When you think of wine regions, one of the first to pop in your head is likely Napa Valley in California. But, there are lots of other wine regions around the country that you should check out. On the west coast, the wine regions in Oregon and Washington may not be as famous as California, but their wines are just as good.
During my visit to the Pacific Northwest this past August, I had the chance to visit several wineries in Oregon and Washington. If you are planning a trip, be sure to check these out.
If you’d like more information on visiting the area in general, be sure to check out my post. It will give you lots of great tips to help you plan your trip:
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Stottle Winery’s tasting room is located in Lacey, WA, just north of Olympia. The tasting room is located in a business park, so while it doesn’t give you the same atmosphere you get when you visit a tasting room at a vineyard, the wines are good and the person who gave us our tasting was very knowledgeable.
The winery was founded by Amy and Josh Stottlemyer. Josh is also the winemaker. Stottle does not have its own vineyards, but sources their grapes from several different vineyards. Three of those vineyards are located in the Yakima Valley and one is in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA, which is in the Columbia River Gorge area.
You can find out more about the winery at http://www.stottlewinery.com/.
For $9, we were able to taste 5 wines. If you purchase at least one bottle, they will credit the tasting fee towards your purchase. Here is a little bit about the wines I tasted.
2017 Rosé of Sangiovese: This wine was aged in stainless. While the wine was quite acidic, it had a very pronounced strawberry taste.
2014 Hombre: The Hombre was my favorite of the tasting. It’s a red blend made of 66% Tempranillo, 33% Malbec and 1% Mourvedre. I tasted a lot of vanilla on the wine.
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon: This wine is made from grapes that come from one of the vineyards in the Yakima Valley. This is a very nice Cabernet Sauvignon, with a nice amount of oak on it.
2014 Syrah: The Syrah has a lot of spice on it, which is what you should typically taste on a good Syrah. This particular wine also had a lot of berry notes, which gave the wine a nice balance.
2014 Big Eddie: This is their biggest and boldest red. Made in a Bordeaux blend style, the wine is made up of 55% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Malbec. This one definitely needs a big steak to go with it!
The rest of our winery visits occurred in Oregon. Home to the Willamette Valley, which is a short drive from Portland, the region specializes in reds – particularly Pinot Noir.
Apollini Vineyards was the first stop we made in Oregon. Owner Alfredo grew up in Italy and learned about vineyards and the winemaking process there. In 1999, Alfredo and his wife purchased the vineyard in the Northern Willamette Valley and began making wine. The vineyard follows the guidelines of the Oregon LIVE sustainable viticulture program and Salmon Safe programs. The vineyard is not organic, but they use organic materials whenever possible.
For more information about Apolloni Vineyards, visit www.apolloni.com.
Tastings at Apolloni Vineyards are $10 for a standard tasting. Tasting Room Lead Michael Spencer gave us our tasting. Not only was he knowledgeable about the wines, he was also very knowledgeable about music, which led to some great conversation during our visit.
2016 Pinot Grigio: I always find Pinot Grigio to be a good choice if you are looking for a light and crisp white wine, and this one is no exception. I also got some melon notes on the wine.
215 Fete Blanc (L Series): This wine is a white blend consisting of Muscat, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanc and Viognier grapes. Very nice served chilled.
2017 Rosé of Pinot Noir: If you like Rosé wine that is on the dryer side, this one is for you. It also has a lot of strawberry notes.
2015 Estate Pinot Noir: Pinot Noir is one of my favorite varietals, and this is a good one. The wine is blended from 4 or 5 different barrels to come up with the perfect combination. Lots of cherry notes on this wine for me.
2013 Pinot Noir Flaminia Vineyard: This Pinot Noir proves how much of a wine’s taste comes from the terroir (basically the soil of the vineyard). Totally different than the Estate Pinot Noir I tasted, this wine has a lot of spice on it. Very similar to what I would expect from a Syrah.
