Oregon Pinot Harvest Tour | 2012


TRIP DATES:
September 16-18, 2012
September 23-25, 2012
September 30-October 2, 2012
October 7-9, 2012

COST:
$725 per person based on double occupancy.  $130 single occupancy upcharge.

DETAILS:
After several “research” trips we are happy to report that we’ve put together a fantastic harvest tour with insider visits to some great wineries and vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.  While it’s impossible to pinpoint with 100% accuracy, harvest should just be getting underway by mid September and usually goes three to four weeks depending upon the varietal, the weather and a host of other conditions.  So, in addition to historically good weather in the mid September to early October time slots, chances are real good that we’ll also be able to experience harvest in full swing.  I can already smell the intoxicating aroma of fermenting grapes!

Anyway, we’ll meet at the Portland Airport Radisson Hotel Sunday morning where our bus driver will be waiting for us in a luxury motor coach.  (You’ll have to fly up sometime the day before to get there on time please see the complete itinerary below for details.)  We’ll spend the next three days driving from one end of the valley to the other before our driver drops us off again in Portland for the flight back to San Diego Tuesday evening.  It’ll be a jam packed yet relaxing trip that will include lunches and dinners in the vineyards and wineries, vineyard treks, a French Burgundy vs. Oregon Pinot showdown and lots of other cool stuff.  By the end of the trip we’ll have covered almost the entire valley and visited wineries in four different AVA’s (Chehalem Mountains, Yamhill-Carlton, Dundee Hills and Eola-Amity Hills) plus two in towns points south (Monroe and Eugene).  Each trip will be strictly limited to a maximum of 52 people.

SATURDAY (THE DAY BEFORE THE TOUR STARTS)
Fly to Portland on the Saturday before your trip at your leisure on any flight you want.  Lodging is not included Saturday night but we’ve made arrangements with the Portland Airport Radisson Hotel for super discounted $42.50 rates per person (based on double occupancy) that include a free shuttle from the airport and a free hot breakfast Sunday morning.  If you want to spend the night elsewhere, just make sure you’re in the Radisson parking lot Sunday morning at 9:30 when the bus arrives.

SUNDAY
The bus will pick us up Sunday morning in the Radisson parking lot.  We’ll immediately head about two hours south just past Corvallis to the town of Monroe.

First stop will be at Benton-Lane Winery in Monroe where owner Steve Girard will host us for a casual outdoor lunch of artisan pizzas from their wood-fired pizza oven along with plenty of wine.  After lunch we’ll have a winery and vineyard tour.

Then we’ll continue heading south for an hour just past Eugene to King Estate.  At over 1,000 acres, King Estate is one of the largest and also most beautiful wineries in the Willamette.  In addition to grapes, they also grow their own vegetables and have their own bakery and charcuterie on site.  We’ll start with a special tasting of their NxNW (North by Northwest) wines followed by a quick winery tour.  Then we’ll settle down for dinner in our own private fireplace dining room in their scenic hilltop restaurant to enjoy a 3-course feast of BBQ’d babybacks from their charcuterie.  Each couple will get individual half-bottles of wines with each course so if you don’t finish them you can take them back to the hotel to enjoy later that evening.

After dinner we’ll head about twenty minutes north to Eugene where we’ll spend the night right on the Willamette River at the Valley River Inn.  We booked 100% of their river view rooms so everyone will have either a patio or a balcony overlooking the river which is literally fifteen feet away.  For those of you who want to unwind with a nightcap with your new friends, the hotel also has a great terraced bar that also overlooks the river.  That’s where you’ll find me!

MONDAY
You’re on your own for breakfast this morning.  There’s a great restaurant with a diverse breakfast menu in the hotel that shares the same space as the bar overlooking the river.

After breakfast we’ll check out of the hotel and head about two hours north to the Dundee Hills AVA to Domaine Drouhin for an amazing French Burgundy vs. Oregon Pinot showdown.  Domaine Drouhin’s original winery is in Burgundy and they’ve put together a fascinating contrasting tasting for us.  Basically we’re going to be tasting the same varietal (Pinot Noir) made by the same winemaker (Véronique Drouhin-Boss) grown at the same latitude (45th parallel) … only on opposite sides of the world.  It promises to be an amazing study in terroir and should give everyone a new appreciation for the difference dirt makes.

