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My Wine is Single!

Oregon wine lovers are fortunate to live in an area with so many great vineyards as well as great wineries. Many vineyard owners do not produce wine from their fruit, rather they sell their grapes to wineries. Many of these wines are bottled as "single vineyard designates."

One of my favorite things to do is taste wines from the same vintage, same vineyard site, different producer. This shows you two things. First, it shows the characteristics of the vineyard site itself. Second, it shows off the individual style of the winemakers who produce wines from the fruit.

I did this recently with my monthly wine group and our special guests, Dick and Diedre Shea. We blind tasted six Shea Vineyard designates from six different producers. It was great fun to taste the vineyard similarity in each wine as well as the difference in each one due to the winemakers influence.

Here are the wines we tasted in order of how the group rated them:

2001 Patricia Green Cellars – Shea Vineyard
2002 Ken Wright Cellars – Shea Vineyard
2000 Raptor Ridge - Shea Vineyard
2001 Stevenson-Barrie - Shea Vineyard
2000 Panther Creek - Shea Vineyard
2000 St. Innocent - Shea Vineyard

Interesting to note that the Stevenson-Barrie and Panther Creek finished back to back. Both are made by Michael Stevenson. They are two totally different wines – the Panther Creek was a bit more elegant while the Stevenson-Barrie was bolder declaring “Here I am!”. This tasting made me think about the various vineyards who sell their grapes to Oregon wineries. Let’s take a look at some of Oregon’s great vineyard sites.

Shea Vineyard

The most recognized vineyard name in Oregon is Shea Vineyard. With 11 wineries producing wines from Shea fruit, the 200-acre vineyard rules. The wineries producing Shea Vineyard designates are (in alphabetical order) Beaux Freres, Ken Wright Cellars, Panther Creek Cellars, Patricia Green Cellars, Raptor Ridge (who received a 93-point score for their 2000 Shea Pinot Noir), Shea Wine Cellars, Sine Qua Non (the only California producer of Shea designates), Stevenson-Barrie, St. Innocent and Westrey Wine Company.

Dick and Dierdre Shea's vineyard was planted in 1989. The Sheas, along with their sons Owen and Peter, came to Oregon from Connecticut. The vineyard ranges from 400 to 600 feet in elevation and actually does have its own micro-climate. Vineyard Manger Javier Marin and staff tend the vineyard.

Four Winds Vineyard

West of McMinnville, near the Coast Range, you will find Four Winds Vineyard. Owned and planted (in 1994) by Jon Steinhart and Julie Donnely, the site imparts its terrior into the grapes produced there. The vineyard sits at approximately 700 feet and is a combination of Nokia and Jory soils. The site is planted with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Wines produced from Four Winds grapes tend to more closely mirror French Burgundies, rather than Oregon Pinot Noir. They are earthy, gamey and barnyardy. At this time, the only winery, to my knowledge, making wines with Four Winds fruit, is Patricia Green Cellars. They make both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from this vineyard. PGC also manages the vineyard with the expert care of PGC Vineyard Manager Jose' Garcia.

Corral Creek Vineyard

Corral Creek was planted in 1983 by John and Diane Howieson, founders of Veritas Winery. In 1995 Chehalem Winery purchased the vineyard and winery. The vineyard is 25 acres predominantly planted to Pinot Noir, significant grafts of Dijon chardonnay and Pinot Gris have been made at the vineyard, but not touching a 1.1-acre block of 15-year-old Riesling nestled on a low bench above Corral Creek.

The soil composition is Laurelwood, a predominantly sedimentary soil that, although being low in elevation, is well drained. The vineyard is visible to all who travel along Highway 99W through Newberg. It is located right next to the road across from Rex Hill Vineyards. In addition to Chehalem - Andrew Rich, Wilridge, Phantom Hill, Morne and Idylwood also make Corral Creek single vineyard designates.

Ridgecrest Vineyard

Another vineyard owned by Chehalem Winery, Ridgecrest Vineyard, is their oldest estate vineyard site. Planted in 1980, the site encompasses 37 acres in the Chehalem valley along Ribbon Ridge. In fact, this vineyard was the pioneer of grape growing along Ribbon Ridge, an area now planted with grapes owned by Beaux Freres and Patricia Green Cellars.

This vineyard imparts black cherry and blackberry flavors to the wines made from its fruit. It is well worth seeking out wines from Ridgecrest.

Freedom Hill Vineyard

Planted in 1982 by Dan and Helen Duschee, Freedom Hill Vineyard is one of few planted in the foothills of the Coast Range. The vineyard sits 10 miles southwest of Salem at approximately 390 feet above sea level. The vineyard is planted on volcanic soils which lend to deep, rich, robust flavors with firm tannins.

The wines from this vineyard tend to age very well. Bethel Heights, Ken Wright, Panther Creek and St. Innocent are among the producers making Freedom Hill designates. Great company to be in.

Anden Vineyard

You may not recognize the name yet, but you probably know the wines made from this vineyard in the past. Anden is the new name of a portion of Seven Springs Vineyard. The vineyard was planted in 1982 in the hills west of Salem. The vineyard faces the Southeast and reaches a height of 400 feet.

Wines made from Anden grapes tend to be complex and rich. They also tend to get snapped up quickly as this site has a great reputation. You can find Anden designates from such wineries as Patricia Green Cellars, St. Innocent and Panther Creek.

These are only a few of the wonderful vineyards producing single vineyard designates. You will also find wines from O’Connor, Temperance Hill, Del Rio, Stoller and more.I highly recommend that you gather a group of friends and taste wines from one vineyard made by various winemakers. It is such a great way to learn about vineyard sites and winemaking styles. Not to mention the fact that it is just plain fun!

Check out the wines here at Avalon and schedule that tasting!

Until next time,Cheers!

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