Oregon’s Dundee Hills AVA



By Kori ~ September 24th, 2012.

During the recent Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland, Oregon, Dad (John), Colby, and I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon in the Dundee Hills. These wine country visits are always a highlight of the conference. When we boarded the bus, we did not know where it was going as each bus had a different destination throughout Oregon wine country. As we pulled away from the DoubleTree Portland, we learned that we would be spending our afternoon and evening at Sokol Blosser Winery in Dundee.

When we arrived at the winery, representatives from seven Dundee Hills wineries, Archery Summit, Argyle, Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Lange Estate, Sokol Blosser, Stoller, and Winderlea, greeted us. The sun was shining brightly and temperatures were in the 90’s, so our hosts presented us with parasols for shade as we listened to Rollin Soles of Argyle and David Millman of Domaine Drouhin Oregon talk about the Dundee Hills.

A sub-appellation of the Willamette Valley, the Dundee Hills AVA is located 28 miles southwest of Portland and 40 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. It encompasses 6,490 total acres, with roughly 2,000 of those acres planted to grapes.

While wine grapes have been grown in Oregon since the mid-1800’s, it was not until 1965 when David Lett and his wife Diana planted 3,000 Pinot Noir vines in the Dundee Hills that the Willamette Valley really came into being. David, who passed away in 2008, is affectionately known in Oregon as Papa Pinot. Other early Oregon wine pioneers, Dick Erath of Erath Winery and Bill Blosser and Susan Sokol Blosser of Sokol Blosser Winery, arrived in 1967 and 1971, respectively, and also planted vineyards in the region. The Dundee Hills solidified its place on the world stage when Robert Drouhin of top Burgundy (France) producer Maison Joseph Drouhin purchased land there in 1987. In the years since, the Dundee Hills has continued to establish itself as one of the preeminent winegrowing regions in Oregon. Today, the region is home to 25 wineries and 50 vineyards.

“There is not enough sunshine and heat to ripen Pinot Noir in many places in the Willamette Valley; that’s why most vineyards are found on hills.” –Rollin Soles, founder/winemaker, Argyle Winery

Unique for its higher elevation and warmer nighttime temperatures, the Dundee Hills region is well-known for its red clay-loam Jory soils, designated as Oregon’s State Soil in 2011, that were deposited by ancient lava flows.

“We make wines that are juicy-centered, gorgeous, and elegant. The Dundee Hills make beautiful, graceful wines.” –Rollin Soles, founder/winemaker, Argyle Winery

After their talk, we were escorted to the Sokol Blosser cellar for a tasting. We were able to taste at our own pace and visit with winemakers.

Archery Summit
Archery Summit, located in Dayton, Oregon, sources fruit exclusively from their estate vineyards. Founded in 1993, Archery Summit is Oregon’s first 100 percent gravity-flow winery. Carved out of the hillside beneath the winery, their underground aging caves are modeled on the subterranean cellars of the Côte d’Or. Winemaker Anna Matzinger is involved with every step in the process, from vineyard to blending, to produce the best wines possible.

2010 Archery Summit Premier Cuvée Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, Oregon): This proprietary blend is a combination of fruit from their five distinctive vineyard estates: Arcus Estate, Red Hills Estate, Renegade Ridge Estate and Archery Summit Estate in the Dundee Hills AVA, and Looney Vineyard located in the Ribbon Ridge AVA.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Price: $48

Argyle Winery
In 1987, Rollin Soles and Brian Croser staked their claim in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and established Argyle Winery. Located in an old restored home in Dundee, Argyle is one of the most well-respected wineries in Oregon, producing world-class sparkling wine, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. Argyle is a grower first and farms three vineyards, Knudsen Vineyard, Stoller Vineyard and Lone Star Vineyard.

2007 Argyle Knudsen Vineyard Brut Sparkling Wine (Knudsen Vineyard, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon): 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Price: $50

2009 Argyle Brut Rosé Sparkling Wine (Knudsen Vineyard, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon): 48% Pinot Noir, 42% Pinot Meunier, and 10% Chardonnay.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Price: $30

Domaine Drouhin Oregon
Robert Drouhin, head of Burgundy’s legendary Maison Joseph Drouhin, first visited Oregon in 1961. His initial impression was that Oregon would ultimately prove to be the best place to grow Burgundy’s beloved Pinot Noir grape in the United States. In 1987, he purchased 225 acres in the Dundee Hills and established Domaine Drouhin Oregon. The fourth generation of Drouhins now works in Beaune (France) and Oregon. Véronique Drouhin has been the winemaker for Domaine Drouhin Oregon since its first vintage in 1988. David Millman joined Domaine Drouhin as Managing Director in 2004.

