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10 Reasons Why the Willamette Valley Wine Industry is so Sustainable

PrintAs a Willamette Valley wine grape grower, we pride ourselves on being a very sustainable lot. Here are 10 reasons:

1. We are small family farms that we are protecting the land and vines for future generations.
2. Most of us are raising our children on and around the vineyards.
3. Many of us have been influenced by the sustainable farming practices in Burgundy.
4. We believe that sustainable farming practices make for a higher quality wine.
5. Many of us are organic farmers.
6. Some of us farm holistically (biodynamically).
7. Many of us dry farm (no irrigation).
8. Because we are small, we can manage the more challenging aspects of sustainable farming practices.
9. Healthy ground leads to healthy vines, which leads to healthy fruit that ultimately creates healthy wine.
10. The climate for the Willamette Valley is optimal for sustainable farming practices.

The Willamette Valley is blessed by great soils above 300 feet in elevation as a result of uplift from the ancient ocean floor. These hillside soils are perfect for growing wine grapes. In the Valley, we generally get about 40 inches of rain a year, mostly from November through May. During the growing season, we get little rain with a relative humidity around 30%. We also benefit greatly from our close proximity to the Pacific Ocean; providing air conditioning during the summer and warmth during the winter. These factors all combine to give us the conditions that enable us to be more sustainable.

Drink healthy, Drink Oregon wine!

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The History of Pinot Noir and Why it is THE Willamette Valley Grape

Pinot NoirPinot Noir is one of the earliest varieties of grape cultivated and used for making wine. Pinot has been grown in the “Slope of Gold” in Burgundy, France for many hundreds of years. There are many factors that make Burgundy an amazing place to grow Pinot Noir. These include:

  • Gentle sloping hills
  • Longer spring and fall seasons
  • Soil that drains well
  • Cooler temperatures

Fortunately, the Willamette Valley and Yamhill Valley have very similar growing conditions. We have the cooler temperatures, the longer spring and fall seasons and unique soil. The terroir here in the Willamette Valley imparts specific tastes to our Pinot Noir that makes it very uniquely our own.

One aspect of our land allows us to really bring out specific and unique tastes in our wine. That is: the soil. Each block here at Youngberg Hill has very specific soil types, and you can taste this in the wine itself.

For example, the Bailey block is composed primarily of volcanic rock and shale while the Natasha block features mainly marine sedimentary soil. When you taste Pinot Noir created from each of these distinct blocks in the same year, you can tell they are distinct.

To compare the different soils in another way: the 2012 Jordan Pinot Noir pairs well with red meat and game, while the 2012 Natasha Pinot Noir pairs with duck, salmon, and pork. Both are created from Pinot Noir grapes, but they have distinct flavors.

We are very lucky to have such a perfect climate for Pinot Noir here in the Willamette Valley. It’s much like living in a little slice of Burgundy, France.

Don’t believe us? Come visit and enjoy our lovely rolling hills, temperate climate, and fabulous wines for yourself!blog action photo tasting room sing

Can you Drink Wine with Breakfast?

 Drink Wine with BreakfastThe short answer to “Can you drink wine with breakfast” is “YES!” But we have a longer answer below.

Wine and beer have been breakfast, lunch, and dinner drinks for hundreds of years. There was a stigma against water when water purification was in its infancy and alcoholic beverages were considered safer. Because we have such ready access to clean water, juice, coffee, and tea, we rarely think about drinking anything alcoholic in the morning. When we do, it’s often a mixed drink like a mimosa or bloody Mary. However, wine at breakfast should be added to your “special occasion” repertoire. Here are five tips for making your special breakfast or brunch even better by adding a glass of wine:

#1. Go beyond bubbles. Champagne or brut at breakfast are, admittedly, delicious. Their acidity helps them pair well with foods like eggs and bacon. However, there are other wonderful, high-acid wines out there. For example, the Youngberg Hill 2013 Cuvee and our 2014 Aspen Pinot Gris have the right acidity to work with breakfast foods. Other wines that have higher acid levels can include Furmint and Chablis.

