Monday, August 21, 2017

Forbidden Wine Tour 2017

We didn’t know what to expect.  We had no idea we were thought of in the same company as the fine folks from the Inn at Little Washington or the Commonwealth Club, just to name a couple.  Roanoke Valley Wine Company invited and we knew we’d be crazy not to accept.  Forbidden Wine Tour 2017 here we come!
Forbidden Wine Tour 2017 with MS Larry Stone of Lingua Franca Winery

Day 1-
It started on Sunday, August 13 at 4am.  We awoke in Charlottesville, VA, and headed for the airport to catch a plane to the Willamette Valley, Newberg, OR, to be exact.  First stop Schilling Cider House in Portland.  From there we met up with our travel companions for the next few days and had a liquid ice breaker of some really top-notch ciders.  The Schilling Cider House not only serves their own amazing ciders, but they are committed to supporting the craft of hard cider industry by pouring the nation's largest selection of craft hard ciders.  We were presented with a flight of ciders solely from Schilling’s line.  Their ciders are handcrafted in the PNW and only made from 100% fresh pressed apples, locally sourced using non-GMO ingredients.  Not only are they delicious, but they are Vegan, Gluten and GMO free, and free from artificial colors, flavors, and corn-syrup.  A cider we can feel good about drinking.

The Line-Up (click here for a link to their ciders and tasting notes):
1.      London Dry
2.      Grapefruit
3.      Mischief
4.      Lumberjack
5.      Ginger
6.      Chai

Blown away by these delicious ciders, we ordered the grapefruit and ginger on the spot and are excited to already feature them on our beverage menu at the Waterwheel.  We ordered the Grapefruit (John’s favorite) and Ginger (Kate’s favorite), and hope to see the Chai on the list this fall. 

“Okay, load up and let’s get going to wine country!!”  So, to the van we headed and Rob and Beth whisked us away to Newberg which they chose due to its central location to the wineries we had on our agenda for the week.  At the hotel we dropped our bags, freshened up, and then departed for the first winery on our tour…the amazing Ken Wright Cellars.

Our visit with Ken started in one of his vineyards.  Located in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, Ken grows grapes throughout that region with his vineyards scattered around the area so that his wines can reflect the different soil types found in that region.  Wow does it make a difference in the wines.  If we took one thing away from our trip it is most definitely that it’s all about the soil.  We traipsed up a gravel road and began our journey into Oregon wines smack dab in the middle of Ken’s vineyard.  Ken, who resembles a young Anthony Hopkins, is a rock star and a legend.  Since they say it best, here is a snippet from the KWC webpage:  "With his appreciation of sense of place, it was a given that Ken would contribute to the locations and industry near and dear to his heart. Instrumental in organizing the six new American Viticultural Areas (AVA’s) in the Northern Willamette Valley that define in detail the distinct growing areas within the region, he wrote the proposition for the Yamhill-Carlton AVA and served as the association’s first President."

Easel, check, flip chart, check, we are ready to learn from one of the greats!  Ken did a beautiful job explaining the Willamette, the soil types, the farming practices he, and most others, believe in.  Dry-farming, bio-dynamics, volcanic soil versus marine sediment, Oregon millions of years ago, the Columbia River basin, Burgundy, the 45th parallel, etc., all important factors when thinking about the wines and the grapes.  It was quite an education and a great foundation for our Oregon wine tour.  It really helped put things in perspective.  We went to the other wineries a head above the rest because of the knowledge Ken imparted.  But…we still needed to taste some wine, so we drove into the town of Carlton, and to Ken’s winery and tasting room.  An old train station that Ken purchased in downtown Carlton.  Not only did Ken stray from the list of wines we were expecting to taste, but he poured from his library collection.  What a special treat to taste 2008 vintages of his single vineyard wines from mag.  In addition to sharing such special wine, Ken and his wife Karen treated us to a delicious home-cooked dinner of prawns, steak, and fresh vegetables.  Little did we know that home-cooked meals of the finest and freshest Oregon ingredients would be the norm for the next few days.  To say we ate like kings and queens is an understatement.

Thank you Ken, Karen, and team for an incredible tasting and dinner.  The wines we purchased from the tasting room, with hand-written labels, courtesy of a good sharpie, made for delicious late night enjoying.  While you’ll probably never see them anywhere but his tasting room, if you can try a bottle of Ken’s Rose or Grenache (pet projects I assume) you’ll be wonderfully surprised.  Is there anything this man can’t do??

Day 1 complete, bellies full, jet lag starting to set in, we traveled back to the hotel with excitement for the days to come and what good wines loomed in our furture.  Good night from the Willamette.  Stay tuned for our other adventures in wine tasting.