2008 Domaine Drouhin Laurène Pinot Noir (Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon): Named after Véronique Drouhin’s older daughter, Laurène is their flagship wine and is produced entirely from Pinot Noir grown on the family’s estate in the Dundee Hills.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Price: $65

Lange Estate Winery
Don and Wendy Lange founded Lange Estate Winery, located in Dundee, Oregon, in 1987. Since their first vintage, the Langes have specialized in producing Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay. They source their fruit from their winery estate in the Dundee Hills as well as from other top vineyards in the surrounding area. Don’s son, Jesse Lange, joined the winemaking team in 2004. Today, the father/son team bottle six different Pinot Noirs.

2010 Lange Estate Reserve Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, Oregon): Multi-vineyard Pinot Noir.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Price: $32

Sokol Blosser
Bill Blosser and Susan Sokol Blosser established Sokol Blosser Winery, located in Dundee, Oregon, in 1971, and quickly became pioneers in the Oregon wine industry. Winemaker Russ Rosner joined Sokol Blosser in 1998. Today, Sokol Blosser remains a family-owned and run winery with the second-generation, siblings Alex and Alison Sokol Blosser serving as co-presidents. In 2002, Sokol Blosser became the first U.S. winery to receive LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification.

2009 Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Noir (Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon): 100% Pinot Noir, 87% Estate Grown. Made with 100% organic grapes, Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Price: $38

Stoller Family Estate
Bill Stoller and his late wife Cathy purchased the vineyard property that became Stoller Family Estate from a cousin in 1993. At the time, many considered it marginal farmland as the property had been a turkey farm from the 1940s through the 1980s. In 1995, they planted their first 20 acres of grapes, 10 acres to Chardonnay and 10 acres to Pinot Noir. The Stollers were already involved in the Oregon wine industry as co-owners of Chehalem. Today, Stoller is the largest site in the Dundee Hills, spanning 373 acres with approximately 180 under vine. Winemaker Melissa Burr joined Stoller in 2003.

2011 Stoller Pinot Noir Rosé (Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon): 100% Pinot Noir. Saignée, which means “to bleed” in French, created this Rosé wine by draining a small percentage of juice from each of their Pinot Noir tanks.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 2 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Price: $20

2010 Stoller Reserve Chardonnay (Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon): 100% Estate Chardonnay. Barrel fermented and aged in French oak.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Price: $28

Winderlea Vineyard and Winery
Winderlea Vineyard and Winery, located in Dundee, Oregon, specializes in the limited production of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Winemakers and husband and wife team, Donna Morris and Bill Sweat, spent fourteen months walking thousands of acres of vineyards and tasting hundreds of wines from those vineyards before deciding to establish their winery in Oregon’s Dundee Hills. They relocated from Boston in 2006 and embarked on their second careers. Wine industry veteran Robert Brittan serves as Winderlea’s consulting winemaker.

2010 Winderlea Dundee Hills Pinot Noir (Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon): This “neighborhood cuvee” is now made up of fruit from 5 vineyards on Worden Hill Road, including Winderlea, Ana, Maresh, Jurto and Juliard.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Price: $38

2010 Winderlea Willamette Valley Chardonnay (Willamette Valley, Oregon): 100% Chardonnay, sourced from three vineyards in three AVA’s. Aged in a combination of French Oak Barrels (87%) and Stainless Steel (13%).
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 2 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Price: $36

After the tasting, we adjourned to the lawn for dinner, live music, and more tasting. Then we hopped in a jeep for a vineyard tour before boarding the bus to return to Portland. It was truly a lovely evening in wine country. If you find yourself in Oregon, I highly encourage you to visit the Dundee Hills. You will find excellent wines, wonderful people, and gorgeous scenery.

Cheers!


Filed under: American Wine, Chardonnay, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Oregon Wine, Pinot Noir, Red Wine, Rose Wine, Sparkling Wine, White Wine, Wine Activities/Events, Wine Travel, Wines Over $25, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

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