Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Oregon on The Quick

One of the most daunting tasks Boo and I faced on this road trip was going to be how to figure out which wineries to visit.  An afternoon in this valley or a day in that region didn't exactly afford us a leisurely visit to multiple wineries - particularly when I didn't really have a good grounding in any of the areas we'd be passing through.

We were going to have to wing it for a lot of this trip and draw on our "inner Blanche" to rely on the kindness of strangers to map out this little "streetcar" of a tour for us. I simply started asking wine folks we encountered "Where would you send your out-of-town friends if they only had time for one or two wineries?" and "Are they any wineries that shouldn't be missed?"

Certain names tend be repeated if you ask those questions enough and I figure they're likely going to be the best starting points. Bergström Wines was one of those names. I don't recall having ever run across them before but it seems that all the big names in the wine world definitely have: Robinson, Parker, Tanzer, Burghound, Wine Spectator and Wine & Spirits have all sung the praises of the family owned, boutique operation that only produces around 10,000 cases (depending on vintage variation) of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Our's was simply a drop in tasting. Had we known about Bergström beforehand - and had more time - I might have tried to set up a more comprehensive tour. That's not to say that we didn't have a thorough tasting though - four Pinots, a Chard and their just-released Pinot Rosé. An added treat was that we lucked into a chance to chat briefly over a glass of that Rosé with owner, John Bergström, who had just returned from out of town and had wandered by to try the Rosé for the first time himself.

Such a pleasure. Bergström will definitely be included the next time we manage to make it down Oregon way.

Considering how the morning had pretty much flown by, we figured we only had time for one more Willamette winery before we headed off to hit the coast and another name that had come up a couple of times was White Rose. Due to vineyard work and minimal signage, we didn't recognize White Rose's tasting room and we drove right by it - a couple of times - thinking it was just someone's home. We'd pretty much given up and decided that we might as well take our chances with another winery that we'd driven past during our hunt. Turned out that Domaine Serene, the neighbouring winery we happened upon, was no slouch either.

It's not hard to understand how "Serene" plays a role in the winery's name. Gorgeous lands. Beautiful facility. Sitting back and enjoying a picnic and a bottle of wine here would definitely result in some serenity - although I'm not sure how serene a morning after might be should anyone try and make their way through the whopper of a bottle they had on display. This one wasn't even full and lifting it was a good workout.

We mentioned our difficulty in finding White Rose and our host at Domaine Serene confirmed that the house we'd driven by was, indeed, the winery tasting room. Apparently, we weren't the first folks that had raised the issue. Although we were running behind, we hit White Rose's dirt road for the fourth time and finally managed to find the front door. I got the feeling that an extended visit and tasting here would be a very interesting time. From the site's history of producing quality fruit (before White Rose set up shop) and the rather unique take (to me at least) of their vine trellising, there was plenty of interesting information and sipping that had to be left for another time.

Besides, we had a coast to catch and the day wasn't getting any longer.

Our hope had been to leisurely cruise the ocean highway and fit in a couple of stops along the way but we also wanted to finish off the better part of the Oregon Coast before evening kicked in. After our hesitation to leave the Willamette wines behind us and our late start, our highway drive wasn't quite as languid or relaxed as it might have been. We drove the whole afternoon and decided to call Coos Bay and the Mill Bay Casino our home for the evening. While the casino accommodation itself was fine (if a tad pricey), we certainly didn't get any chance to find out if Coos Bay had anything to offer tourists. What little we saw would suggest the answer is no.

1298.  2011 Duck Pond Pinot Gris (Willamette Valley - Oregon)

The casino restaurant had a limited wine list and we wanted to stay local; so we chose a Willamette Pinot Gris thinking it would match nicely with our largely seafood-based dinner choices. This Duck Pond Pinot Gris apparently had the pedigree as it had won Double gold at the 2012 Wine Press Northwest Platinum Judging Competition - one of a handful of competitions that I actually take some stock in. Sorry, but for me, the wine came across more as a commercial, bulk wine than it did a double gold winner. Perhaps it was the fact that we weren't overly impressed with our meals (except for the oysters) and, as a result, the wine itself suffered.

At least we finished the bottle - which is more than I can say about the bottle of bubbly plonk that greeted us in our room. It's not often that we open a bottle and we don't drink enough that it makes it to The List. We took one sip of our gift and promptly put aside our glasses, deciding to make a martini with the duty free vodka we'd picked up at the border instead.

I suppose there are some benefits to freewheeling a vacation and having the ability to play it by ear and set your agenda as the days progress. That's not usually me though. As a rule, I tend to have vacations - and particularly accommodation - mapped out long before we hit the road. This time, however, we decided to leave some gaps in the trip for flexibility and this was the first of those gaps. I think next time, I might need to do a little more planning when it comes to taking in the Oregon Coast  though. Winging it didn't seem to work so well for us this time.

Ah well. One evening and one dinner do not a vacation make. After all, we'd picked up some lovely wines in the morning and we've still got plenty of miles ahead of us - and lots more wine that will agree with us. Of that, I'm sure.

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