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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

Oregon Wine Harvest 2016 Update

It is hard to believe that September has just begun, and in the Willamette Valley Oregon wine country is in its second week of harvest. Even the pioneers that have been growing Pinot in the valley for 50 years do not remember harvesting a vintage this early in the season. As a result, wines in this year’s vintage are expected to be more robust and fruit forward due to ripening fruit in hotter days of August rather than cooler days of September.

This early harvest isn’t because this was a particularly hot year. In fact, the 2016 growing season was slightly below normal in temperature. Vintners use what’s called Degree Days to calculate the seasonal DSC_7121temperature.  This measurement is the number of hours the vineyard experiences above 60 degrees.  In a typical year we expect degree days to be somewhere around 2,100 hours.  This year we were below 2,000 hours.

So why are we harvesting so early? An early spring, occurring about 3 weeks earlier than normal, and warmer than normal temperature during the spring contributed to this early harvest. In fact, at the start of June, our degree days were already about 200 or 300 hours above normal. Added to that were little heat spikes at just the right time to push fruit through critical stages of ripening faster. All these factors resulted in a significantly earlier harvest. The last two years we have picked our first fruit the 17th of September. This year we may be picking our first fruit before the 10th. At this rate, we could be done harvesting by the end of September, compared with October 7th of last year.

Is this a global warming trend? Who knows. It was only 5 years ago, 2011, when we had our coldest growing season ever and finished harvesting on November 7th.

Cheers!

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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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2015 Vintage in the Willamette Valley

Harvest 2013 1042015 vintage in the Willamette Valley was a banner year for growing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and other grape varietals, especially at Youngberg Hill.

I’m sure you have heard a lot about the on the west coast 2015 drought and its impact on agriculture. In the Willamette Valley, we are blessed with plenty of rain during the off season that sustains us through the dry growing months.  In fact, we don’t want any rain during the growing season. Because of this, we didn’t suffer from lack of water even though Youngberg Hill is a dry farm. What was a challenge this last year was the heat.  It required us to be more diligent in our management of the canopy and protecting the fruit from the sun. In addition, we took more time and care cutting off dried and sunburnt fruit from the vine before harvest. And in a wonderful turn of events, September turned ouIMG_8304[1]t to be cooler than normal which slowed down ripening and gave us fruit that is very well balanced. All of these factors combined should make 2015 the best vintage ever for Youngberg Hill!

In December, we bottled the Pinot Noir’s from the 2014 vintage, and are excited to share them with the world upon their release in September of 2016. While 2014 vintage was also a warmer year, the fruit aged beautifully in the barrel and is showing just as good as the renown 2012 vintage. In the meantime, the newly released 2013 vintage is tasting great right out of the bottle.

join our wine clubLooking forward, 2016 looks to be another great year as the age of the vines and health of the vineyard continues to improve. Youngberg Hill’s organic and biodynamic farming practices are really paying off both in the health of the vines and also in the quality of the fruit.

We wish everyone a great 2016! Cheers!

Growing Wine Grapes, from Budbreak to Harvest

Wine GrapesThere are many significant parts of the wine grape growing process. Any plant growth is slow and steady and wine grapes are no exception. However, we wanted to share the points in the growth of our grapes that make us jump for joy each and every year. Here is a rapid breakdown of what it takes every year for us to grow the grapes we use to create delectable wines:

Spring

Our wine varietals are planted on 20 acres of vineyard space. They produce grapes each year, beginning in spring with budbreak. This is when the first buds of the season emerge from the vine after winter.Wine Grapes

The next spring activity is usually flowering. This is when the vine develops tight bunches of flowers. These flower clusters will eventually grow into grapes. We are extremely excited to see flowers bursting forth throughout the vineyard during this time.

Summer

The flowers eventually turn into tiny green spheres. This is fruit set. We work tirelessly to make sure these little spheres grow into juicy grapes using canopy management and other farming techniques.

By late summer the grapes have gained fullness and color. This is called veraison and is the time of year when you can tell which grapes are green and which are purple.

Fall

Wine Grapes

Harvest is in fall. This exciting time is when we are out in the vineyard every single day, deciding when the grapes are at the perfect ripeness for plucking. Once this is decided, we pick every bunch by hand.

After harvest, we crush the grapes and begin the winemaking process.

Winter

In many farms, winter is the quietest time of year. However, since we create our Willamette Valley wines onsite, we are working hard during winter to make sure fermentation is going correctly and the wine is developing beautifully. Additionally, we must prune the vines to get them ready for budbreak next year.Wine Grapes

Every season is exciting in Oregon wine country. We hold our breath for budbreak, rejoice in seeing our grapes gain fullness and color, and keep a watchful eye out for harvest time. Not only are these times exciting, they are incredibly beautiful. If you haven’t visited us here at Youngberg Hill, pick anytime of year and come. You won’t be disappointed.

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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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How Wine Bottling Works

Wine bottling at Youngberg HillPatience is the keyword in making wine. One has to let it sit in barrels and go through the fermentation process until it is clarified enough for bottling. Even when the wine has clarified to a point where wine bottling is the next step, the process cannot occur for a few days. One must first rack the wine, let it settle for a again, and then go into the bottling process.

Youngberg Hill is a relatively small winery. This means that our winemaking process is tightly controlled and monitored. The precise moment the wine is ready for bottling can be pinpointed and bottling can start very rapidly.

The concept of bottling seems pretty simple. You are putting the wine into a bottle for further aging or for sale. Because wine reacts chemically with air, this process is a little more complicated than filling a bottle with water or some other liquid. We try to allow very little air into the bottle while it is being filled. However, a minute amount of air is needed so that the bottle can handle temperature changes and so that the wine aging process can continue to occur.

After wine bottles are filled, they should be corked or capped promptly. When wine bottles are freshly filled they need to remain standing for a few days to allow any inside pressures to equalize. After a few days though, wine bottles should be stored on their sides in a cool cellar.

Wine doesn’t stop aging once it is out of the barrel. Some wines benefit from bottle aging. Others are drinkable right away. You can often find recommendations about drinkability in the tasting notes of a particular wine. You can find out tasting notes here.

Do you want to find out more about the winemaking process? Contact us or visit us!

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