One of the best things about living in Oregon is that we are surrounded by abundant farms and vineyards. Since moving here more than a decade ago, supporting our local winemakers has been a part of life, with or without kids in tow.
In part two of this two-part wine series, I’m excited to share more about the six wonderful eco-friendly Oregon wineries I’ve visited this past year, as well as highlight a few special wines we’ll be savoring this holiday season.
First, before we dive in, did you know that Oregon is among the top five wine producers in the United States, and according to Travel Oregon has the highest percentage of third-party, certified-sustainable grape growers of any region in the world? For a brief introduction to Oregon’s wine, click here for a downloadable brochure (which includes a map of the wine-growing regions of Oregon), and you can also download or order a free Oregon Wine Touring Guide!
And now, on to the amazing eco-friendly Oregon wineries we have visited recently, and will be returning to again and again.
Lemelson Vineyards (organic)
Website | Directions | Carlton, OR (Yamhill-Carlton)
A few months ago during a spontaneous road trip through the Yamhill-Carlton region, we called ahead to Lemelson Vineyards and were quickly and graciously accommodated on their lovely patio with our two children and dog in tow. We enjoyed a relaxing tasting of five of their estate-grown wines and learned a bit about the winery from the knowledgeable server. Lemelson Vineyards specializes in estate-grown pinot noir, pinot gris, chardonnay, and riesling utilizing organic farming methods and gravity flow production.
I also found it interesting that Eric Lemelson, winery owner, is involved with several charitable foundations, is an environmental lawyer and climate change and energy policy activist, and a builder of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) buildings. Shop online here.
What we brought home…
Lemelson Vineyard 2017 Stermer Vineyard Pinot Noir (Yamhill-Carlton)
From the label: “When you open this bottle, you share the results of our commitment to producing complex, elegant pinot noir using sustainable farming methods that preserve and enhance the unique attributes of our vineyards. We sense nature’s magic in our wines.”
We are planning to enjoy this with our “feast of the seven fishes” on Christmas day. (We have no Italian ancestry but are “adoptive” Italians at heart. And the feast follows a traditional Scandinavian smorgasbord on Christmas eve.)
Lemelson Vineyard 2017 Dry Riesling (Dundee Hills)
I am not a big fan of the sweet wines, and I do enjoy a dry riesling especially paired with Asian foods. I may hold on to this one until New Year’s eve, when we often enjoy takeout and a break from cooking (if I can wait that long).
Antiquum Farm (grazing-based viticulture practices)
Website | Directions | Junction City, OR (Eugene area) | $40 per person
This past spring, we experienced a beautiful private tour and tasting at Antiquum Farm with another couple, situated on their lovely patio due to COVID-19 restrictions at the time. Andrew Bandy-Smith, the winemaker and general manager, spent so much time with us thoughtfully answering questions and then taking us on a tour into the vineyard which included meeting the resident farm dogs, KuneKune pigs, sheep, and a variety of fowl.
Antiquum does not carry specific certifications nor use them in labeling, but their grapes are farmed using organic materials (sulfur and stylet oil for mildew control) and grazing-based viticulture is an important ecological practice at the farm. (Please refer to part one of this two-part series, Why You Should Consider Supporting Organic, Biodynamic, and Eco-Friendly Winemakers, for more on why certifications should not be the only factor while choosing which wineries to support.) Shop online here.
What we brought home…
Antiquum Farm Alium 2019 Willamette Valley Pinot Gris
From the label: “Alium explores another depth of expression from our ever-evolving pinot gris vineyard. Thirty days of skin maceration roots alium in an earthbound tone and bends Antiquum Farm’s tropicality toward an herbaceous and savory character.”
Antiquum Farm Aurosa 2019 Willamette Valley Pinot Gris
Pinot gris is often a great match with Thanksgiving fare, and we will be enjoying this one with our Thanksgiving feast or our “feast of the seven fishes” over Christmas.
From the label: ““We farm without fertilizers or outside influences. Sheep, chickens, geese, and pigs graze the vineyard, nourishing the vines in a system we call grazing-based viticulture. This emphatically alive and exuberant vineyard yields intensely expressive wines of an individualistic spirit.”
Civic Winery & Wines (organic and biodynamic)
Website | Directions | Eugene, OR
If you are in the Eugene area or are visiting the southern Willamette Valley wine region, make sure to stop by this urban winery project, which focuses on organic and biodynamic grape growing and processing. Civic Winery & Wines makes natural wine with minimal intervention (under its label) and is only one of a few wineries with a core focus on fermenting and aging in clay vessels. Their wines can be found in New York, California, Seattle, and Portland. They also have a wine bar with local and international natural wines and a talented chef in the kitchen. Shop online here (curbside available for Eugene residents).
