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Can wine be better than the grapes?

There are two concepts that we try to impress on guests tasting our wines; that wine is an agricultural product and that you cannot make a higher quality wine than the quality of the fruit harvested.

In an interview with Betty and Tony Notto from Weekly Wine Show on Wednesday, December 20th, we discussed those two ideas in more depth. Click HERE to learn more about us and these concepts.   The full show can be heard at the bottom of the linked page.

 

 

 

Chardonnay in the Willamette Valley

Have you had Willamette Valley Chardonnay?  Yes, everyone knows Pinot Noir is No. 1 in the Willamette Valley, and it should be. Many might suggest it is Pinot Gris because it is the second largest varietal planted in the Willamette Valley and exceeded the acreage of Chardonnay a few years ago.

But let’s take a look at history. In the late 1800s and up until prohibition, Chardonnay was king of the hill. There was a thriving wine industry back then dominated by Chardonnay. After prohibition and the destruction of the wine industry, these vineyards stayed abandoned until the 1950s. While some vines remained, most were ripped out and/or replaced with Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc.

Then came 1965 when a couple of pioneers planted Pinot Noir in the valley and the rest is history, at least from a red grape viewpoint. On the white grape side, these pioneers resurrected some Chardonnay vines, but most were replanted to Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, or Pinot Blanc; with a few areas planted to Chardonnay vines brought up from California. As time passed, more acres continued to be planted to Pinot Gris until the total acreage surpassed Chardonnay (as there was not much expansion of Chardonnay planting).

Why? Most of the early plantings of Chardonnay were done with what were considered to be “warm weather clones” from California. This mattered because the cool weather in the Willamette Valley did not afford the heat needed to fully ripen these Chardonnay grapes. As a result, the Chardonnay wines produced in the Willamette Valley were not up to the quality that the growers wanted nor appealed to the market. So, growers continued to focus on growing more Pinot Noir.

What did not make sense to many of us was that Pinot Noir and Chardonnay go together like peanut butter and jelly. Just as Pinot Noir is king in Burgundy, Chardonnay is queen. Why not in the Willamette Valley? With better farming practices, warmer weather in recent years, and a shift to cooler weather clones; the valley has experienced a resurgence of Chardonnay. It has also helped that some California winemakers with great Chardonnay experience have come to the valley. As a result, wine growers in the Willamette Valley are producing some fabulous Chardonnays. That is reflected in the wines that are featured at the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration on February 24, 2018. We are so happy to be selected as a featured winery at this wonderful event.

I predict that 10-20 years from now, the wine world will acknowledge Willamette Valley Chardonnay as it does Pinot Noir today.  Come taste our wonderful Chardonnay soon!

Holiday Wine Pairings

Looking for a great idea for pairing wine for the holidays?  Try Michelle’s recipe that works perfectly with both our Holiday Wine Packages. This will be served along with other wonderful items every Saturday & Sunday in our tasting room for the month of November.

Sweet Potato & Ham Crostini
Prep Time: 10 min. Cook Time: 40 min. Total Time: 50 min.

  • 1 Large Sweet Potato
  • 3 tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp. Sea Salt
  • 5 oz. Goat Cheese
  • 3 tbsp. Youngberg Hill Organic Honey
  • 2 slices Honey Glazed Ham cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup Candied Walnut pieces
  • 3-4 Sprigs of Thyme

To Roast the Sweet Potato: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Wash sweet potato and dry with a towel. Slice sweet potato into 1/8 – 1/4 inch slices. Mix together Olive Oil and Sea Salt and lightly coat sweet potato slices. Place on baking tray making sure that they do not touch each other. Cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes.  Flip the slices, and cook for another 15-20 minutes until they are cooked through and crispy on edges.  Note: cooking time may vary based on size and thickness of slices. Let slices cool a bit before topping

Toppings:

  • Place a small dollop of Goat Cheese
  • Drizzle on Honey
  • Add pieces of Ham.  Note: You can add the ham cold, heated or fried.  My 1st choice is fried.
  • Top with Candied Walnut pieces and a sprinkle fresh Thyme leaves

Cork Versus Screw Cap

There continues to be a lot of discussion and varying opinions regarding wines bottled with cork closure versus screw cap. A recent survey suggested that the “perceived” quality of the wine was higher for a corked wine versus screw cap. The question is “Is this perception driven by actual results, historical information, technical data, or varietal/regional production?” My guess is that it is a combination of all coupled with the romanticism of the cork in what has historically been the classic wines of the world over the centuries.

As a winemaker, the most important thing for me is that my customers always have a great experience when opening up a bottle of Youngberg Hill, whether it be a current vintage or one that is 20 years old. Also as a wine maker, I am making wines that are meant to age well for a long time if stored well. That means it is important to have a closure that will consistently allow the wine to age in the bottle, as it is a living organism.

As an engineer, I look at the closure options in a factual and technical way rather than a romantic or perceived way. Back in 2009 when we converted everything over to screw cap, I spent many hours going over technical data, specifications, options, etc. to determine the best closure to achieve my two goals of never having a customer open up a bad bottle of Youngberg Hill and having great aging potential.

Let me add at this point that a closure will not make a wine better or improve its quality. The wine’s quality is determined in the vineyard and then in the winery to what goes into the bottle. The closure can cause or allow a wine to become less in quality, but not to improve.

So why did I choose screw cap? Again, first and foremost, I never want anyone to ever open a bottle of wine that has gone bad. With screw cap, that is assured. Second, I make our wines to be very age worthy, so I want to ensure that 20 years from now, every bottle will not only be great, but also the same. With screw caps, the technology has improved to the point that I can purchase a screw cap with a seal that will allow ½ gram of air to weep into a bottle each year. Not only will that amount be the same bottle to bottle (the tolerance on the screw cap seal is much closer than the variance in cork), but also year to year the seal will not degrade in a screw cap like a cork will do over time. Therefore, when you open a case of Youngberg Hill a year from now or 20 years from now, they will all be the same great wine to enjoy. How many times have you opened up a bottle of wine in a cork only to find that it has gone bad.

Third, we are conscious of our carbon foot print and while you can find statistics to prove either side, my most broad base research suggests that screw caps leave a smaller footprint.

I might also add that opposed to the perception that a screw cap bottling is a less expensive option and, therefore, why it is chosen, in fact, a screw cap bottle and closure are more expensive than a cork bottle and cork.

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