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Willamette Valley

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!

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.

Why Choose a bed & breakfast?

When traveling through the Willamette Valley in Oregon, a bed & breakfast might not be your first lodging choice, but here are five reasons why it should be.

Let’s start at the beginning: breakfast. Nothing starts a day better than a delicious homemade breakfast, and that is exactly what you’ll get at a bed & breakfast.  Wake up to the wafting smells of freshly brewed coffee and breakfast being prepared in the kitchen. The breakfast you’ll enjoy is unique and different from that which you might normally prepare at home or have at a hotel.  Even if you don’t normally start your day with a full breakfast, while in the Willamette Valley, you may want to enjoy the morning meal.  After all, it is important to wake up your taste buds, and fill your stomach, prior to a day of wine tasting.

The second reason to stay at a bed and breakfast is for the serene experience. Unplug, and detox from all the hustle and bustle of your daily life in a beautiful home with all the comforts of home.  Typically located in rural locations, these establishments provide spectacular views, quiet and serene environments, no light pollution, easy access to nature, and the relaxation of not having to do anything but enjoy wine and the Valley. Only a few minutes from town and great restaurants, it’s the best of both worlds.

Reason number three, bed and breakfasts here in the valley are congregation areas for people that are passionate about good wine, good food, and enjoying both while relaxing and taking in the beautiful surroundings.  You’ll have unique opportunities to meet new people from all over the world. It is always amazing how many connections are made, new friendships established, and stories Inn guest share. At Youngberg Hill, you have multiple opportunities to meet with your fellow travelers not only at breakfast, but also during the exclusive wine tasting; just another opportunity to taste great Pinot Noirs of the Willamette Valley! 

Number four, service. Guests have exclusive access to some of the most knowledgeable people around; the owners and innkeepers.  These people are your built-in concierge service, there to help you navigate the innumerable wineries, dozens of restaurants for lunch and dinner, and other activities during your time in the valley. Knowing the local scene, logistics of getting around in the valley, realistic travel times, and where to have the best experiences are all worth their weight in gold when it comes to making your Willamette Valley experience remarkable.  They are there to make your trip as effortless and enjoyable as possible.

Which brings me to number five, our people. The overall experience you will enjoy with a B&B like Youngberg Hill is unsurpassed. Our staff pays attention to every detail to ensure that you have a unique experience focused on you and your preferences. You will feel coddled and cared for like nowhere else and coupled with the quiet ambiance, will have you relaxed and refreshed. One guest stated that his blood pressure was reduced by 20 points during his stay. That says it all.

Youngberg Hill’s Charitable Giving

We have had the honor over the years of helping families annually with our many charities including Boys & Girls Club, CAP, YCAP, See Ya Later Foundation, Henderson House, Give A Little Foundation, and The Ronald McDonald House Foundation.  We focus on specific charities to make a larger impact in each rather than doing many charities with less impact. This year we have decided to increase our giving to Give A Little. Strengthening communities by providing hope, happiness, and comfort to families and children who need it most is important to us. We are committed to giving back to our community as an important part of who we are. We have chosen to focus more on Give A Little Foundation because of their effort to assist the local McMinnville High School students not only to be able to successfully achieve their goal of graduating, but also experience those little things that make high school a great memory of life.

What is the Give A Little Foundation?
They are an independent, grass-roots, nonprofit organization that provides immediate, one-time financial assistance to individuals and families in Yamhill County who are in crisis or experiencing severe adversity.  They provide a safety net for those who may have nowhere else to turn, always with the goal of helping people maintain or achieve self-sufficiency. To donate directly to this wonderful cause, click here.

To provide more support for this great program, we have committed to donate $15 for every bottle of 2014 Nicolette’s Barrel Select Pinot Noir. The Nicolette’s Select is our special reserve bottling of only 25 cases.  The Nicolette’s Select will be available in the tasting room and online. With your help, we can provide over $4000 to Give A Little Foundation.

 

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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Top 5 Festivals for Fall Wine Events

Harvest for the 2016 vintage is just around the corner and that means it’s almost time to celebrate. There are numerous festivals around Oregon that incorporate local sustainable farms, specialty chefs, and famous wineries. Come experience what Oregon Wine country is all about with these Top 5 Festivals for Harvest Wine Events.

