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Wine pairing

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

Plan Ahead – Coming to Oregon Wine Country in the “Off-Season”

Oregon Wine CountryHere in Oregon wine country, we tend to feel as if there is no real “off-season.” We are busy all year round, so we don’t have the same schedule as many of our guests. If you are thinking about visiting the WIllamette Valley, but you can’t come during the summer – don’t worry! Our wonderful valley is a great option to get you through that long haul during fall and winter when things get gray and you need a vacation more than ever.

So, to combat winter fatigue, we thought we would provide some ideas for planning your “off-season” vacation now. This way you can get a jump on things and have a lovely winter here in wine country.Oregon Wine Country

  • First things first, get your stay scheduled in advance. Because Oregon wine country is so gorgeous (and often temperate) all year round, we get booked up in the wintertime. Be sure to reserve your favorite room for your vacation.
  • Map out your trip. There is so much to see here in the Yamhill and Willamette Valleys. In our area alone we have over 150 wineries and tasting rooms that you can sample. Make a list of the wineries you’d like to visit most and map your route there.
  • Make sure to visit other area attractions. We are dedicated foodies here in Oregon and we are proud to be surrounded by amazing restaurants like the Joel Palmer House, Thistle, and Bistro Maison. There are also local artists, delicious handmade chocolates, and gorgeous views all throughout our valley.
  • Use us as your home base. You may want a day on the coast or to pop up to Portland for several hours. We are your perfect, quiet, and cozy base for day trips!
  • Ask us questions! What is the focus of your trip? Do you want to see the sites, enjoy unique wines, or just relax for a few days? Let us know and we will work to help you make your dreams a reality!

Winter, spring, summer, and fall in the Willamette valley are incredibly beautiful and unique. We hope to make your trip perfect, no matter what the date or time of year

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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Five Fun Things to Do at a Winery

WineryHeading out to a winery for a visit is always a great time. There are wines to taste, questions to ask, and sights to see. However, there is more to do at a winery then simply go wine tasting. Here are five activities that you should plan to do when you visit an Oregon winery:

#1. Stay. Many wineries, Youngberg Hill included, have an inn or bed and breakfast attached to the vineyard. These are gorgeous places to stay – and they are often right in the middle of wine country. In our case, we are surrounded by over 150 wineries and tasting rooms.

#2. Take a driving tour. Wine country is absolutely beautiful. Don’t miss a minute of it searching for street signs or worrying about where you should go next. Instead, schedule a driving tour and let someone else take you through wine country.

#3. Schedule a tour of the vineyard and/or barrel room. Many wineries will offer a tour of the vineyard or barrel room if you schedule one ahead of time. Call them up and ask if it is possible to get one. You will have the opportunity to see how the grapes are grown, the winemaking process, and possibly have a chance to taste some wine right out of the barrel.

Winery Tour#4. Pack a picnic. Many wineries and tasting rooms don’t offer food, but will allow you to eat on their porch and enjoy the scenery. Pack a picnic, buy a bottle, sit on the deck and soak in the beauty of the surrounding countryside. You won’t be disappointed.

#5. Attend a winemaker dinner. Winemaker dinners are a fantastic opportunity to sip great wine, eat perfectly paired food, and pick the brain of the people who put their heart and soul into creating the wine. Not only does this give you a chance to understand what you are drinking in an in-depth way, you will have interesting conversations and you may even make a friend or five.

Visiting a winery is not just about the tasting – although that is always delightful. You have an opportunity to get an in-depth look at the wine, those who created it, and the vineyard in which it was grown.

We would love to hear your favorite part of a winery visit. Let us know!

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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!

Wine Tasting Do’s and Don’ts

Wine TastingWe all know how to drink wine at home or in a restaurant. But things can get a little awkward when you visit a winery to taste their wine. You may be meeting the very person who poured his or her heart and soul into that wine. How should you act around this person? What if you don’t know much about wine? We’re here to help with some tips on the etiquette of wine tasting at a winery.

DO be considerate to those around you.

When preparing for a tasting, think about those who will be around you. This may mean using less perfume, or aftershave – or using nothing at all so that you and they can enjoy the bouquet of the wine. Additionally, you may want to eat a good meal before heading to the winery so that you can keep a clear head throughout your experience.

DON’T expect a meal.