After that we’ll head slightly west to WillaKenzie Estate.  Located in the scenic hills of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, WillaKenzie Estate is a drop-dead gorgeous facility with spectacular decks cantilevered off the hillside overlooking the vineyards far below.  We’ll start with a casual vineyard worker’s lunch with their staff and other temporary harvest workers interning from literally all over the world.  After lunch we’ll tour the facility, have a premium tasting and visit their sensory garden where you’ll be able to experience the various aroma and flavor components in Pinot Noir.

Next we’ll head slightly east to the Chehalem Mountains AVA to Adelsheim Vineyards, one of the oldest wineries in the valley.  There we’ll have a special tasting and meet David Adelsheim, one of the true pioneers of the Willamette Valley, who will give a firsthand talk on the history of the valley.

After that we’ll head south again to Salem where we’ll check into the Grand Hotel.  You’ll have about an hour or so to freshen up and relax before dinner.

Dinner will be a short two block walk from the hotel at La Capitale, our favorite restaurant in Salem (and home of the best flaming Spanish Coffees in the world!)  Those of you who want a pre-dinner libation can meet there at 7:00 for an optional winemaker reception and cocktails, and then dinner will start at 7:30.  Because Pinot and mushrooms share such a special affinity, chef/owner David is preparing an amazing five-course “fungus” menu featuring wild Oregon mushrooms and truffles in starring roles in each course.  Rodolphe from Archery Summit Winery will be there to pair each course with one of their high end Pinots.  Should be some good eatin’ ‘n’ drinkin’!  After dinner those who wish to retire early can walk back to the hotel while those who want to prolong the evening can hang out at the bar.  (I’ll be the one in shorts and flip-flops drinking a Spanish Coffee.)

TUESDAY
Breakfast is included the next morning at the hotel … and you’ll want to eat a hearty one as we have an extensive vineyard trek scheduled first thing.

After checking out of the hotel we’ll head about fifteen minutes north to the Amity-Eola Hills AVA where first stop will be Witness Tree Vineyards.  That will be the starting point for a three winery (Witness Tree, Bethel Heights and Bryn Mawr) vineyard trek to the top of the hill and back down the other side.  On the way up owner/winemaker Steven from Witness Tree will narrate the trek.  We’ll stop at two of his vineyard blocks, Hanson and Benchmark, where we’ll taste the actual vineyard designate Pinots made from those specific blocks.  (And yes, we will stop under the historic Witness Tree for a photo opp!)  From there we’ll hike to the top of the hill and pass through Temperance Hill Vineyard, one of the most famous vineyards in the Willamette.  Here owner Pat from Bethel Heights will take over the narration and take us through two of her vineyard blocks, Flat and Southeast, where we’ll again taste the actual vineyard designate Pinots made from those specific blocks.  (The bus will deadhead from Witness Tree to Bethel Heights to pick everyone up on the other side of the hill.  Anyone not physically up for the trek can stay on the bus and hook up on the other side and, yes, we will save some wine for you!)  The bus will then pick everyone up and then almost immediately drop everyone off again a mere three minutes up the road at Bryn Mawr Winery.  There owner Jon and winemaker Rachel will take over the narration and take us through two of their vineyard blocks, Jeffrey and Krista, where (you guessed it) we’ll again taste the actual vineyard designate Pinots made from those specific blocks.

After a rough morning of hard drinking and hiking everyone will be ready for a big lunch which we’ll have on Bryn Mawr’s spectacular deck overlooking the Willamette Valley.  All three of the wineries will join us for a leisurely picnic lunch to mingle and pour some of their other wines.  Lunch will be a whole roast suckling pig with all the accompaniments … pig and Pinot … does it get any better?!

After our long, relaxed lunch we’ll head north to our final stop at Ponzi Winery.  Another one of the original pioneers of the Willamette Valley, Ponzi just built a brand new, state-of-the-art, gravity-flow winery in the Chehalem Mountains.  We’ll tour that facility with Maria Ponzi and then have a reserve tasting while enjoying the jaw-dropping views from the mountain top.  Should be a pretty cool way to end the trip.

After Ponzi we’ll head back to Portland for the flight back to San Diego.