#2. Go all out. If you are going to have wine with breakfast, don’t just eat a muffin and call it done. Make breakfast an occasion to be remembered with all of your favorite foods. The guests at our inn are partial to our cornish baked eggs and honey baked bacon, salmon hash, or pancetta tarts. Be sure to make your breakfast an event!

#3. Be bold and try red. Red wine in the morning can give you nice kick, much like a bloody Mary. A pleasant Pinot Noir might be the perfect fit with a breakfast filled with salmon or pork.

#4. Think pink. A delicious Rosé may help you get your brunch started out right and can help clear the palette for what is to come.

#5. End with ice wine. This dessert wine may be just what everyone needs as they sit around the table, full of food and wine. It’s also great paired with a final, sugary treat like strudel.

Let us know if you have had wine at breakfast!

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Five Seasonal Foods Paired with Summery Wines

Summery WinesWith summertime in full swing, our mouths water as we think about pairing seasonal foods with a variety of summery wines. We know that most people think of beer when they consider barbecues or other summertime cookouts, but we argue that wine adds more depth and flavor to grilled foods. Here are some of our favorite food and wine pairings:

 

Food: Hamburgers, the American classic. Any grill master who is worth their title knows how to barbecue a great burger. Add a little cheddar cheese, some mayo, lettuce, tomato, and onion and you have an American classic.

Wine: You can actually pair both red and white with this American classic. On the white side, a buttery Chardonnay or bubbly Champagne may be the perfect pairing.  When it comes to red, we love a straightforward Cabernet Sauvignon, a peppery Zinfandel, or an earthy Pinot Noir like the Jordan.

 

Food: Grilled zucchini. We think fresh summer veggies brushed with olive oil and seasoned with a little bit of salt and pepper and then cooked directly on the grill taste amazing.

Wine: Lemon-bright wines like our Aspen Pinot Gris and 2014 Pinot Blanc bring out the smoky, grilled flavor. Smoky reds like Spanish Tempranillo will intensify your culinary experience. Other delicious options include Riesling and Chianti.Summery Wines

 

Food: Barbecue chicken or shrimp. When it comes to barbecue sauce, traditional “red with red meat, white with white meat” logic flies out the window. You need to pair your wine with the sauce. So, what do you love? Sweet, smoky, or spicy? That will be what determines your wine.

Wine: Let’s break down the wine pairings here:

Sweet: An excellent pairing would be a white or blush wine like white Zinfandel or Rosé

Smoky: Pairs well with a strong red like Malbec or Merlot. Another great option is the 2011 Natasha Pinot Noir.

Spicy: Sip on something citrus-forward like Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc.

 

Food: A big, juicy steak. If there’s one thing we love it’s a fantastic, local steak grilled up and served with new potatoes or some other delicious vegetable.

Wine: We all know that red wine pairs with red meat, but how do you determine the right red for the job? Here at Youngberg Hill, we have created full-bodied red wines that go perfectly with that fat steak you want to chow down on this weekend. For example, our 2011 and 2012 Jordan Pinot Noirs are a fantastic pairing with red meat. Other pairing options include a classic Bordeaux, Cabernet, or Merlot.

 

Food: Veggie burger. Sometimes you have to go vegan or vegetarian, but that doesn’t mean you don’t get to drink wine! Two of the best veggie burgers we have seen either have a strong mushroom element or quite a lot of quinoa, so those are the flavors for which we will recommend pairings.

Wine: Pinot Noir generally pairs excellently with mushroom flavors. This is because here in Oregon, we are known for both mushrooms and Pinot Noir, so the flavor profiles go hand in hand. Another great pairing for mushroom-forward veggie burgers is Mourvèdre.

Quinoa has a completely different taste and requires lighter white wines like Sauvignon blanc or Viognier.

 

We would love to hear what your favorite summer food and wine combination is! Share it with us in the comments below.

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A Great Big THANK YOU from Youngberg Hill

Youngberg HillYou may wonder why we wanted to take a moment this month to give all of our friends, visitors, guests, and fellow wine enthusiasts a warm thank you. We have a number of reasons to thank you all this year. We want to thank you for trying our wines. We want to thank you for joining our winemaker dinners. We want to thank you for challenging us to do better and to grow as a winery and an inn.

