As a reminder form our previously posted Primer on Willamette Valley AVA and Vintages, Newberg is generally characterized by brown, loamy, sedimentary (Willakenzie) soil that drains better than volcanic soil, resulting in more intense, earthier, darker fruit flavors, with floral elements and subtle tannins and baking spices. 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 Newberg wineries and each of the two Newberg restaurants we visited follow:
- Bergstrom. One of the first wineries to taste many of their 2012 Pinots. Two nice vineyard designates: Le Pre Du Col (dark fruit, earth and smoke), and Silice (bright red fruit with mineral to balance the fruit). Their flagship wine is their Sigrid Chardonnay (very oaky and buttery) was not to our taste.
- Adelsheim. A pleasant 2012 Caitlan’s Reserve Chardonnay (36 percent new oak and no ML), a nice 2011 Calkins Lane Pinot (light fruit, but nice earth) and a lovely 2011 Boulder Bluff Pinot (deeper fruit, well balanced) and a wonderful 2011 Quarter Mile Lane (very restrained dark fruit, mineral, spice–a beautiful wine, but at $105 per bottle, we passed on this one).
- Chehalem. Although we came to Willamette for Pinots, we did enjoy two Chehalem whites: the 2012 Stoller Pinot Blanc and the 2011 Ridgecrest Pinot Gris. We also enjoyed, and bought a lovely 2012 Reserve Pinot.
- Penner-Ash. Althouh we weren’t especially enthused by their multi-vineyard blends, Penner-Ash had caught our attention with its single-vineyard Pinots. While the 2012 Estate Pinot was nice, the Bella Vida Vineyard was elegant, even though it was a bit more fruit-forward than we typically prefer. Meanwhile, the 2011 Hyland was wonderful, with subdued dark fruit and hints of chocolate.
Among the Newberg area wines we tasted and enjoyed (but did to get a chance to buy) at IPNC were the Utopia 2011 Paradise Reserve.
We only had time to visit two Newberg restaurants, one for dinner and one for lunch.
- Jori at The Allison Resort and Spa. What an incredible disappointment. Our dinner experience got off to a great start: a lovely complex and restaurant in a beautiful setting, a table on the deck with a wonderful view and a great sommelier (Ken, who was one of our favorite server at IPNC (ADD LINK) that introduced us to a reasonably priced wine (a 2011 Vista Hills Marylhurst) that precisely met the flavor profile we had requested. Then, one of our two dishes, coriander-crusted albacore tuna with black rice cakes, pickled abalone mushrooms and smoked cashews, was delicious. So what could ruin this experience? A combination of two things. First, the wild Chinook salmon with egg fettuccine, peas and pancetta with a pesto sauce sounded wonderful. We ordered it rare to medium rare. When it arrived medium, we returned it. The replacement took a very long time to come, and when it arrived, it was medium well. So, for the first time in our lives, we returned the same dish rice. The third try also took a long time. When it finally arrived, it certainly wasn’t overcooked. It was raw and the pesto sauce was uninspired. But what the heck, we like sushi. (The woman at the table next to us was lucky. While she specifically ordered her meat with not a touch of pink, it too had to be returned–but only once.) Throughout, and especially after our salmon travails, we barely saw our server. Then after finally getting our check, and waiting close to 15 minutes for her to return to pick it up, we eventually gave up and walked to the front desk to pay our check. Definitely a memorable dining experience: but unfortunately, not for the right reasons.
- Subterra. We stopped here for lunch, where we had a nice three cheese, spicy sausage pizza and a burger (consisting of beef, bacon and short rib) with smoky blue cheese and chicken pate that sounded more interesting than it was. Although it was fine, we ordered it with expectations that were not quite met.