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Willamette Valley

The 2018 Vintage Recap

2018 vintage 2018 vintage has been a very pleasant growing season. Spring (bud break) was later than it had been the last 3 or 4 years, just slightly earlier than average. It was cooler and wetter which slowed down growth such that bloom was about average timing. As a result, the vines were healthy and bloom moved on to fruit set with no weather issues and all the clusters/fruit developed were very even.

Summer started on time but warmer than normal. Through August, while we did not have any extremely hot days of 95+ degrees as in the last few years, we did have consistently warmer temperatures ranging 8 to 10 degrees above normal over long periods of time. This accelerated the development of the fruit and moved us into veraison a little earlier than we would have expected based on the timing of bloom. What does earlier veraison mean? It means that the fruit begins to ripen in warmer temperatures, that has the potential to throw things a little bit out of balance as the fruit ripens faster.

Fortunately, as if the weather was trying to help the vines out, temperatures in September began to gradually go down below average. These lower temperatures slow ripening of the fruit which is a good thing. Slower fruit ripening in cooler temperatures keeps fruit development in balance. We also have had a couple of stints of moisture creep into the valley providing reprieve for the vines and slowing development even further.

All this, has me very optimistic for the wines out of the 2018 vintage. While it is still a little early to make predictions, I see great potential in the fruit to develop complexity and balance in the wines.

Wayne Bailey selected for 2018 Most Inspiring Wine People

Wine Industry Network January 2018 Wayne is selected and interviewed as one of ten “Inspiring Wine Industry People of North America”. Click here for article: http://ow.ly/eesC30k5dTZ

YHV Wins Double Gold in the Cascadia Competition & IPNC

Eric Degerman (Tri-Cities Herald & Great Northwest Wine) 5/18 Eric reviews the 32nd annual IPNC and includes YHV as wineries to look for: https://t.co/O1vCMdDx3Z

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.

 

 

 

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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