Recently, we won the Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor. Because this is such a customer-driven award, we were blown away by all of the fantastic reviews we received. It’s not always easy for individuals to take the time to stop and write a review about a location they have stayed at or just visited, but many of you took the time. That action is more important than you may think – and here is why:

We read every review written about us that is on the internet. That is a pretty tough task, but we do it. This is not just because we like to pat ourselves on the back. We read these reviews because we want to challenge ourselves to do better.

Not only do we work hard to take time out and listen to our customers on the internet, we take the time to talk to visitors and guests while they are here. Our goal is to make your experience at our inn, vineyard, and winery the best experience possible.

People come to Youngberg Hill for many reasons. Some of our guests are bursting with joy on their wedding day. Others are looking for a good glass of wine, while still others are simply here to put their feet up and relax for a few days. Our goal is to meet the needs of every one of our guests.

Now, here are just a few of the many fantastic reviews for which we are so grateful. Again, thank you to the reviewers!!

Perfect Getaway

“Great hospitality and some of the best views in the area. Stayed here for 2 nights and it was the perfect spot to explore the wine region. The Inn manager was awesome, and the owners were on site to talk about the vineyard, which was nice. Very unpretentious, helpful hosts. We had a lovely time.” – TripAdvisor Member May 24, 2015

Awesome

“This is our 4th visit to Youngberg Hill Inn over the past 15 years. We were very happy with our stay. You cannot beat the views, hospitality, or food. The wine tasting is also great. We were fortunate to stay in the beautiful Jura suite. The pictures on the internet are great, but even better in person. All rooms are nice. Mariafeld would be a close second choice of room, but all rooms are beautiful.” – Margaret F. May 12, 2015

Bed and Breakfast Gem in McMinnville

“We have stayed in several bed and breakfasts in the Oregon wine country and this one is top on our list. Our room had a fireplace, but we didn’t use it as the weather was fantastic. We had a balcony to an incredible view. There was a complimentary wine tasting each evening and the breakfasts were great. Nathan was the chef and he was super helpful.” – Elaine B. March 22, 2015

Loved our tasting

“We stopped here one afternoon for a tasting. Becky, the friendly host, took a lot of time with us and we loved the gorgeous outdoor setting and views. Just beautiful. It made us wish we had booked a room here, too!” – TripAdvisor Member September 4, 2014

These are just a few of the 299 reviews written about Youngberg Hill Vineyard and Inn on TripAdvisor! So, thank you again for taking time out to tell us about your stay with us. Thank you for coming to visit us. We cannot wait to see each and every one of you again soon!

Why Choose Sustainable Food and Wine?

Sustainable wineWhen we consider sustainability, we usually think about sustainable food farming practices or sustainable materials – but we don’t often think about sustainable wine.

Sustainability means many things to many people. However, in agriculture, sustainability means: an integrated system of plant and animal production practices. The long term goals include enhanced environmental quality, integrated natural biological cycles, and enhanced quality of life for farmers and the society as a whole.

When a farm works to become sustainable, it has often gone beyond organic to a point where the farm labors to grow useful products in a way that benefits the land and surrounding environment. In doing this, the farmers are not only creating a better environment, they are also adding vibrancy and flavor to their food.

Nothing expresses the flavor a sustainable farmland imparts more than wine. In wine, one tastes the terroir directly. The land expresses itself through the texture, body, and flavor of your wine. Our Willamette valley winery strives to accomplish this with every bottle of wine.

However, sustainable wine is not the only way to support environmentally responsible farming. It’s important to turn your attention to sustainable food as well. There are local Willamette and Yamhill valley farms which use sustainable practices as they produce vegetables, fruit, meat, and dairy.

Foods created in a sustainable environment are uniquely delicious. When you pair these with local, sustainably produced wines, you experience true culinary delight.

If you’d like to experience sustainable wine for yourself, come visit us for a tasting or one of our many events here at Youngberg Hill. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Greet Summer with Willamette Valley Farm to Table

Willamette Valley Farm to TableIt’s almost summer!  Farmer’s Market is back up here in the Willamette Valley.  Local fruit, meats, and vegetables are available all around Oregon Wine Country and we are excited!  In celebration of this farm to table extravaganza, we wanted to give you some pairing ideas with local foods that are in-season so that you can make the most of your meals.