What we brought home…
Civic Winery 2020 Amphora Pet-Nat
This is a special wine, classified as white but amber in color, made with chenin blanc and pinot noir grapes. We’ve enjoyed it with Thanksgiving fare in the past. Unfortunately it is now sold out, but there are many wonderful alternatives for sale in the Civic shop. (Plus a new 2021 release will be available in the new year.)
About the wine from the website: “Johan Vineyard is a certified biodynamic vineyard sitting at the furthest eastern reaches of the Van Duzer Corridor. Planted at lower elevation in the path of cool Pacific wind, grapes ripen slowly, gaining flavor and retaining acidity. Farmer Elise Hansen now manages the vineyard as well as the farm, having worked with former manager Dan Rinke. She continues the commitment to regenerative agriculture.”
King Estate Winery (organic and certified Biodynamic®)
Website | Directions | Eugene, OR (Southern Willamette Valley)
Breathtaking King Estate Winery, North America’s largest certified Biodynamic® vineyard, is a top destination for wine lovers touring the southern Willamette Valley. I’ll admit, after a few initial visits shortly after we moved to Oregon, we pivoted to alternatives that were more picnic and kid-friendly, but I returned this fall with a couple of friends and we had an outstanding experience. There’s a delicious restaurant on site (with estate-sourced ingredients), and you can enjoy sweeping views of the estate from the spacious patio while you savor your wines. King Estate has been organic since 2002 and Biodynamic® since 2016. Shop online here.
What we brought home…
King Estate 2016 High Wire
From the website: “The deep garnet red color in the glass opens up to blackberry, cassis, tea leaves and baked bread on the nose. In the mouth the wine is fleshy with soft tannins and a balanced weight that finishes long and round. Enjoy now and at least through 2031.”
I wish I could have brought this one home, it was so delicious, but sadly it was out of my price range. I savored a marvelous glass at the vineyard, though.
King Estate 2016 “Mountain Blocks Vineyard Designate” Rose of Pinot Noir
From the label: “Harvested between 800 and 1,200 feet in elevation, these Pinot Noir grapes have a unique balance of perfect ripeness and fresh acidity.”
While I usually enjoy a chilled rosé during the summer months, I think it can be lovely with a variety of Thanksgiving dishes as well, so we’ll be pulling this one out to share with family back on Whidbey this holiday season.
Troon Vineyard (Biodynamic® and Regenerative Organic® Certified)
Website | Directions | Grants Pass, OR (+ new McMinnville wine bar!)
Last fall, we took a spontaneous road trip down to Southern Oregon to see old friends who were visiting Ashland, and we decided to meet for a fall foliage hike and a winery or two afterward in the Applegate Valley. I don’t remember where we heard about Troon Vineyard, other than a search (and we were excited that it was organic and Biodynamic®), and we were pleased with our visit. The estate boasts beautiful views of the surrounding Siskiyou Mountains, and our party including four kids and two dogs was welcomed on the patio with short notice. We loved the wines so much that we brought two special bottles home to enjoy over the holidays.
What we brought home…
Troon Vineyard 2020 Pét Tannat
From the website: “Our Pét tanNat is a distinctive pét nat crafted exclusively from our Estate Tannat, this naturally bottle-fermented sparkling wine is made in the ultra-brut style — the driest of the dry. Richly flavored and complex with just that touch of rustic, authentic charm that defines pétillant natural.”
Bubbly, golden, and dry: we could imagine popping this one for a variety of special holiday meals (and ended up pulling it out for New Year’s).
Troon Vineyard 2020 Piquette
From the website: “(Piquette) is many things, but basically it is frugal farmer fizz, a type of natural wine that has been made for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Those frugal farmers wasted nothing and used the juice and skins left after pressing the wines they would sell to make wine for themselves and their workers. Today we have recaptured that spirit, which fits in so well with our biodynamic style of agriculture… The resulting sparkling wine is a delight. Fresh and fizzy with bright fruit flavors.”
Wooldridge Creek Winery, Creamery, and Charcuterie
Website | Directions | Grants Pass, OR
After a beautiful fall hike, we were pleased to make Wooldridge Creek Winery, Creamery, and Charcuterie our first stop in the Applegate, Oregon’s first winery and creamery. Our larger party with children and two dogs was welcomed on the spacious patio with beautiful views of the surrounding Applegate Valley, and we enjoyed handcrafted wines, artisan cheeses (made from local organic milk), and charcuterie. I later learned that the upper vineyard was homesteaded by the family in the 1870s and the creek that runs through it provides an important wildlife corridor. The property is also a sustainable winery and vineyard and certified salmon safe. Shop online here.
(The wines here were lovely, but this visit for us was centered around the cheeses and charcuterie and we did not purchase bottles to bring home.)
Now that I have begun my exploration of some of Oregon’s wineries that are committed to a more natural approach to winemaking, I can’t wait to continue my exploration and welcome your comments below about favorites I should add to my list.
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