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Willamette Valley

Enjoying February Wine in the Willamette Valley

Couple drinking wine in Oregon at Youngberg Hill.Have you thought about enjoying Willamette Valley wine country during February? True it rains much of the time, but what better excuse than the weather to snuggle up next to a warm fire with your loved one and enjoy a delicious Pinot Noir? There is a lot happening in the Willamette Valley during the month of February with many Valentine’s events at different wineries with chocolate and wine pairings, new releases, and winemaker’s dinners.   Don’t forget about the local restaurants, which will be having spectacular dinner specials.

Wine tasting in the Willamette Valley

It is fun to taste throughout the Willamette Valley this time of year because of the unique and serendipitous experiences one might have. To start, it is typically not as busy in the tasting rooms so you can have a more intimate tasting experience, learn more about the wines and why they taste the way they do. This gives you the opportunity to meet the winemaker or owner hanging around who are willing to share their experiences with you and maybe even break out a library wine or take you to the barrel room. Many of us wineries are family operations and you may have the opportunity to meet other members of the family developing a more intimate relationship with the family, the winery, and the entire operation.

There are plenty of wineries open for tasting throughout the winter months which means that there is no lack of both old favorites and new experiences to enjoy. Visit Youngberg Hill’s tasting room and relax next to the fire while tasting the newly released 2013 vintages, or join us on February 12th for our annual Valentine’s dinner with outstanding chocolate charged menu items paired with some of our favorite Youngberg Hill wines.

And there nothing that puts a little heat back in the relationship than a couple of nights at our cozy intimate inn overlooking the vineyard. Snuggle up in front of your private fireplace and enjoy a glass, or a bottle, of your favorite Youngberg Hill Pinot Noir with the person you adore.

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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!

November Wine Touring in the Willamette Valley

Is thGregor Halenda Travel Oregon Jessis a good time to go wine touring in Oregon?  November wine touring in the Willamette Valley is a great time to taste Pinot Noirs. There are over 300 tasting rooms throughout the valley, and most all of them are open through the Thanksgiving weekend. Additionally, most of us in the valley are releasing new wines, having pick-up parties, wine club events, and winemaker dinners throughout the months of November and December. It is a great time to be out in wine country, celebrating the bountiful harvest.

With the holidays approaching, it is a great time to stock up on your party wines and dinner wines for the festive season. Many wineries offer wine specials during this time of year.

When you’re traveling through Oregon’s Wine Country, the restaurants in the area offer great dining experiences. Which dining experience is best for you? Ask around and be prepared to have a lot of options. To make your wine tasting tours easier there are several touring businesses to drive you from tasting room to tasting room. Most also offer dinner service, which is a ride to and from dinner.Fall vineard

It used to be that the “season” for tasting in Willamette Valley wine country was from Memorial Weekend until Thanksgiving. Today the “season” is all year long as many wineries are open for tasting, restaurants are open for lunch and dinner, and warm and cozy B&Bs are open to with nice fireplaces to cuddle up and enjoy that bottle of Oregon Pinot. Even after the holidays, there are plenty of places to go, wines to taste, and places to stay and eat. In January, the Oregon Truffle Festival takes place. In February, there are many Valentine events. And as March rolls around, white wines for spring and summer begin to be released.

There is never a “closed” time in the Willamette Valley.

Bottling 2014 Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley

IMG_1059When do we bottle Pinot Noir in Willamette Valley? It’s about this time of year when Oregon Wineries move the previous year’s harvest from barrels to bottles. This is a great time to revisit last year’s harvest, and explore this wine after it’s spent some time in the barrel. 2014 was a rare year for Oregon Pinot Noir. Across the board, Willamette Valley vineyards harvested not only a large quantity of fruit, but more importantly the harvested fruit was of a high quality. All too often one is sacrificed for the benefit of the other, but not in 2014. That year began with an early spring that continued into warmer than normal weather throughout the growing season. This combination brought in a harvest two to three weeks earlier than normal, a time of year that saw very little precipitation. Often times, late in the growing season, vineyards are at the mercy of the weather, hoping for enough dry days to pick ripe fruit. As a combined result, the 2014 wines in barrel are showing ripe, voluptuous body and weight.