Many wineries lay out crackers to help you clear your palette between tastings. However, small boutique wineries rarely have a restaurant or additional food available. One fun idea is to bring your own picnic lunch with you. Many wineries (including our Willamette Valley winery) have outdoor spaces where you can relax, eat, and enjoy the breathtaking views.

DO head to the winery earlier in the day or during weekdays.

If you want to make sure you have plenty of one-on-one time at the wine tasting, try arriving on days or hours that are likely to be less busy. Many wine tastings happen on the weekend or after lunch. However, most tasting rooms are open throughout the week and have longer tasting hours. For example, our tasting room is open 7 days a week from 10AM-4PM. So, pack a picnic and head out after breakfast to enjoy a leisurely tasting.

DON’T expect to taste every wine available on a winery’s website.

Wineries often keep specific wines available for tasting. The wines available for tasting depend upon many factors, including inventory, how much stock is promised to their wine club members, and which wines they feel best represent the winery. The wines available for tasting are often pre-determined. However, you can always ask if a particular vintage is available for tasting.

DO ask questions.

It is absolutely expected that you will ask questions and discuss the wine at a wine tasting. The person hosting your wine tasting has likely heard every question under the sun, so don’t be shy about asking him or her something you may think is silly. No matter how much or how little education you may have in the area of wine, there is always something to be learned.

DON’T try to pour your own wine during the tasting.

The tasting room attendant is there to pour your wine and discuss it with you. Be sure to allow them to do their job and serve you.

DO use the dump bucket as needed.

A wine tasting can help you discover wine that you love, without having to drink an entire bottle. However, there may be a wine that has characteristics which you do not enjoy served along with the other wines. Or perhaps you are planning on going to multiple tastings and you want to keep your palette and head clear throughout your experience. Either way, it is perfectly okay to use the dump bucket. That’s what it is there for!

DON’T head out into the vineyard alone.

Many boutique wineries have vineyards attached to the property. These are gorgeous spaces, but they are also active farms. If you’d like a tour of the vineyard along with your tasting, call ahead and see if the winery offers such tours.Enjoying Willamette Valley Wine Tasting

DO take time to enjoy the atmosphere and scenery.

Tasting rooms are there to showcase the wine and winery. There is often an atmosphere of leisure in a tasting room. Take your time and sip your wine. Look out at the scenery and enjoy the space. Concentrate on the wine and the beauty that surrounds you. We often forget what a pleasure it is to really taste and smell what we are drinking. Make sure to take time to do just that while at a wine tasting.

No matter where you go for your wine tasting, we hope you have a wonderful time!

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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?

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!

How to Make the Perfect Wine Pairing

Wine PairingThere are probably a million “perfect pairing” charts and articles discussing the ins and outs of wine pairing on the internet. We also post articles once in a while discussing what wines would pair well with certain foods. With the ultimate wine pairing event – a winemaker dinner – coming up, we thought we’d take a look at how to pair wine with food once again.

Yum and Yuck

Before you even start pairing wines with food, you have to think about the “yum” and “yuck” factor. That is, if you don’t like the wine or the food, no amount of pairing will make it delicious. So, pick both wine and food that you enjoy.

Rules, who needs them?

There are exceptions to every rule. For example, you don’t always have to pair red wine with red meat. Pinot Noir goes great with rich fishes and roasted veggies, as well as some white meats.

Compare and contrast

Think about the similar flavors in food. Would you pair this food with a zingy lemon sauce? Then a wine with lemon notes would likely treat it well. Is this food better with butter? A rich, buttery white might do the trick. Are there earth notes in the food? An earthy red may be just what you need.

Go local

If you are eating local foods, it’s likely a local wine will pair well. We often drink local wines with our meals because we are eating food from Willamette Valley farms. Another tactic is to look at where the food you are eating is from and go for a wine in a similar region. If you are eating a traditional Bordeaux-style meal like confit de canard, you can go with a Willamette Valley Pinot as we have a similar region to Bordeaux.

Acid, fat, salt, and sweet

When stripped down to the barest essentials, food and wine are all about flavors. An acidic wine will pair well with fatty and sweet food. Wine with high tannin levels will go well with sweet food while wine with a high alcohol content will cut through fatty food. Salty foods should get a low acid wine while sweet foods will want a little acidity.

In the end, wine pairing takes some practice. However, always go for foods and wines that you love. Be adventurous and tell us where your culinary adventures take you!

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