As a reminder form our previously posted Primer on Willamette Valley AVA and Vintages, the Dundee Hills AVA is generally characterized by red volcanic (Jory) soil which holds heat, resulting in deep, red cherry and plum-based fruit-focused wines with iron-based minerality and spices such as cinnamon, clove and cardamom.
Of the three vintages we tasted:
- 2011 had wetter, cooler weather, resulting in leaner wines whose acidity will allow them to age well.
- 2012 was hot, resulting in deeper flavors, rounder textures, somewhat higher alcohol levels and wines that drink well now, but will not age as well. Even so, the conditions were so good that winemakers would have to really work to produce a bad wine.
- 2013 was harmed by late season rains that ravaged grapes, slashed yields and will prove to be a test of winemakers’ skill and adaptability.
Brief overviews of the Dundee Hills area wineries and the one Dundee restaurant we visited follow:
Dundee Hills Area Wineries
- Alexana. We had tasted and bought a lovely (albeit expensive) 2012 Alexana Pommard Single Clone Estate Pinot when we tasted it at Alexana’s Napa-based sister winery, Revanna. Based on this experience, we were anxious to taste Alexana’s other wares. Although some of these wines, including a 2013 Revana Vineyard Estate Riesling were nice, we wee less impressed by the winery’s other Pinots.
- The Four Graces. This winery, which we had heard of, but had never tasted, turned out to be one of the absolute favorites of our five days of Pinot tasting. We enjoyed the 2012 Willamette Valley blend, loved the 2012 Dundee Hills Reserve and were bowled over by the bold 2012 Yamhill Carlton, with its dark fruit soft tannins and subtle spices. And at $45, it was also one of the best bargains in the valley. We shall return!
- Le Cadeau. And speaking of winners, we found another at a winery that we had wanted to try, but had not had a chance. What a wonderful line up of elegant Pinots. Among our favorites were the: 2011 Aubichon Vista Hills Pinot Gris, the 2011 Aubichon Willamette Valley Pinot, the 2010 Rocheaux Pinot and both the 2011 and 2012 Equinoxe Pinots. In other words, just about everything we tasted.
- Archery Summit. We ended up with a case during our previous visit. And despite some warnings that the winery had lost ifs step, our only regret is that we had to limit ourselves to a single case. So, we settled on a combination of the 2012 Vireton Pinot Gris, the 2011 and 2012 Looney Vineyard Ribbon Ridge Pinots and the 2012 Premier Cuvée.
- Hyland Estates. The 2011 Founders’ Selection Pinot was wonderful, although at $100 per bottle, it should be. The surprise came from much lower in Hyland’s Pinot lineup–the very elegant $35 2009 Estate Pinot. A real find.
- Domaine Serene. Although we typically love their wines, we were not especially enthused with the 2011s they were currently tasting.
- Domaine Drouhin. Another of our traditional favorites. At this tasting, we most enjoyed the lightly oaked 2012 Chardonnay Arthur and the 2011 Edition Limited Dundee Hills, which will be lovely in about five years.
- Sokol Blosser. We enjoyed two of their Dundee Hills Pinots, the 2010 and 2011.
- Fox Farm. We enjoyed and bought the 2011 Ribbon Ridge Reserve.
- Vista Hills. Although we weren’t especially impressed by the entry-level Treehouse wines, we did enjoy two of its 2011 Vineyard designates: the Marylhurst and the Piedmont (the latter of which was made by Le Cadeau, from Vista Hills’ fruit).
- Winery Hill. our tastes again turned to a 2011 Vineyard designate (the Two Barns Vineyard Pinot) and to an interesting Pinot/Syrah blend named Grand Cheval.
- Winter’s Hill. We particularly liked two of its Pinots: the 2009 Cuvée du Vigneron and the 2010 Reserve.
- R. Stuart. Although we enjoyed a number of these wines, the high-end Autograph stood out. Although we certainly enjoyed the 2012, we particularly liked the 2009
- Panther Creek. We especially enjoyed three of its Dundee sourced Pinots: its 2002, 2010 and 2011 Shea Vineyards.
- Angela Estate, which makes only one Pinot (where we enjoyed its 2011 Estate Pinot (which was made by Ken Wright), a sparking rose (named Graham Beck) and a Rutherford Cab (named Stallion).
- White Rose. This is supposed to be one of the hottest Pinot makes in the valley. Although we did like some of their wines (especially the 2011 White Rose Vineyard), we did not see it as as $95 bottle.
Among the Dundee Hills area wines that we tried and enjoyed (but did not get a chance to buy) at IPNC were the Dominio IV 2011 Chehalem Hills Mulberry Street, and the Westrey 2012 Cuvée 20.
We had time to visit only one Dundee restaurants. Unlike with the case with our two Newberg restaurants, we were pleased with the one that was most recommended to us:
- Tina’s. Although the service was not especially practiced, it was a very nice meal. We began with pan-fried oysters with sorrel mayonnaise, and then two entrees. The huge rack of lamb (eight ribs) was cooked perfectly and served with a sweet pepper sauce. The more unusual dish was a goat cheese soufflé with tomato sauce (which was interesting with the soufflé in small dabs, but whose acid could easily overwhelm the delicate soufflé). We enjoyed all three dishes as well as the 2011 Eversham Wood Le Puits Sec Pinot.