Yamhill-Carlton is at the northern end of the Willamette Valley Oregon, while Eola-Amity Hills is at the southern end. Given the diversity in the Valley among these two AVAs, one might expect the wines from each to differ greatly, as do those from the contiguous Newberg and Dundee Hills AVAs. Surprisingly, while the soil types differ, the weather among all Willamette Valley AVAs (unlike that of the weather within the individual AVAs in Napa Valley), is quite similar.
- Yamhill-Carlton also has sedimentary soil and, since it is in a rain shadow, has a drier climate, resulting in dark fruited wines that are relatively floral and spicy.
- Eola-Amity Hills’ Jory basalt soils, overlaid with Nekia red clay, combined with the area’s particularly cool afternoon breezes, help produce bigger, darker wines with darker fruits.
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 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.
The wineries in the AVA that we visited were:
- Carlton WInemaker’s Studio. This facility is something of an incubator for aspiring winemakers who can use the studio’s facilities for making their own wine. Winemakers supply only the grapes, the barrels, and the labor. They get low-cost access to the studio’s crush, fermentation, bottling, and tasting and sales capabilities at a low cost. The studio’s graduates include Penner-Ash and Eric Hamacher., It offers tastings and sales of members’ wines. Among the Pinot Noirs we tried and enjoyed were the 2010 Dukes Alssa, 2011 Bacheldoer Johnson, and especially the 2010 Hamacher Signature.
- Ken Wright Cellars. Wright is a legend in the Willamette wine industry. He is famous for pioneering vineyard-designated wines. We tried four particularly enjoying his 2010 Abbott Claim and Freedom Hills Pinot Noirs. The downside is that his wines are expensive (over $6o per bottle, and available only in prepackaged single wine six-packs).
- Willakenzie Estate. Another of our sweepstakes winners, where we enjoyed (and bought) virtually every Pinot we tasted. These were the 2012 Gisele and 2011 Jory Hills. vineyard, both of which we enjoyed and expected to buy before we tasted three others; the 2011 Kiana, Pierre Leon and especially the premium Triple Black Slopes.
- Beaux Freres. We enjoyed the 2007 and 2009 Beaux Freres Vineyard and the relatively bargain-priced ($60) 2012 Willamette Valley.
- Patricia Green Cellars, which combined 15-20 tastings of not yet-released barrel samples (of which the sell futures) and current releases. We were so impressed that we bought some of each. These included futures of the 2013 Dundee Hills Balcombe Vineyard Block 18, Chehalem Mountain Olenik Vineyard Wadensvil Block, Eola-Amity Hills Freedom Hill Vineyard Pommard Clone Block, Freedom Hill Vineyard Coury Clone Block, and current releases of the 2012 Dundee Hills Durante Vineyard Madrone Block, the Eola-Amity Hills Freedom Hill Pommard clone the flagship multi-vineyard Notorious.
Among the Yamhill-Carlton wines we tasted and enjoyed (but did not have a chance to buy) at IPNC were the Andrew Rich 2011 Knife’s Edge, and the Anne Amie 2011 Twelve Oaks Chehalem Mountain.
Eola-Amity Hills and McMinnville Wineries
The wineries in this AVA, and the neighboring McMinnville AVA that we visited were:
- Cristom Vineyards is another of our long-term favorites. While we tasted a number of their library wines at a Pre-IPNC (International Pinot Noir Celebration) dinner , we also tasted (and bought) some of their current releases. Among our favorites were the 2013 Pinot Gris and the 2011 Sommers Reserve and Loise Vineyards Pinot Noirs.
- Evening Land Vineyards. Two of this vintner’s 2011 hit our Pinot Noir buy list were the Seven Springs Vineyard, and especially the Seven Springs Vineyard La Source.
- Eola Hills Wine Cellars. Although its Pinot Noirs were not especially to our taste, we really enjoyed two of its dessert wines: the 2012 Vin d’Epice Late Harvest Gewürztraminer and the pineapple-flavored 2012 Vin d’Or Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc.
- Eversham Wood Vineyard. Although we were not able to visit the winery (the small staff was out of town when we were available), we did try, and enjoy, a 2011 Le Puits Sec Pinot Noir with one of our dinners.
- R. Stuart. Although we enjoyed a number of these wines, the high-end Autograph stood out. And although we certainly enjoyed the 2012, we particularly liked the 2009.
We also enjoyed a number of the Eola-Amity Hills wines from wineries in other regions (including Patricia Green) and tried a number of others in individual IPNC tastings. These included Evening Lands 2012 Seven Springs (which was being tasted, but has not yet been released), the Illahe Estate 2011 Reserve, the 2012 King Estate Backbone, and the Scott Paul 2012 Audrey.
Although we spent three days and four nights in McMinnville, our time was almost total occupied by IPNC. We only had time to visit only one McMinnville restaurant. And since every person we asked recommended Nick’s Italian Cafe, we had no choice in the matter.
The housemade meatballs with tomato sauce and parmesan cheese were all meat and good (at least after having them reheated to be at least warm). The gorgonzola and pear pizza with caramelized onions was as advertised. While it was done perfectly, we weren’t excited by the combination. That, however, was more due to our tastes, rather than Nick’s preparation.