Southern-style collard greens: Who doesn’t love a combination of bacon or ham hocks and collard greens? This delicious side pairs well with an earthy wine like Pinot Noir or Beaujolais.

Morel mushrooms with anything: Morels can be eaten with just about anything. They are delicious with chicken, pasta, in a wine sauce, or deep fried. Pinot Noir is the classic pairing with mushrooms, so we recommend a 2011 Jordan Pinot Noir pairing with morels.

Fava bean salad: We love a fresh bean salad with champagne vinaigrette. We recommend a bright, fruity white wine pairing with this salad. Try a Prié blanc or Pinot Blanc with this summery salad.

Baked asparagus: We are so happy that asparagus season has struck again! Simple asparagus baked in olive oil and lightly salted is a delicious snack or side. This treat needs a bright white wine like Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Verdicchio, or a light, dry rosé .

Brioche and goat cheese: What is better than warm, fresh-baked bread and a spreading of goat cheese? The classic pairing with this cheese is a high acid and fruity Sauvignon Blanc. Other nice pairings include Sancerre, Riesling, and Pinot Gris.

These are just a few of the delicious pairings available with local food here in the Willamette Valley.  What’s on your table this week?

What Wine Terms Really Mean

Willamette Valley Wine TermsWinemaking is a highly specialized field. Because of this, there are a number of wine terms which can get pretty confusing because they often have both specialized meanings as well as non-specialized definitions. Many of these wine terms have roots in other languages, which can make them seem more confusing.

We want to help you articulate and understand what it is about wine that makes it something you love. We’ve created a list of terms that many people find confusing. Knowing these terms will help you discover even more wine that you love.

Acid: This chemical is produced during the fermentation process. Grapes from cooler regions or chilly seasons have higher acidity levels while grapes from warmer climates have lower acidity. In white wine, acidity can taste like lemon or lime juice. Acid adds tartness and zest to wine.

Body: This is a very commonly used term when one is trying to identify a type of wine. The term “body” is used to describe the weight or feel of the wine in your mouth. Often what determines body is the amount of alcohol in the wine. The higher the alcohol, the more body the wine has.

Earthy: When we say something is “earthy,” we often mean that it is evocative of the pleasant smell of rich, fresh, clean soil. It can also indicate that the wine has woody or truffle scents. In French, this term is called goût de terroir.

Finish: The term “finish” is used to describe the quality of a wine. Finish indicates the taste the wine leaves in one’s mouth after drinking. When it has a long, rich taste that lingers after your wine has been swallowed, it is said to have a “long finish.”Willamette Valley Wine Term

Mineral, Minerality: This is a wine tasting term that indicates the smell of wet stones or crushed rocks. It can also mean that a wine has a taste indicative of the land in which the grapes were grown. This means it can have different tastes – anything from chalk to slate. Often wines with minerality are complex and nuanced.

Oaky: We use oak barrels to age our wine. The type of oak barrel and the length of time the wine resides in the barrel affect the taste. Usually oak adds flavors of butter, vanilla or coconut to white wines. In red wine it often adds the taste of baking spices, toasty vanilla or sometimes dill. A wine can become overly oaked and the taste can overwhelm the wine making it taste charred or burnt, or like lumber or plywood.

Residual Sugar: This is the sugar that remains in the wine after fermentation. This may or may not be done on purpose. Sugar can be left in to help change the taste of your wine, making it less astringent or creating a sweeter wine. However, sometimes residual sugar can cause a less than pleasant taste, making a wine too sweet.

Tannin: The mouth-puckering substance that comes from grape skins, seeds, stems, or even oak barrels. Tannins help your wine age and develop. Younger wines have a stronger taste of tannin than wines that have been aged. This is often solved by decanting a bottle or aerating.

Terroir: A French term that indicates the entire physical and environmental characteristics of a particular vineyard. These characteristics influence the grapes and the wine that is made from them. We respect our terroir here at Youngberg Hill.

There are an enormous amount of terms associated with winemaking and wine tasting. These are just a few of them. You can always come to our Willamette Valley winery and ask us what we mean when we describe our wines. Associating specialized words with an actual taste will help you deepen your knowledge of wine and help you find even more wines that you love.