2014 Dolce Vino: This is a Viognier done in an ice wine style. While it’s not possible to do a true ice wine in this region because it doesn’t get cold enough, the winemaker can process the wine so that it gets similar characteristics. Ice wines are typically on the sweeter side due to the higher sugar level, and this one is no exception. The wine has notes of caramel, apricot and peaches.
OAK KNOLL WINERY
Oak Knoll Winery is located in Hillsboro, Oregon. Founded by Ronald and Marjorie Vuylsteke in 1970, it’s the oldest winery in Washington County. Today, the winery continues to be run by the family, including winemaking duties.
The winery’s first success was its Pinot Noir, and they’ve continued to focus on that varietal. However, they’ve also expanded into other reds, as well as a few whites.
You can find out more about the winery and visiting them at www.oakknollwinery.com.
After pulling up to the tasting room, we realized that we had visited them on a previous trip. They have a lot of varietals of wine, so you really need to focus in on a certain type when you do your tasting. Here’s what I tasted during our recent visit.
2016 Sauvignon Blanc: The grapes for this wine come from the Columbia Valley. The wine is very light and crisp. This is one of my favorite white varietals, and I enjoyed this one.
2016 Pinot Gris: This is also very light and dry; however, it had an odd nose for me which hindered my ability to enjoy the wine. If you visit the tasting room, be sure to check out the label of this wine. Local art students designed the label as part of the area’s Rose Festival.
2016 Pinot Noir: This wine is an award winner. It’s very young and tends to be spicy and dry.
2015 Tempranillo: This wine is aged in French oak for 18 months. It’s very dry, which makes me feel like I need to pair it with something, rather than drinking it on its own.
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon: For a Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine is very smooth. I actually prefer a bit more “bite” to a Cabernet, but for someone that likes a Cab with not as many tannins, this would be a good option.
2009 Syrah: The Oak Knoll Syrah has a lot of berry. Not quite as spicy as I like my Syrah’s.
COOPER MOUNTAIN VINEYARDS
Cooper Mountain Vineyards ended up being my favorite winery of our trip. While the tasting room doesn’t look like much from the outside, the quality of the wines is top notch.
In 1978, Robert and Corrine Gross planted the first vines on the property. They started producing wine on their own label in 1987. Cooper Mountain was also one of the area’s earliest adaptors of organic and biodynamic farming. 100% of their wines are organically grown.
During our visit, I decided to just focus on the Pinot Noir. While the wine was a bit more expensive than I typically like to spend, I ended up buying a few bottles because it was so good. By tasting only the Pinot Noirs, it again shows that the taste of a wine is more about the vines and the terroir, and not the style of the winemaker.
2014 Pinot Noir “Old Vines”: The grapes used for this wine were from the first vines planted on the property in 1978. This wine was very dry, with lots of berry notes on it. Definitely my favorite of the wines I tasted.
2014 Pinot Noir “Meadowlark”: The vines where these grapes came from were planted in 1982 and on a different plot of land. Same vintage, but totally different taste to the wine. This wine still had a lot of berry on it but was not as dry.
2016 Pinot Noir “Johnson School”: This wine is a new release. The wine has a lot of tannins and would be great paired with a good steak.
2017 Pinot Noir “Life”: In addition to being organic, this wine is sulfite free. There are many people that are bothered by the sulfites in wine, so this is a great option. The wine is quite young, so I think it needs more time in the bottle before it’s ready to drink. However, you can definitely taste a lot of promise in this wine. I would buy it and store it for a couple of years before drinking it.
That’s a quick tour of the wineries we visited in Washington and Oregon. During this particular trip, we only had a couple of days available for wine tasting during our visit. However, there are enough wineries in the area that you could easily spend a week (or more) visiting the tasting room. I’m already thinking about when I can manage my next trip to the area!
Have questions about wine tasting in Oregon and Washington? Do you have a favorite winery or wine in the area? Comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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