|. . . the wines didnt suck, which is probably the best I can say about all three of these producers.|
"IT DOESNT LOOK PLAID TO ME "
We had appointments with Chehalem on July 7th and Belle Pente on the 8th, but we also took the time to stop in at three other wineries to get a feel for what was being produced in the northern Willamette Valley. Our motto during our travels was in regard to a certain ubiquitous convenience store chain, and we drove Dolphin Girl buggy with it!
Our first stop was at Rex Hill Vineyards, an attractive modern facility with a well kept tasting room, and plenty of merchandise for the intrepid tourist. There was also an interesting display of ceremonial wine tasting outfits on mannequins that we found amusing and with which we shamelessly took advantage of a photo op. But of course, the real attraction of any winery is the wines, and after a bit of brief exploration, we got down to tasting.
1997 Rex Hill Willamette Valley Pinot Gris $12: Pale straw with a bit of a musty funk on the nose; tart dry green apple flavors with good acidity.
1997 Rex Hill Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc $12: Very pale straw; greener green apple than the previous selection, with a hint of detergent; crisp acidity; nice.
1997 Rex Hill Willamette Valley Chardonnay $15: Pale-medium straw; pretty sweet oak/pear nose; flavors echo lightly.
1996 Rex Hill Willamette Valley Chardonnay Reserve $25: Pale-medium straw; spicy sweet oak dominates the pear on the nose; more substantial on the palate than the regular bottling, with creamy pear, spice and some detergent on the finish.
1997 Rex Hill Willamette Valley Pinot Noir $20: Ruby garnet; pretty black cherry bouquet with toasty oak overtones that follows through on the palate; a little light on the mid-palate and finish.
1997 Rex Hill Willamette Valley Pinot Noir $45: Lighter in color than the regular bottling, but deeper aromas; toast/black cherry flavors and aromas; more substantial on the palate than the regular bottling, and full enough on the mid-palate and finish; elegant, but we all agreed that its way overpriced.
1997 Rex Hill Willamette Valley Dry Riesling $10: Almost the color of water; petrol dominates but doesnt overpower the nose; a hint of sweetness accentuates the Granny Smith green apple flavors; decent acidity.
Rochelle, the young lady pouring, was very friendly and informative, but to be honest, none of us were thrilled with these just pleasant wines.
We had some time to kill before our Chehalem appointment, so we drove into Dundee, where we stopped into the Argyle Winery Tasting Room, housed in what was once a hazel nut factory. There was nothing to explore here except the wines, so we got right down to it.
1997 Argyle Willamette Valley Chardonnay $13: Very pale straw; smells and tastes more like Chenin Blanc, with very light apple and spice flavors.
1997 Argyle Willamette Valley Pinot Noir $14: Ruby garnet; nice black cherry bouquet with a whiff of smoke follows through on the palate with a rather lean frame.
1997 Argyle Willamette Valley Brut $21: Pale straw; subtle yeast over green apple flavors and aromas with a fine bead; good fruit, but the QPR is only so-so.
1988 Argyle Willamette Valley Brut $30: 70 % Chardonnay, 30 % Pinot Noir; recently disgorged; medium straw, with a musty funky nose; tastes almost oxidized, with a nutty quality; Bree said it reminded him of dried Porcini mushrooms; good bead; Jeff and Mary Lynn liked this, but Kim, Bree and I didnt.
1996 Argyle Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Cowhouse $35: Ruby garnet, with smoky black cherry/tea leaf flavors and aromas on a delicate frame; overpriced.
1996 Argyle Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Reserve $35: More smoky black cherry flavors and aromas on a delicate frame; a little vacant on the mid-palate and finish; overpriced.
1996 Argyle Willamette Valley Chardonnay Nuthouse $28: This pale straw also tastes more like Chenin Blanc; very light and insubstantial; overpriced.
So far, we were underwhelmed with what wed tasted, especially the Pinot Noir, but that would certainly change at Chehalem (so much so, that we devoted a whole page to them, as we did Belle Pente). The next day, we stopped at WillaKenzie Estate on our way to Belle Pente. The modern facility is clean, attractive, and a little off the beaten path. We snooped around briefly before sampling what Andi was pouring in the spacious tasting room.
1997 WillaKenzie Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc $14: Very pale, with a green apple/mineral/detergent nose; nice rich round flavors echo; low residual sugar.
1997 WillaKenzie Willamette Valley Pinot Gris $15: Very pale; more residual sugar and riper green apple character than the previous selection.
1996 WillaKenzie Willamette Valley Chardonnay $15: Pale straw, with a pretty vanilla/pear bouquet; flavors echo, but theyre not particularly bumptious.
1997 WillaKenzie Willamette Valley Chardonnay "Estelle" $25: Pale straw; subtle but pretty bouquet of pear/vanilla; bigger, brighter and riper than the 96 regular bottling, with some nice spice to boot; good acidity; perhaps a little overpriced.
1996 WillaKenzie Willamette Valley Gamay Noir $16: Ruby garnet, with bright black cherry aromas and a touch of toasty oak; flavors are rather dull and short; not up to snuff.
1997 WillaKenzie Willamette Valley Pinot Meunier $19: Ruby garnet, with sweet oak/black cherry flavors and aromas; decent body and concentration; Bree liked this enough to buy some.
1997 WillaKenzie Willamette Valley Pinot Noir $20: Ruby garnet, with black cherry flavors and aromas; not particularly ripe and round, but rather a little flat and dull.
Afterwards, we had a nice picnic lunch on WillaKenzies patio; the bread, cheeses, chicken and fruit were accompanied by a bottle of the Pinot Meunier, which showed better than the one being poured in the tasting room. It was a delightful setting, and if there was one regret, it was that we hadnt been able to taste the Reserve Pinot Noir. Still, we had a good time, and the wines didnt suck, which is probably the best I can say about all three of these producers.
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