Cheers!

The Perfect Wine for Cinco De Mayo

The Perfect Wine for Cinco De MayoCinco De Mayo is right around the corner!  What better way to celebrate this day of delicious food than with the perfect wine? Here are suggested pairings for five of our favorite Mexican meals.

Tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole – This is a classic starter at any Mexican table. The spice of the salsa paired with creamy guac and salty chips make this a perfect pairing for Pinot Gris, Riesling, or Sauvignon Blanc. Pinot Gris works the best if the salsa is a chunky Pico de Gallo.

Beef barbacoa tacos with lime and cilantro – Barbacoa spiced beef tacos have a very strong flavor all on its own. This pairs well with full-bodied reds like Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon,  and Tempranillo.

Enchilada suizas – This cheesy, rich Mexican dish used to be incredibly popular, but is hard to find on menus these days. There is a lot of red sauce, heavy cream, and cheese involved in this dish, so it can be a little tricky to pair wine with it. The best wines for this dish are fruit-forward whites like Pinot Gris, unoaked Chardonnay, or Riesling. If you don’t want to drink white, you can also try a young Beaujolais with this dish.

Cheesy nachos with black beans and salsa – You don’t need creativity to make cheesy and delicious nachos and cheese into a meal. This can be a tough one to pair wine with though because of the spice of the salsa, starch of the beans, creaminess of cheese, and – let’s face it – greasiness of the deep-fried chips. We love sparkling wine for this scrumptious Mexican meal. Other options are Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Barbera, or Zinfandel.

Steak fajitas – Who doesn’t love fajitas? There are so many flavors to enjoy, from the zing of lemon and lime to the spice of onions and peppers to the creaminess of sour cream. This flavor-forward Tex-Mex favorite requires a juicy, high-alcohol wine like Primitivo.

Some Additional Cinco De Mayo Pairing Advice

Mexican food varies greatly when it comes to spice. If you are more likely to eat milder foods, the go-to wines for most Mexican food are Pinot Noir or Zinfandel. If you want to kick the spice up a notch, try a sweet wine like Riesling or Rosé.

No matter what wine you drink or food you enjoy on May 5th, we hope you have a happy Cinco De Mayo!

Celebrating Earth Day with Sustainable Wine

Sustainable Wine Practices for Earth DayWe take Earth Day seriously here at our sustainable Willamette Valley vineyard and winery. In fact, we celebrate Earth Day each and every day. Our goal at Youngberg Hill is not just to produce fine, delicious wine. We work hard to improve the health of our farm, including the soil, local plant life, insect life, and animal life.

After eleven years of organic farming, we can confidently say that our grapes are a true reflection of the the land. Additionally, we have practiced biodynamic farming since 2011, which means we work with nature to water and fertilize our crops.

Our current farming practices include planting beneficial cover crops which helps reduce the soil erosion that so often plagues farmland. These crops also allow nature to do quite a bit of work for us. Additional plants lower the acreage of bare soil, so fewer weeds can grow. Some plants also help keep the soil fertilized and attract beneficial insects like bees while discouraging destructive pests.

Pesticides are a huge problem in traditional farming, killing off destructive and beneficial insects alike. To end this problem, we utilize controlled spraying of soft pesticides like biodegradable oils,Biodynamic Farming soaps, and plant extracts. Additionally, we are participating in research that works to improve our methods so they are even more safe and environmentally friendly.

In the end, we want to become 100% biodynamic in our vineyard. In 2005, we earned sustainable certification for LIVE and Salmon Safe. In 2010 we were certified as “Sustainable” by the Oregon Wine Board. In the near future, we hope to improve the world around us and become certified as “Biodynamic”.

Sustainable farming practices are a big step toward making the earth a better, more beautiful place. So, this Earth Day, look into the practices of your favorite manufacturers. Are they sustainable, organic or biodynamic? What are they doing to help the environment recover from the pollutants humans have spilled into it over the years? Raise a glass to those who have responsible practices and write to any who aren’t. Who knows, you may just change the face of the earth.

Cheers and Happy Earth Day!

Earth Day

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