Ahh...Oregon wine season is here!

This week I received the Spring Guide to Oregon Wineries, part of The Oregonian's FOODAY. It took me back to just two Sundays ago to Mother's Day. No, I'm not a mother (although I have recently entertained the idea of getting a pet, and I keep having dreams that I've adopted a white rabbit...hmm.), but I do have a fabulous mother who loves a delicious glass of wine, or two or three. So, what better way to spend Mother's Day than taking a tour through one "wing" of Oregon wine country for some delectable tastings and outstanding views from the tops of our day's chosen wineries?

I heard the knock on my front door at 11:00am. As I opened the door I found my mother standing underneath my doorway overhang in black pin-striped pants, an off-white v-neck sweater with a turquoise lace camisole underneath, celebrity-style sunglasses and a huge smile. Peering over her shoulder, I could see a man sitting in the day's transportation wearing a black jacket and a wool Kangol hat. The man would be our chauffeur for the afternoon. He could also be referred to as the husband of the mother or, simply, my father. My mother and I joined him in the car and we were off.

For Portlanders, or any out-of-town visitors for that matter, who have not visited the wineries located in Dundee at all or it's just been in a while, I'll let you in on a little secret: In addition to great wine, Oregon has a wine country that's views and landscape rival any in the nation, in my opinion. And, just 25 minutes or so west of of downtown Portland, we have it literally at our fingertips. Of course I'll note that Dundee is just one small place outside of the Portland area that offers an abundance of enjoyable wine tastings and great scenery, but it is the spot we chose for our day to hop around. Here's a recap of the wineries we visited and one of my favorite eating stops in Dundee:

Our first stop was Duck Pond Cellars: https://www.duckpondcellars.com/index.php.
This is my mother's favorite, so it was a good kick off to her day. Established in 1993, Duck Pond owns vineyards in both Oregon and Washington. The vineyard is the first stop as you come into Dundee and sits directly off the highway. The grounds at Duck Pond are quaint and offer a quiet outside seating area for visitors to kick back and relax with their tasting glasses or newly purchased bottles of wine. Inside is an open, but cozy, tasting room with plenty of space for visitors to retrieve their samplings. I've learned that when it comes to wineries and tasting rooms, it's hit or miss with finding a winery that hosts a gift shop that holds an array of gifts for both wine and food lovers who like to shop beyond the wine bottle. Duck Pond is in the hit category. After sipping through the day's complimentary flight, I walked away with a bottle of the Desert Wind Ruah, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grown in the Columbia Valley, Washington. My mom walked with two bottles of Duck Pond's 2005 Merlot, which flavor's resemble a rich blend of dried cherries and chocolate.

One tasting down and it was already time for lunch so we continued into Dundee and stopped at the Dundee Bistro: http://dundeebistro.com. Obviously a hot spot for Mother's Day, the bistro was packed, but they were able to squeeze our party of three in on the patio. For lunch we didn't get too crazy and stuck with the basics: two Bistro Caesar salads and one Alaskan Halibut Fish-N-Chips. The caesars were an assembly of fresh, crisp romaine lettuce and tangy caesar dressing (I'd recommend adding grilled chicken or shrimp for those looking for a more substantial dish), and the fish-n-chips boasted three medium-sized, lightly battered halibut with french fries and coleslaw. The light batter was flavorful without being overpowering and the fries...well, I couldn't stop stealing them from my dad's plate.

After our bellies were weighted down a bit, it was time for more wine...yay! We headed off to Archery Summit for our next visit. Well, ok. We planned to stop by Archery Summit next, saw the sign go by at 40 mph and quickly decided Sokol Blosser would be the perfect next stop.

Get ready for the views. We took a right turn off of 99W and onto Sokol Blosser Lane and started our climb up the mountain to some incredible views. Sokol Blosser: http://www.sokolblosser.com/index.html sits in the hills of Dundee and offers a spacious tasting room and a great deck that rests underneath some enormous trees and is filled with tables and chairs for guests to sit and absorb all the valley has to offer. After tasting Sokol Blosser's flight for the day I walked away with a bottle of Meditrina, which is, as the winery describes it, a perfect marriage of Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel that's juicy, rich and full of fruit and reminds some of a slice of Marionberry pie. Mmmmmmm. Try it! At $18 a bottle it's one worth savoring.

Oh, Archery Summit! Why don't we stop there? Easier to get to the second time around, we found our way up Archery Summit road to the prominent and picturesque grounds of the winery. Archery Summit: http://www.archerysummit.com has been producing Oregon world-class Pinot Noir from Dundee Hills since 1993. As the building is somewhat impressive, the actual tasting room is a bit small. And, no complimentary flights here. The day's tasting choices were a $15 flight of, I believe, a variety of four of the winery's least expensive blends, or $40 for a flight of the Rolls-Royce varieties. We decided on the $15 flight, and let me tell you...they were delicious. Our favorite was the 2005 Premier Cuvee Pinot Noir. So smooth and filled with hints of black cherries, currant and pomegranate with a touch of spice. The majority of Archery Summit's wines are not available in stores and require a trip up to the winery for purchasing. The Premier Cuvee, however, is offered outside the winery. (I found it at Whole Foods at Bridgeport Village for $47 a bottle).

Our last stop of the day was a spot I came to back in January for a dear friend's birthday celebration. It was cold in January and there was a bit of snow on the ground at the winery. Such a memorable venue for a special occasion. The spot is De Ponte Cellars: http://depontecellars.com. With an unpretentious vibe, great wine and an unbelievably friendly staff, De Ponte was our favorite stop of the day. Aaron, the winery manager, greeted us as we walked in the large tasting room, which overlooks the winery's oak barrel room. I remember Aaron from my visit back in January and much to my surprise he remembered me and the birthday dinner party guests fondly. I remember Aaron speaking to a group of us he took on a winery tour back in January. He mentioned the winery's excitement in welcoming its new winemaker from France. I asked if she had arrived yet and sure enough, she was on the back patio talking with some guests. We took our glass with our first tasting and headed out back. I have to say that the wrap-around deck at De Ponte offers incredible views of the Dundee Hills and a relaxing atmosphere for visitors. Once I stepped outside I remember thinking that I could go get my laptop, bring it back out to the winery and write all day long...with a bottle of wine to keep me company, of course. We were able to speak with Isabelle, the winemaker, for a bit and enjoy--as well as appreciate--the hard work that goes into making the finest wine. Heading out from our visit, my mother walked away with the Clay Hill Dundee Hills 2005 Pinot Noir. A very smooth, soft Pinot Noir for everyday drinking. It retails at $24 a bottle.

It was our first wine tour of the season and it made for a great Mother's Day. It was nice to see my mother enjoy all the different wineries and varieties. And a special thanks to my dad for driving. It's something many may not think about, but even if you're tasting here and there, a designated driver is a must.

I hope you get out and enjoy Oregon wine country during the Memorial Day weekend winery celebrations. If not this weekend, then soon. We have a great gift in the hills of the Willamette Valley that is too good to pass up!



Curious: adj. eager to learn or know something

As I embark on the exploration of the culinary world there is a myriad of topics my curiosity is dying to dig deep to find the answers to. For example; Exactly how many varieties of salt are there in the world? Which type of salt do you use for what dish? What is the difference between a $6.99 bottle of extra virgin olive oil from Italy and a $37.00 bottle of extra virgin olive oil...yes, also from Italy? How many different types of mushrooms are there? How did the early discoverers know which types of mushrooms were poisonous and which ones weren't? Was it a game of mushroom Russian roulette or is there a way to tell just by inspecting them?

These questions and many more to soon be answered. I'm just so curious. Are you?
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