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Taste McMinnville Month

February is Taste McMinnville Month and a great time to break up the winter dulldrums wherever you might live. Why not make it a new and unique experience in the Willamette Valley and more specifically, McMinnville. Why in February? It is Valentine’s Day celebrations all month. There are wine and chocolate pairing s across the valley all month. The landscape in the valley is lush and green. There is less tourism traffic to get around in. There are great opportunities to save money on travel and lodging that time of year. And February, like every month, is a great time to be enjoying Pinot Noir in the valley.

This year is even a bigger opportunity to do so in McMinnville. This February McMinnville will be celebrating Taste McMinnville Month featuring craft beverage producers of wine, beer, and spirits; along with all the fabulous restaurants that reside in the city. It will be a great time to experience all that McMinnville and the surrounding community have to offer in culinary bounty. McMinnville is the heart of the valley, has a great, thriving downtown shopping scene, and plenty of art and cultural activities to enjoy including music events at many venues and the Gallery Theater.

McMinnville reminds me of Calistoga thirty years ago. Back then, it was an outpost for most of the Napa wine tourism because it was so far away from San Fransisco. Today it is the epicenter of the valley. While McMinnville is farther southwest of Portland (35 miles), it is far from the maddening crowd, in the heart of the Willamette Valley, and half way between Portland and the coast.

McMinnville also reminds me of Beaune in Burgundy, France. As in Beaune, McMinnville lives and breaths the wine country, and the vineyards and wineries surrounding it. It has embraced the industry as part of it’s culture and reflects that in the multitude of dining experiences.

Come check it out this February!  Click here for more details.

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

Veraison in the Willamette Valley

Veraison blogGrapes turning color in the Willamette Valley means that veraison is upon us. Veraison is an exciting time for grape growers because it signals the beginning of the ripening stage. Pinot Noir grapes turn from green to a dark black-blue color. Pinot Gris grapes turn autumn colors like orange, red, and yellow. Pinot Blanc grapes turn a very light frosty green. This process typically takes about two weeks to complete and then serious ripening begins.

Although it is the easiest to recognize, skin color is not the only change to occur. The pulp of the berries change from a gelatin to a more liquid consistency.  With this change, the pulp also adheres less to the seeds. The flavors of the fruit begin, meaning that instead of just tasting like grapes, you can taste all the other flavors that will later be enjoyed in the wine. The seeds themselves will turn from green to brown, lending to more mature seed tannins. The tannins that will show up in the wine later also develop in the skins, softening as the grape matures. And yes, the fruit becomes sweeter, shifting away from the unripen tartness.

From the time of veraison forward, we hope for continued long, cool, dry, sunny weather through harvest. This will slow the ripening and allow all of the above transitions to evolve in concert.  The more balanced all these characteristics are in the fruit at harvest, the more balanced and of higher quality the finished wine will be. Hot weather during ripening pushes the fruit to ripen faster bring out more robust, fruit forward characteristics that typically throw the wine out of balance. Too cool of weather may also lead to an unbalanced wine via unripe fruit.

It’s this important stage of the grapes growing cycle that makes Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley so special. We are blessed with the weather needed to provide wonderfully balanced fruit to produce the highest quality Pinot Noir.

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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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Intimate Vineyard Weddings in Willamette Valley

Willamette Valley Vineyard WeddingIt’s January, and romance is in the air.  Couples all over the country are planning special dates, anniversaries, and romantic weekend getaways near and far.  With so many newly engaged couples, now is the perfect time of year to start planning your wedding, particularly when it comes to choosing the perfect location to say your vows.  Vineyards have become an increasingly popular location for weddings, especially in Willamette Valley, the very heart of Oregon’s beautiful wine country.  Imagine uttering those vows and beginning your lives together as the sun sets on our beautiful hill in the heart of Oregon’s wine country, overlooking our vineyard and the breathtaking views of Willamette Valley.  Youngberg Hill Vineyards & Inn, situated atop a 50 acre hill in Willamette Valley, is the perfect location for an intimate vineyard wedding. Continue reading

27th Annual International Pinot Noir Celebration

International Pinot Noir Celebration

With the end of July just around the corner, it’s time for Pinot Noir lovers to rejoice!  The 27th annual International Pinot Noir Celebration is upon us, from July 26th-28th at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon.  The three day event that makes up the International Pinot Noir Celebration, or IPNC for short, is a must-do event for new Pinot Noir lovers or master winemakers alike.  Join a variety of people from across the globe, including winemakers, northwest chefs, media, and other wine lovers as you explore the intricacies of Pinot Noir wines, savor unforgettable meals, and learn and celebrate with the biggest stars of the wine world.  Throughout your time at the International Pinot Noir Celebration, you’ll have a chance to taste Pinot Noir from Grand Cru Burgundy, Oregon, New Zealand, Australia, California, and other areas around the globe.  But this event is about more than just tasting great wines.  Here, you’ll have the chance to walk through Oregon vineyards with the grower who planted them, and unwind in the picturesque wine country of Willamette Valley, Oregon.  This surely is one of the most enjoyable weekends for wine lovers from all walks of life. Youngberg Hill Vineyards is located just 15 short minutes away from Linfield College and the IPNC venue, making this your perfect opportunity to stop in and tour one of Oregon’s premier wine country estates. Continue reading

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