Oregon Wine Tasting

It’s true. I’m a very lucky gal.

Immediately after my glorious girlfriends’ trip to Montana, Peter and I headed to the Willamette Valley for an anniversary weekend of Oregon wine tasting.

(By the way, I learned that the correct way to pronounce Willamette is “wi-LAM-it, rhymes with dammit.  You’re welcome.)

You know the old saying, “The one thing better than owning a boat is having a friend that owns a boat.”?  Turns out, the same thing is true for wineries! Peter used to work with a couple who, after years of study, savings and detailed planning took an early retirement to start their second careers as makers of kick-ass wine in Oregon.  Donna and Bill own Winderlea where they make truly outstanding Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  More on that later.

This is the kind of trip I love. We told Donna and Bill that we were coming and they sent us a list of where we should stay, where we should dine and which wineries we should visit. I made a couple of phone calls, a couple of online reservations and – VOILA! – done!

We stayed at The Black Walnut Inn. I have not yet been to Tuscany, but the look and feel of this inn is what I imagine Tuscany to feel like.

Plus, we could see Mt. Hood from our window.

After a delicious, “farm to table” breakfast at The Black Walnut, we headed out for our first day of tasting.

Our first stop was Archery Summit where we took a little tour and tasted a variety of Pinot Noirs. The setting was lovely – a great way to start our day.

Next we headed to Domaine Drouhin. The Drouhin family has been making wine in France for years. It turns out that the Willamette Valley of Oregon is the exact same latitude as Burgandy, has a very similar climate and therefore was the perfect place for the Drouhin family to build a U.S. winery and vineyard.  We joined a fun family of 7 (mom, dad, two daughters, one son, and two sons-in-law) for a tasting that included the opportunity to compare the Domaine Drouhin wines from Burgandy to those from Oregon.  Peter LOVED that!

At that point we figured we should take a break, hydrate and grab a quick bite to eat.  We headed to The Red Hills Market.  This is Dundee’s equivalent to the fabulous Oakville Grocer in Napa. It was the perfect place to grab a quick gourmet sandwich without taking too much time away from the real purpose of our day – wine tasting.  Plus, they have a gift shop and you know how I feel about those!

Next we headed over to Winderlea. The tasting room is a stunning structure, built into the slope to give the best views of the vineyard and beyond. Its design is clean, simple and gorgeously functional.  There are windows everywhere and huge, windowed garage doors offer the opportunity to provide a wide opening to the terrace.  It is not a huge space but so well designed that it feels open and spacious. Plus, the wines as previously mentioned are KICK-ASS!

Winderlea makes an estate Chardonnay which I love.  I’m not a big fan of California Chardonnay but the Winderlea Chardonnay…yes!!  They also make a variety of single-vineyard Pinot Noir wines.  It was a blast to taste a wine and then be able to see the exact block of vines it came from.  Winderlea donates all tasting room fees to Salud which provides health care to seasonal vineyard workers. A very cool thing to do.

After Winderlea, we screeched up the road to Alexana Winery. Alexana is owned by a Houston cardiologist who also owns Revana Winery in Napa.  The guy knows how to make wine!  We arrived at 4:40, just before closing at 5:00.  One great thing about tasting at the end of the day is that often the winery staff will share some special wines, ones that perhaps were opened for a fancy-pants tasting event earlier in the day.  No need to waste the wine! Let’s finish it up! Of course we are always mindful to not overstay our welcome, understanding that, as much as the winery staff may love their job, it’s still a job and at the end of the day they want to go home.

We had dinner at Donna and Bill’s house.  The food was delicious and it was super, super cool to have each course paired with one of the wines that they had created from the vine to the bottle. Their stories about the business side of the winery business were fascinating. It made me think of people who have a dream of retiring to open a bed and breakfast.  The reality of the amount of work required is WAY different than that romanticized view.  Donna and Bill knew this about owning a winery, went in with their eyes wine open and are working very hard in their labor of love.

Day two started out in the kitchen of Mo Ayoub (of course I loved him instantly!).  The Ayoub Winery offers tastings of their high scoring array of wines by appointment in the kitchen of Mo’s house.  Talk about cozy! And Mo was a warm and engaging host.

At this point we were joined by my Nephew who lives outside of Portland and is studying vineyard management and winemaking in college. (Peter is extremely jealous.)  At Brickhouse Vineyards, our sweet host took us out to the vineyards and let us tromp through the rows.  Oh, and the wines were delicious!

In the afternoon we did a seated tasting at Soter Vineyards where the star of the show was a sparkling rosé.  We were lucky enough to get to taste this gem because a couple, two lovely gals celebrating their first wedding anniversary, loves this particular offering from Soter and asked if any bottles were still available for purchase.  Score! We were the last group of the day and – POP! – a bottle was opened!

Our final stop was Penner Ash Wine Cellars.  Peter knows a lot about wine but is always anxious to lear more. He asks smart, interesting questions and the winery staff always loves him.  Because of this, because he is informed, interested and not even a little obnoxious, we often find ourselves being rewarded with special tastes. It’s pretty awesome.

That night we dined at The Painted Lady to celebrate our anniversary. When we sat down, who should be sitting at the next table but the couple we met at the Soter tasting who were also celebrating their anniversary!  We toasted each other and all enjoyed a memorable meal.

Yesterday, some of the wine we collected from the trip arrived.  Looks like we need to get drinking.  It’s a dirty job, but I’m up to the challenge.

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Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Oooooh! I want to have a friend who owns a winery!! What a fun weekend!! It does look like you guys have your work cut out for you with your purchases!! That’s the kind of work I could really dig into! 😀 –Lisa

  2. Vineyard management? Now there’s one career I haven’t tried – and probably the one I’d be the best at. And I’ve been wanting to check out Oregon for years!

  3. This sounds like a dream to me! I have always wanted to go to a vineyard- hopefully will soon!

  4. What a fabulous trip, Mo! I wish I had a friend with a winery…I love reading about your wine tasting adventures!
    And, thanks SO much for linking this up to my link party today!!


  1. […] chose an Oregon Riesling (because it was what we had on hand from our great trip to the Willamette Valley) to enjoy with his fabulous dinner […]

  2. […] Dame with our college posse. Peter brought a couple of bottles of wine he had picked up on our trip to Oregon in June specifically to share with this group.  The wines were from Brick House […]

  3. […] Wandering for Sandy’s “No Passport Required” link party. My contribution is a post about our trip to Oregon for wine […]

  4. […] Wandering for Sandy’s “No Passport Required” link party. My contribution is a post about our trip to Oregon for wine […]

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