DISCOVERING THE WILLAMETTE VALLEY'S WINE HISTORY AT ADELSHEIM VINEYARD
Wine, wine the magical fruit…that is made all over the world, on almost every continent, and has a variety of sweetness, acidity, tannin, alcohol, and body.
What could be better during the cold winter months (here in the northern hemisphere) than being curled up in a blanket with a beautiful glass of red wine? Red wine not your thing? Being curled up (preferably by a fire) during the winter months with a glass of wine in hand is pretty amazing no matter the varietal.
When you think of wine and the US many people will immediately go to California – Sonoma and Napa to be more specific. But if you take a slightly deeper dive into the history of this delightful beverage in the US, or if you have even a little bit of oenophile in you, then a couple other regions will also come to mind.
There’s something for everyone no matter where you are based.
TIP TO NOTE:
When visiting Oregon’s Willamette Valley, you must have at least one Pinot Noir tasting on your list. This is after all what the region is known for. There are more than 1,300 wineries and vineyards spread throughout the valley making it the perfect year-round getaway for the wine novice or master. This may seem overwhelming to some but the good part about this is you known there will be something that will satisfy exactly what you are looking for.
If you’ve booked a trip to Oregon, and have Willamette Valley wine tastings on your list, my suggestion would be that you start with Adelsheim Vineyard. Why? Because it is one of the valley’s shining Pinot Noir stars, and one of the founders, David Adelsheim, is one of the early pioneers of Oregon Pinot Noir.
THE HISTORY OF ADELSHEIM
Adelsheim (both a vineyard and a winery) was founded almost 50 years ago by David and Ginny Adelsheim. The journey began in the 1970s when David Adelsheim purchased 19 acres in the northern part of the Willamette Valley. He was able to build an impressive reputation for himself with his perfectly finessed Pinot Noirs.
David also recognized that for the future success of the industry all of the growers and winemakers needed to aim for the highest quality. It was because of this that he helped write Oregon’s labeling regulations and set up the system of how grapevine clones from Europe are imported.
It was this passion for winemaking and the impeccable quality of his wine that brought Adelsheim where it is today – six diverse estate vineyards in the Chehalem Mountains (totaling 180 acres), and an annual production of almost 43,000 sustainably made cases each year!
The ‘best of the best’ wines come out of Adelsheim’s varying estate sites ranging from big to small, higher elevations to lower elevations, volcanic soils and sedimentary soils. From the diverse terroir, to the philosophies the vineyard runs on, it’s clear Adelsheim values the need to continually evolve and discover new techniques to best highlight their wines characteristics.
GET A LITTLE “OFF THE RADAR”
Sharing places that are slightly off the radar when it comes to the more popular touristy locations is my mission in life. It’s this, coupled with also being highly aware of eco-tourism and making sure that what I experience has been done sustainability, that fueled the beginning of SDW.
When I set off on my travels both in both my home continent of North America and overseas, I am always on the lookout to discover the lesser known spots, and this was no exception when it came to Oregon’s wine region.
Adelsheim is one such place, not because today it is more well known and comes up easily in a Google search, but mainly because it was founded in a cool climate area of the Willamette Valley that was previously undiscovered, The Chehalem Mountains. The initial optimistic spirit Adelsheim was founded on can still be found in its idyllic location.
Back in the fall my friend and I were able to have truly holistic vine to glass visit lead by Wine Educator Elizabeth at Adelsheim, who took us step by step through all about the delicious wine and food we tasted.
The drive out to Adelsheim was the first thing I fell in love with. Typically, when heading out into Oregon’s wine region you pass by farms, agricultural land, and fir forests. The Chehalem Mountains are completely different because you get to see a variety in the environment, horses, goats, donkeys and even alpacas!
As you walk up to Adelsheim’s entrance from the parking lot you feel as though you have been transported to Europe. The stone architecture, the peaceful atmosphere of the vineyard, the warm sun beating down on you. It could not be more perfect.
EDUCATIONAL FUN FACTS:
You can have a more in-depth learning experience through Adelsheim’s Vineyard Bites picnic package and/or Wine + Cheese tasting
If you want something a little more themed Adelsheim also has seasonal events
They are also developing a series of educational videos you can watch from the coziness of your couch
Our wine adventure started in Adelsheim’s tasting room, which also happens to be open almost year round (360 days to be exact). My friend is the definition of a hard core oenophile (who also happens to be married to a chef), and I would be what you call a consistently curious drink lover and foodie who is always looking for her next immersive tasting experience. I may not retain every single piece of information that is presented to me but I love it all just the same. Either way, we both were very interested in learning more about Adelsheim’s origins and process when it came to the delicious wines we were able to taste, and the amazing food pairings we also consumed.
