Categories: Food+Drink

Exemplary Wine Tours and Tastings in the Willamette Valley

There are winery tours and tastings and then there are winery TOURS and TASTINGS. These personalized, private, sit down, food paired super tours are showing up in some of Oregon’s premium wineries including Domaine Serene, Domaine Drouhin, WillaKenzie Estate, Bergström, Adelsheim and Archery Summit. These are more than just tastings and tours; they are heightened wine experiences that dive into the heart of winemaking, comparative tastings and even food pairings. Each private tasting and tour is limited to an intimate number of people to ensure a personalized experience. They range in price from $30-$75, and most places offer discounts or waived fees for their wine club members. They are available by reservation only and take place just a few times a day (sometimes only a few days a week). Affordable and wholly enjoyable, this is the way to do wine country. Two stand-outs in the crowd are Domaine Serene’s series of tasting options and Domaine Drouhin’s comparative experience.

At 900 feet above sea level, Domaine Serene looks out over its vineyards and several other vineyards of the Willamette Valley. Aside from beautiful wines and a stunning view, they offer three prestigious tasting experiences outside of their standard. Their private Seated Tasting is offered three times a day, seven days a week and gives guests a chance to experience the wine with a dedicated member of their staff on hand to answer questions and tell the story.

The VIP Tour takes guests through the winemaking facility, followed by a sit-down tasting of some of their smaller production wines, along with cheese pairings from local producers such as Briar Rose Creamery.

Taking it one step further is the Epicurean Experience, their most in-depth look at in-house wines. The tour starts at the winery’s crush pad and sometimes (depending on the weather) steps into the vineyard. It continues into the fermentation and barrel rooms, going over the entire winemaking process from start to finish and delves into the history of the winery. The tour finishes with a flight of wines paired with gourmet small bites by Chef Eric Lenard of Portland’s Vineyard Events. “The menu is seasonal and changes quite often; dependent on seasonal ingredients and the wine release,” noted Lucas Willett, Hospitality Manager for Domaine Serene. Here is an excerpt from a recent pairing menu:

Smoked Blue Marlin

with shaved fennel and rose petal salad

Wine: 2010 Coeur Blanc

Wild Mushroom Crostini

with Briar Rose Creamery chevre and local hazelnuts

Wine: 2009 Winery Hill Pinot Noir

Orange Cardamom Truffles

by Xocolatl de David

Wine: 2009 Etoile Vineyard Chardonnay

For a look at old world vs. new world wines, Domaine Drouhin offers the Drouhin Experience Winery Tour. For Domaine Drouhin, private tours are not a new thing, it was their first thing. The winery itself, which was founded in 1998, didn’t “officially” open for appointments until 2002. Those appointments were private tours of the winery that concluded with a tasting. In 2004, they opened their tasting room but continued to offer private tours a few times each day.

Then, in 2005, they introduced their comparative look at Oregon Chardonnay vs. Chablis (French Chardonnay). “That comparison was incredibly successful, so in the summer of 2006 we added the Pinot Noir comparison. Since then, we’ve never looked back,” said Ashley Bell, Domaine Drouhin’s Director of Sales and Education continuing, “We always serve a Chablis, generally a village or premier cru level. The Pinot changes on a more regular basis. We have served the village level Pommard, Santenay, Gevrey Chambertin, Vosne-Romanee and Chorey-les-Beaune in the past.” In other words, French for delicious.

The Drouhin Experience is unique from other tours because it looks not only at Oregon and the history of the Drouhin family in Oregon but also in Burgundy, France, where the family began making wine in 1880 and still does to this day. The tour itself takes guests through their gravity flow winery and discusses the production method for Chardonnay and Pinot noir, the ways they are the same in France, and the things that are done differently for our specific fruit in Oregon. After making their way through the winery, guests sit down for a tasting comparing five wines, including Chardonnay and Pinot noir from Drouhin Oregon and France, paired with a selection of fine cheeses.

Whether you are interested in learning more about winemaking; seeing the inner-workings of the wineries you love; tasting small production, hard-to-find and rare wines; learning about the difference between French Pinot noir and Oregon Pinot noir; or just up for a little adventure, these super tours will aim to please and they will certainly satisfy.

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Tags: Wine

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