spring & summer at their tasting room, opening 12-5pm, daily on the Hood River Golf Course.

Best Pairing of the Summer: Mad Violets Riesling with Grilled Oysters

A bright and fruity Riesling with a pair-perfect attitude. 

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Sourced from the oldest Riesling vineyard in the Willamette Valley at Maresh Vineyard, Mad Violets Riesling develops with layers of flavors. Easing in with aromas of lemons and apricots, the wine flirts around as if its in a love triangle with sweet and tart. Vibrant on the mid-palate with minerality and stone fruit flavors and an acidity that starts your mouth salivating, the wine then lightens with notes of honey, honeysuckle, and flowers on the finish. Mad Violets crafts this Riesling in the the off-dry German Kabinett style.

I paired this delicious-on-its own-but-even-better-with-food wine with freshly grilled oysters straight out of the Puget Sound. Grilled on the back porch with a bath of butter, the hot steamers bubbled as the wine’s acidity cut through the fat and the sweet fruit notes complimented the sea salt garnish.

Grab a bottle of Mad Violets Riesling and enjoy it before summers over. I found this bottle at Fox Farm Vineyard’s tasting room in downtown Newberg.


3 Roses You’ll Want to Drink Right Now

Pink is quickly becoming my new favorite color. Blame it on the heat or my red-wine rich winter diet, but I’ve been on one hell of a Rose kick lately. But this wine gal is not complaining.

With so many delicious (and often bone-dry) Roses, it’s hard not to keep filling my glass with 5 ounces of this summer-loving wine. Here are three of my favorite Pinot Noir Roses so far this July:

North Valley 2013 Pinot Noir Rose


North Valley Rose

Even toned and delicious, North Valley’s Rose (produced by Sotor Vineyards) comes alive with its salmon-pink color and ripe, floral aromatics as soon as it hits your glass. With no residual sugar, this wine flourishes on the palate with notes of raspberries, strawberries, and a touch of carrot honey and concludes with a crisp, clean finish. Using both neutral oak and stainless steel for the fermentation, the light rose retains a delicateness yet with a richness that is often lost with roses.  Purchase for $24 in their tasting room or at local grocery and wine stores.

Lachini Vineyards’ 2013 Rose of Pinot Noir


Lachini Vineyards Rose

Finished by Lachini Vineyard’s new winemaker, this Rose of Pinot Noir features flavors of citrus, watermelon, and almost-ripe strawberries while the nose gives off more bright fruit. Another completely dry rose, Lachini’s also balances fruit, acids, and minerality in a flirty dance. Let this wine seduce you in the hot summer sun and envelop your taste buds until the bottle is empty.

Zum’s 2013 Pinot Noir Rose


Zum Rose

This slightly-sweet rose from Germany is, by far, one of my favorite budget-friendly bottles this summer. With notes of strawberry, bubblegum, and fresh-picked cherries, the uncomplicated wine balances out the residual sugar with above-average acidity. No fuss, just drink and enjoy this $10 bottle of wine any summer evening. Or pick up a bottle at Pix Patisserie in East Portland and pair it with a mix-berry creme tart from their delicious dessert case.


What is your favorite summer rose?


Stoller Family Estate’s Tempranillo Rose


 Light, refreshing and endlessly sippable.



Warm weather welcomes a blush to the cheeks and pink wine for the glass, so pour a rose and savor the start of summer. For my first glass of the season, I popped open this bottle from Stoller Family Estate, which I acquired at a wine club event last year.

Flirting with aromas of rose petals and strawberries, the salmon pink rose of Tempranillo was refreshing and cool like a cucumber. On the palate, it featured concentrated strawberry, simple cranberry, northwest cherry and a touch of citrus. Like Rose of Pinot Noir, which is becoming more and more prevalent around the Willamette Valley, this spring wine brought forth rounder notes and a lovely lingering mid-palate without being sweet or tart like many white summer wines.

Visit Stoller Family Estate to try their current summer releases at their Dundee Hills tasting room. Open 11am-5pm, daily.



Oregon Wine Day Trips Part 4: Southern Oregon

This is the fourth part of a five part series featuring day trip itineraries in Oregon’s wine country. Each itinerary features 4-5 wineries within driving distance of each other near a city or accommodations hub.