After starting out with a welcome glass Elizabeth (our “wine guide” as I like to call her) lead us outside to walk through the vineyards and get a closer look at the grapes and how Adelsheim both grows and produces its wine. It was super cute to see little baby vines in their earliest stages, waited to be planted, as well as actual bunches of grapes hanging from the vines. We were even allowed to sample a couple of grapes straight from the vine, and all I can say is I would actually prefer that all grapes tasted like that when you buy them from the store haha.
After walking through the vineyards, getting some awesome views, and saying hello to the horses on the property behind the vineyard we headed back to the tasting room for our curated pairing experience.
(SO MUCH) MORE THAN JUST A WINE TASTING
Now I don’t want to give too much away when it comes to what you can experience at Adelsheim, after all I want you to be inspired to seek it out on your next visit to Oregon, but if you take any piece of advice it would be to treat yourself to the larger Cheese + Wine Experience during your visit! Sure, it’s perfectly fine to taste a handful of their wines, but when you stumble upon a place as beautiful as this it would be a shame to not get the holistic experience and stay as long as you possibly can.
The Cheese + Wine Experience encompasses 5 pairings, and during our time at Adelsheim Elizabeth surprised us with an additional tasting.
**Item to note: I have been very open about my lactose intolerance. In general I do not consume dairy products, but this was an exception in which I took a ton of dairy pills prior to the tasting**
2015 Staking Claim Chardonnay
w/ Briar Rose Creamery Butterbloom cheese, sliced radishes, chive oil and sea salt
Notes: The wine was surprisingly well bodied for a chardonnay.
2014 Ribbon Springs Pinot Noir
w/ 2-year aged cheddar pimento spread from Face Rock Creamery & cherry tomato gazpacho
Notes: The cherry tomato gazpacho was to DIE for! This Pinot Noir was a light and well balanced in its flavor.
2015 Quarter Mile Lane Pinot Noir
w/ Hannah cow/sheep milk cheese from Ancient Heritage Creamery, and Olympia Provisions chorizo with Catalan Picada
Notes: The original owner David Adelsheim purchased and tested the grapes that are used for this varietal. The current varietal is based off of his passion and style of the original wine. There was a more diverse flavor in this wine (it spends 9 months in the barrel), and it’s a perfect mirror of the season.
2013 Calkins Lane Pinot Noir
w/ local Chévre cheese (goat cheese) coated in thyme and toasted hazelnuts, with a tart cherry gastrique
Notes: This was part of our “mini vertical” throughout the tasting, where we compared three different Pinots. Cherry was one of the elements that I was able to taste within this Pinot.
2015 Caitlin’s Reserve Chardonnay
w/ By George Creamery’s Dutchman’s Peak cheese on crostini and glazed apricot preserves
Notes: Once we made it to this point of the tasting we were able to compare both of the Chardonnays we had, had, and Elizabeth made the prettiest little crostini with edible flowers!
6th (surprise) tasting:
2015 Breaking Ground Pinot Noir
One of my more recent ambitions, and I guess goals so to speak, is to really make time to visit more of the major wine making regions in the US.
So far I’ve only been able to visit New York’s North Fork and Oregon’s Willamette Valley, but luckily both of them have been easy to get to from where I had been living at the time. For me this is a big thing when it comes to travel – how much effort it will take to get somewhere.
Following our lovely experience at Adelsheim I definitely have been inspired to discover more great Oregon vineyards and wineries, but to also take my wine adventures a little farther north and south. Next up on the agenda is California’s wine region of Sonoma and Napa, and my eyes are on Washington’s Puget Sound and Walla Walla Valley in the spring and summer.
No matter where you go along the West Coast, but more specifically in Oregon, whether you’re a local or are just visiting, a trip out to wine country is completely doable (and necessary) – and will keep you entertained for days!
BIG thank you to Jenica at Lawrence PR for setting up our visit, and to Elizabeth at Adelsheim for giving us the best tour and tasting we could have asked for!