Carlton Crush Harvest Festival – September 10, 2016

The Carlton Crush Harvest festival is a full day of activities for both kids and adults. It features complimentary morning yoga, live music and entertainment, Kids’ Watermelon Eating contest and Grape Stomp, and local art. Enjoy terrific food from a variety of restaurants such as The Horse Radish, and Ribslayer BBQ. Match the mouthwatering food with your choice of wine from more than 10 local wineries around the area. Entrance and Parking Free.  carltoncrush.com

 

Feast Portland – September 15-18, 2016blog 8 2016

Known as the “The best food festival in the country.” by Thrillist National, the “food festival to beat” by Tasting Table Feast Portland is entering it’s 5th year of inspiring the creative revolution of food and wine. Feast Portland offers a full weekend of hands on cooking and cocktail classes, wine tastings, brunch, BBQ cookouts, IPA tasting and once-in-a lifetime experiences. Since 2012 Feast Portland has donated over 200,000 dollars to end child hunger. Fees Vary. feastportland.com


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Wine Country Half Marathon- August 13, 2016

Do you love to run? Do you love wine? If you said yes to at least one of these questions, the Wine Country Half Marathon is perfect for you. The course takes you in the heart of Willamette wine country. It starts at Stoller Family Estate and finishes on Main Street in Carlton where you are greeted by the Wine and Music Festival. At the Festival there will be over 20 local wineries and live music along with the Lagunitas Brewing Company! Come join the summer fun! Fees Vary. destinationraces.com

Bounty of Yamhill County – August 26-28th, 2016blog 8 2016 2

In 2015, Bounty of Yamhill County placed #2 in USA TODAY 10 Best Readers’ Choice Award for Best General Food Festival. Get your wine adventure buddy and go horseback riding as your mode of travel to three Dundee Hill Wineries. Enjoy a sunrise air balloon ride followed by a sparkling brunch, do yoga and experience a wine tasting breakfast buffet, kayak in Oregon’s Willamette Valley River followed by a picnic lunch and tasting at Hyland estates, or even take part in an Eola-Amity hills vineyard hike. This weekend is full of adventure and wine! Fees Vary. bountyofyamhillcounty.com

 

blog 8 2016 3¡Salud! – November 11-12th, 2016

November 11th offers a variety of Cuvée Tasting and a Big Board Auction. A rare opportunity to taste over 40 wineries in Oregon, and meet the winemakers themselves. Each estate has made a specialty Cuvée just for this event and offers a barrel tasting that you cannot experience anywhere else. Saturday Night is the 25th Annual Wine Auction Celebration and Gala. The silent and live auction make a great opportunity to find rare library wines, winemaker experiences, unique travel packages, and to celebrate Pinot Noir. November 11: $275  November 12th, Gala and Auction: $500.  Saludauction.org
Continue to experience the Willamette Valley wines and stop by Youngberg Hill’s tasting room and try award winning Pinot Noirs. It is also the perfect time to sit on the deck, enjoy harvest and to stay at Youngberg Hill Inn and enjoy the view! Find us at: https://www.youngberghill.com

 

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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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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 Heart of Burgundy or the Heart of Willamette Valley

beaune blog mapBeaune is the capital and heart of the Burgundy: a historic and storied Pinot Noir region. McMinnville is the capital and heart of Willamette Valley, which is home to many wineries that specialize in Pinot Noir.  In addition to geographic similarities, McMinnville is also home to the IPNC, or the International Pinot Noir Celebration.  McMinnville is in many ways the Beaune of the New World.

Now in its 30th year, the International Pinot Noir Celebration is held the last full weekend of July in McMinnville, Oregon. The event offers Pinot noir consumers and industry members the chance to enjoy an unparalleled selection of Pinot noir from around the world via a full schedule of seminars, walk around tastings, winery tours, and unforgettable meals prepared by top Northwest chefs. With the exception of vineyard and winery tmcminnville blogours, the IPNC is held on the beautiful and historic campus of Linfield College. The IPNC offers three experiences for guests to choose from: The Full Weekend (Friday-Sunday), Salmon Bake (Saturday evening), and the Passport to Pinot (Sunday afternoon).

IPNC is open to the public as a celebration to Pinot Noir and is truly international. Wineries and winemakers from all the major Pinot Noir growing regions in the world are represented including Willamette Valley, Burgundy, New Zealand, California, as well as other regions like Austria, Germany, Canada, and Chili. It is a great way to experience Pinot Noirs from all over the world along with learning about terroir and what differentiates Pinot Noir from around the world. The weekend is laced with one of a kind eating and wine tasting experiences. For more information, go to IPNC.com.ipnc blog

Prior to IPNC, it is customary for wineries in the valley to have welcoming dinners on Thursday night. Similar to years past, Youngberg Hill will be hosting one of these culinary experiences. This year, renowned chef Michael Smith, of Michael Smith Restaurant in Kansas City, will be the guest chef. The dinner will be held outside in our new event building overlooking the most fabulous views in the valley.  It’s in this very relaxed environment, that you will enjoy an intimate evening of wine and food. Go to www.youngberghill.com for more information and to reserve your seats now.

The IPNC is separate from another Pinot event: OPC, or Oregon Pinot Camp. OPC, on the other hand, is for educating individuals from all over the world, who are involved in the wine trade.  They spend time learning about what makes growing Pinot Noir grapes and making Pinot Noir in the valley so special. With this experience, these lucky individuals become ambassadors for Oregon Pinot Noir around the world.

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