Bottling Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley typically takes place right before harvest in late August and September. The machines used to bottle wine are large, and require specially trained operators. Because of this, a lot of smaller wineries hire a mobile botting unit. When it is time for bottling the mobile unit is pulled to the winery.DSCN1218

Once bottled, the wine is left to age in bottle for at least another 6 months before release. However, Youngberg Hill typically release our Pinot Noirs 2 years after the fruit was harvested, so don’t expect to see these wines before November of 2016. At Youngberg Hill, our Pinot Noirs are bigger and bolder than most of the other wines produced in the valley. Because of this, we give them more time in the barrel. We normally keep our Pinot Noir in barrel for at least 12 months or more. With the 2014 vintage being special, we will hold the wine in our French White Oak barrels for 14 months. This additional time in the barrel will impart more of the oak flavor, complementing the bigger fruit flavor of the 2014 harvest. We believe this will ultimately create a superb and well balanced Pinot Noir.

 

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Making White Wines in The Willamette Valley

IMG_2086What is the difference between making white wines or red wines in the Willamette Valley? The main difference is that rather than leaving the juice from the grape on the skins after destemming, whites wines typically are not destemmed and the grapes juice is immediately pressed off the skins, stems, and seeds. Second, while red wine is fermented over a 12 to 14 day period at warm temperatures (75 to 80 degrees), white wines are typically fermented over a longer period, 30 plus days, at cooler temperatures around 60 degrees. Red wines are also typically fermented to dry meaning all the sugar has been converted to alcohol. With white wines, that could vary significantly from a very sweet wine (stopping fermentation before the sugar is all converted) all the way to bone dry (no residual sugar).

Depending on the varietal, white wines may go directly from stainless steel tanks to bottle within four months or go into barrel for several months before bottling. For example, our Pinot Gris goes directly from tank to bottle and is released about six months after harvest. Our Pinot Blanc goes into neutral oak barrels for a couple of months just to allow the wine to age a little more. Our Chardonnay is put in once used barrels for six to eight months to provide some slight oak character while retaining all the fruit profile. They process isn’t done just in the Willamette Valley but are standard practices in the wine industry.

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Making Pinot Noir in The Willamette Valley

DSC_6902Many of us who make Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley either learned our wine-making trade in Burgundy or aspire to make wines in a manner similar to Burgundy. What does that mean? It means using a light touch in the winery to let the wine reflect where the fruit was grown and what weather the fruit was grown in. This philosophy creates wines that will be very different across the valley and vary significantly from year to year.

How is this done? We do this by doing as little as possible in the winery to change the natural characteristics coming from the fruit. An example of that is “crush”. While we all envision Lucy stomping on the grapes in that classic TV episode and in some regions with some varietals, we take great care in not “crushing the grapes before going into fermentation. Because Pinot Noir is a feminine grape with thin skins, it is important not to bruise the fruit, which will change the characteristics of the wine. We also take care not to make any adjustments to the wine like adding acid if it is a low acid year, adding sugar if it is a low sugar year, or adding water if it is a high sugar year. We use the saying “It is what it is”.

I often use the analogy of raising children to wine-making. If you try to make a rocket scientist out of a child with innate skills as a concert pianist, he probably wouldn’t be as good a rocket scientist as he would be a concert pianist. In the same way, if one tries to manipulate the wine to taste a certain way, it is most likely not going to be as good a wine as if it is left to reflect the fruit it is made from.

Finally, the wine will go into barrel, typically French white oak for our Pinot Noirs) for anywhere from 14 to 24 months depending on the vintage and the fruit. After barreling, we will bottle and hold for several months before releasing typically  two years from the time it was harvested.

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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

Why Choose a B&B When Visiting the Willamette Valley?

Visiting the Willamette ValleyYoungberg Hill isn’t just a working winery and vineyard, it is a B&B as well. We know there are many places to stay throughout the Willamette Valley, but recommend staying at a Bed and Breakfast for many reasons. Here are a few thoughts on why you should choose a B&B when visiting Oregon wine country:

1-Personalized service. Hotels often can’t give you the one-on-one attention a Bed and Breakfast can provide. We love getting to know our guests and helping them have a wonderful trip. Additionally, our guests may have the opportunity to participate in one of our winemaker dinners – like the upcoming harvest dinner on October 17th!

2-Unique location. Bed and Breakfasts are placed in interesting and unique locations. For example, Youngberg Hill overlooks our active vineyard in the middle of Oregon Wine Country. You can see the Coast Range, Mount Jefferson, Mount Hood and the Willamette Valley from here.

3-Local knowledge. Because of the one-on-one relationship the innkeeper is able to have with her guests, our B&B can provide personalized and local information that a hotel wouldn’t have the time to give. For example, we know all of the best Willamette Valley restaurants and can notify you about upcoming festivals and other local events.

4-Delicious breakfast. Breakfast is always an event here at Youngberg Hill! We have a fabulous chef that will get your day started out right with a fantastic breakfast.

