Wen Does PinotLand A tale of a Big Red Wine Drinker and her Experience in Pinot Country!
What happens when you take a Cabernet, Syrah, and Tempranillo wine lover and have her drink in Oregon Wine Country (a.k.a Pinotland)? She finds out a few things: 1. Just because she isn’t a fan of Pinot Noir doesn’t mean she cannot find a few she likes; 2. When wineries find out that she prefers a darker, heavier wine, they nerd out with her on wine, and some even pull out special project wines that aren’t Pinot; 3. She finds awesome places to eat and stay.
A few of the wineries that I really enjoyed were all about the Pinot Noir but that didn’t mean I didn’t have a great time. Between the beautiful locations, tasting rooms, art, winemakers, and the 777 clone of Pinot Noir (which creates a bigger, bolder wine), I managed to find several wineries that I enjoyed that only had Pinot Noir in their lineup. If you meet a Pinot Noir maker that has a bottle of the 777 clone, always ask if they are tasting it; you won’t regret it.
Amber comments: For those of you who don’t know what a wine clone is – In viticulture, a “Clone” refers to a vine variety that is selected for specific qualities, which result from natural mutations. Cuttings are made from an original “mother vine” that exhibits key characteristics, such as resistance to certain diseases or desired cluster size, taste, smell, etc.
- Alloro Vineyard – Tuscan villa style winery in the middle of Oregon. From the moment you walk in you feel like you are amongst family. They have an assortment of white wines and Pinot Noirs along with a delicious dessert wine.
- Lenne Estate – This is all Pinot all day long… if you love Pinot this is your place. Located on top of a hill that looks out on the valley, the views are stunning. Need something bolder? Ask if they are pouring the 777 Pinot it’s one of my favorites and I don’t usually say that about Pinot. 777 has never done me wrong.
- Saffron Fields Vineyard – Where art and wine elevate your tasting experience. From the moment you drive up, your breath is taken away by the views, the wines, and the art. I want a party at this place.
- Willakenzie Estate – I believe wine goes best with food and so does Willakenzie; you can get a cheese board while you try their delicious line up of Pinot with a serene, picturesque backdrop. This winery stood out to me for the great vibe and the 777 Pinot they do.
Here are a few standouts from this great region that are not just about the Pinot. These wineries have a little something for everyone. This is where I would take your group of mixed wine drinkers so that everyone can find something they like and maybe something new.
- K&M Wines – One of the first wineries I fell in love with in Oregon, they have a great Cab Franc and Syrah. Their tasting room has a great vibe and is in the heart of Carlton. They also make a variety of other wines and if you hit their tasting room while they have live music you can sit and enjoy the day away.
- Ken Wright Cellars– Located in Downtown Carlton, this winery is a landmark in the AVA. Their tasting room is fun and has a great outdoor area to chill and enjoy your tasting. This winery has something for everyone – White, Pinot Noir, and Syrah.
- Owen Rowe – located in downtown Newberg this Oregon/Washington winery has a varied line up and a great tasting room. Off the beaten path a little way from the other wineries, pop in for a break from the fields and enjoy a nice tasting. They have it all – Oregon Pinot, a variety of white and Washington Wines.
- Stoller Family Estate– Que Syrah – while they are known for award-winning Pinot they have a great Syrah that makes me happy. Pair this with the views from their property and some light bites and you have the setting for a great tasting.
- Vidon Vineyard – This is not just a Pinot lover’s winery, they also have Syrah and a kick-ass Tempranillo. A retired NASA scientist brings farming, winemaking, and science to each bottle they produce. From the moment I got my glass and sat in the Adirondack chair, I was transported back to my grandparents’ farm. The Explorer Tempranillo left me wishing I had taken more bottles away with me.
- Youngberg Hill – Breakfast, inn, and wine oh my! This place has it all. You can stay in the bed & breakfast style inn and start your day off with breakfast and a cup of coffee before you get your wine on. The wine blocks are named after Wayne’s daughters: Aspen, Natasha, and Jordan. You breathe in the love and care of these grapes when you drink the wine. They also have a fantastic Syrah, so if white wine or Pinot isn’t your thing ask if they are pouring the Syrah and you won’t be sorry.
- Zerba Cellars– This winery has three locations: one in Woodinville WA and two in Oregon – located in Dundee and Milton-Freewater. They have an assortment of whites along with a wide variety of reds to choose from. I loved this place for the big bold reds they do and, as a matter of fact, they don’t do a Pinot. The Nebbiolo is one of their best wines and I really enjoyed the Cabernet Franc.
Most of these wineries were founded by and/or have winemakers that are farmers at heart. You can tell from the first sip that the grapes run the show and these winemakers let them. If you get a chance to talk to any of these winemakers, ask them about the vineyards and the grapes. The passion they have for the land and the grapes it produces really makes these wines shine.
Wine country visits are fun because you can try some great local eats. Oregon wine country is not only known for a great place to grow grapes, but they are also home to the hazelnut. In the summer, it is hard to find me eating a dish when I go to Oregon that doesn’t have hazelnuts in it.
- Nick’s Italian Café – In McMinnville is a wonderful little Italian joint that has great homemade pizzas, pasta, and a wine list that is sure to please anyone you are dining with. I do recommend reservations as this place is small but mighty and always busy.
- Block House Café – In Dayton is an old church converted into a café. I love a place that has mugs by the door for bottomless coffee. Their eggs benedict and pancakes are out of this world.
- Dundee Bistro – In Dundee is a local favorite. This spot has outdoor and indoor seating as well as a small bar area. The food is bright, colorful, and delicious. I love their fresh house bread with the burrata cheese. Pasta or pizza is a must but I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the chicken dish they have. It tastes like my grandma made it and is the ultimate comfort food.
- Red Hills Market – In Dundee, this market has cheese, wine, knick-knacks, and the best pizza. It is very casual – you can get the pizza for takeout or dine in and this is on my must not miss list.
- Ruddick/Wood – In downtown Newberg, this restaurant has a great line up of local farm to table eats. Its quirky interior and awesome cocktails and wine list are a great compliment to the delicious dishes they put out. I recommend sitting at the chef’s table and watch all that goes into each dish they put out.
- Subterra Restaurant – in Newberg, this hole in the wall – seriously it’s an old cellar – is a scratch kitchen. It has one of the best fish dishes I have eaten and I have been told their short ribs are amazing too. They run out, so get a reservation and let them know you plan on ordering the potato crusted fish they have on the menu. You won’t regret it.
Now, where to stay – you can be as close to wine country as you want with a variety of bed and breakfast locations spread throughout the area depending on where you want to play. The Allison Inn and Spa in Newberg is decadent and heavenly. Their spa is amazing and you will be pampered from the moment you walk in until you leave. The Atticus Hotel in McMinnville is new and has a very luxurious yet trendy feel to it. You feel like a VIP from check in to check out as you are greeted with a glass of bubbles at the door. In your room is a French press for tea or coffee. I have also stayed in downtown Portland which gives you a thirty-minute drive to wine country but several more options for lodging.
No matter what you do in wine country there is something for everyone. I even had a friend tell me they had a blast with all the aviation museums that are down there. So, it doesn’t always have to be about food and wine, although with me it usually is.