Bigger, bolder and a lot more barns. That’s what the Southern AVAs bring to the table in Oregon and for the best. Balencing out the Pinot-centeric north, the Applegate and Rogue valleys fill tasting flights with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and more. For this fantastic wine day-trip, stay in this hub: Jacksonville

Photo by KWTravellersStart the day at Cowhorn Wines with sips of their biodynamic Rhone-style wines. Using as little intervention as possible (in terms of manipulation, chemicals or additives), Cowhorn has racked in the accolades for their clean and alluring wines. Make sure to taste their Viognier!

Continue the afternoon of tasting at the small neighboring winery at Red Lily Vineyard. Focusing on a single varietal born from their love for Spanish wines, Red Lily produces exclusively Tempranillo. Savor this ruby red wine and learn about the intricacies of vintage with a vertical flight.

The big red, powerhouse of the Applegate Valley, Troon Vineyard will further entice your taste buds with their variety of wines. Producing small batch wines from primary estate grown fruit, sip through their flight of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat and Verminento among others.

Last but certainly not least finish the day back in Jacksonville at Quady North. Focusing on expressive Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Viognier, this tiny winery produces wines that will leave a big impact on your palate. Save some space in your case to bring a few of these wines home!

Follow the Applegate Wine Trail for this delicious tasting trip. Or check out my Google Map below! If you are having trouble viewing the map, click here to view it in Google.

2010 Hyland Estates’ Pinot Noir

Love at first sip.

Hyland Estates Pinot Noir

There was no mood lighting. No fancy bar with a white moose head or chandelier. No sexy bartender with deep green eyes to get lost in or vivacious vineyard views.

Just me, my teal travel mug, a bag of microwave popcorn and this wondrous wine, Hyland Estates’ 2010 Pinot Noir. And you know it must be a seductively good bottle if it can make you forget that you’re drinking alone in a run-down cowboy themed motel room in Burns, Oregon; but that’s another story.

With balanced acidity that bites at your lip, this Pinot Noir is full of flavor yet still delicate and light. Each sip fills that hallow spot with warmth. Notes of red berry and cherry offset the pH level and a lingering hint of leather and purple fruits add an unexpected roundness to the wine. The aroma’s soft and not hinting at the character to come.

Like the Solena Estate Pinot Gris I reviewed back in February, this wine was also crafted by Laurent Montalieu in Dundee, Oregon. After graduating from the Institute of Oenology in Bordeaux in 1987, Montalieu has worked for many successful wineries including Chateau La Tour Blanche near Sauternes, Domaine Mumm in the Napa Valley, Bridgeview Vineyards in southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley and Willakenzie Estate in the north Willamette Valley. Focusing now on his state-of-the-art custom wine-growing facility, Northwest Wine Company, Monalieu has come to craft wine that speaks both to the vineyard sites and his stand-along style. With ease and intrigue, each wine that I’ve sampled by this talented winemaker makes me fall in love with the drink again and again.

And I’m not the only one who has high praise for Hyland’s Pinot Noir. Wine Enthusiat awarded the 2010 Estate vintage 91 points and Wine Spectator, 90 points. But ultimately, it’s up to you! Let this wine woo-you at Hyland Estates‘ tasting room in Dundee, Oregon. Open daily from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm.

2011 Solena Estate Pinot Gris

Fresh like almost-ripe fruit, this Pinot Gris cuts through food with a clean and refreshing finish.

Solena Pinot GrisNotes of stone fruit, apple and citrus travel from the nose to the palate on Solena Estates’s 2011 Pinot Gris. Like the mist from a fresh squeezed lemon, the wine puckers with just a touch of tart acidity but reveals a nice balance with mineral notes.

Hand crafted by Laurent Montalieu, the winemaker and co-founder of Northwest Wine Company, this wine is one that you’ll want to keep coming back to time and time again. Just look out, sharing can be difficult.

This is just the first of six reviews featuring Laurent Montalieu’s wines. Look for more about the Northwest Wine Company and Solena Estate in the upcoming weeks!