5-Wonderful rooms. We are constantly working to improve our accommodations. Currently we have four suites and four luxurious guest rooms along with a library, salon, and large dining room.  

We think B&Bs have a certain air of romance and give you wonderful service. Be sure to check out our Bed and Breakfast when planning your next visit to the Willamette Valley!blog action photo Inn

Why You Should Take Advantage of Local Vineyard Events

Vineyard EventsWe host events all year round here at the Youngberg Hill vineyard and winery. These events include winemaker dinners, music nights, a 5K and 10K run, concerts, and more. We love putting on events for our friends and hosting events for wonderful organizations like the Linfield College.

However, the love and time that our Willamette Valley vineyard puts into making each event wonderful is just one of the many reasons to take advantage of these events. Here are a few other reasons why you should mark your calendar and come to our vineyard events:

  • Unique location. We feature the best views in the valley here at Youngberg Hill, along with a sustainable vineyard, winery, and Inn. Our events give you an excuse to spend plenty of time in a beautiful, natural environment.

Vineyard Events

  • Exposure to local wine, music, food, and more. Many wine country activities pair up with other local businesses. For example, we not only have wonderful music at our Wine Wednesday performances, a local food cart comes out to feed attendees.
  • Fantastic people. Those attending local events are people with similar interests as your own. Many of the wonderful community members that come to our winery for fun events are wine lovers with storied pasts.
  • Exclusive opportunities. We recently were able to feature a wonderful chef all the way from Burgundy, France. This and other exclusive chances often only occur at smaller, local events.

We will be having our last 2015 Wine Wednesday performance on September 16th and our next winemaker dinner is on October 17th. There are also many local Willamette Valley harvest festivals and events coming up. Some of our favorites that are coming up are the Carlton Crush, Newberg Oktoberfest, Wine Country Thanksgiving, and the Oregon Truffle Festival.

Get all of the details on the calendar and keep an eye out for more wonderful events!

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7 Ways You Can Add Organic Charm to Your Wine Country Wedding

 Wine Country WeddingWe are sure you’ve seen all of the amazing boho-chic and rustic organic charm featured in Pinterest weddings. You have also probably seen the “Pinterest fails” when someone tries to duplicate the beautiful photos and projects featured on that popular website. In this article, we have compiled seven beautiful ideas that will add organic charm to your Willamette Valley wedding. We have seen these ideas in action, so we know you won’t have to take a “fail” picture when using them in your wedding.

1 – Incorporate seasonal flowers. A spring/early summer wedding may bloom with soft pink peonies and roses while a summer wedding can feature glorious dahlias and sunflowers. Using seasonal flowers can only enhance the natural surroundings found here in Oregon Wine country.Wine Country Wedding


2 – Speaking of flowers… think about where you want the flowers.
When we think about boho-chic weddings or weddings with an organic feel, we usually think about flower crowns adorning the bride’s hair, trailing bouquets, and flowers in containers big and small. While you may think to just adorn everything with flowers, that can get pretty expensive. So, consider how and where you’d like to place the flowers so that you get the biggest bang for your buck.

3 – The cake can be anything from crazy creative or super au naturel. Generally, organic or rustic weddings have a cake that either looks like a flower or has flowers involved in the decoration. The other side of the boho/organic coin is to have a very plain looking layered cake. If you want the flower look, but don’t want to actually eat petals, you may want to look at silk flower cake toppers or other faux flower decorations.

Wine Country Wedding4 – Decorations can be creative. Organic weddings have a flowy, wild garden, and vintage feel. This means you can use your imagination when decorating. Think about different fillers you can use. Some ideas include hay, snapdragons, rosemary, feathers, wildflowers, or thistle. Also, look at materials like lace and burlap to decorate your chairs or vases. You can have a ton of fun decorating for your wine country wedding.

5 – Mismatching is okay. We have seen more and more couples use adorably mismatched vases and mason jars, wood and metal buckets, fun wood signs, and more. When you go for a boho-chic look, mismatching goes with the overall look.

Willamette Valley Wedding6 – You aren’t stuck with a traditional dress or only wearing white. Modern brides are not stuck with pure white, traditionally cut dresses. Wedding dresses can be any color and any style.  Pick the dress and color that makes you feel gorgeous and you have your wedding dress!

7 – Have fun with it! Pinterest weddings are always gorgeous, but this is your wedding. You and your partner are celebrating your unique and one-of-a-kind love. So, don’t feel restricted by Pinterest or a set theme. Create your own beauty and we guarantee your wedding will be just as wonderful as your love for one another.

We hope our tips have helped you as you plan your big day!Willamette Valley Wedding

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