Valentine's Day in Wine Country

Oregon wineries aim for the heart

It would take an entire issure of this paper to count all the Willamette Valley wineries that put out the welcome mat for Valentine’s Day weekend and describe what they had planned for visitors. The holiday of hearts and sweethearts, roses and chocolates and, of course, wining and dining, has become a prime Oregon wine industry marketing target.

Focusing on just two of the many Wine Country events held Saturday, Feb. 14, a Valentine couple could have done no better than attend Bubbles Fest 2015, an inaugural event that brought together Oregon sparkling wine producers from throughout the North Willamette Valley.

It’s widely known that true Champagne from the French wine region of the same name has inspired imitators around the world. And some of them have perfected their products to the point where they rival the original.

In Oregon, that fact must be underscored because the state’s small batch, handcrafted tradition has brought forth some beautiful bubblies, not surprising given our focus on pinot noir, the primary varietal used in making Champagne.

The venue was Anne Amie Vineyards, a showplace winery perched atop a high, west-facing hillside at the eastern end of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. There, under a tent stretching across the winery’s entire front facade, 11 wineries that have made a commitment to sparkling production offered up their bubblies.

They included: 2010 Airlie Joie de Vie, 2011 Anne Amie Marilyn Brut Rosé, 2010 Argyle Blanc de Blancs, 2013 Division Cremant de Portland – Brut Urbanique, 2011 J.K. Carriere Blanc de Noir, two 2014 Kramer “Celebrate” wines, Gruner Veltliner and Rosé of Pinot Noir, NV R. Stuart & Co. Rosé d’Or, 2011 Raptor Ridge Harbinger Vineyard Pinot Noir Brut Rosé, two NV Cuvée Theo wines from Roots, Melon de Bourgogne and Rosé of Pinot Noir, two NV Sokol Blosser wines, Evolution Sparkling and Sparkling Rosé of Pinot Noir, and 2010 Soter Mineral Springs Brut Rosé.

On this unseasonably warm and lovely February afternoon, the view was spectacular, the atmosphere serene and the sparkling wine created a convivial environment as only this special beverage can.

Sparkling wine presents an opportunity that could be turned to the advantage of more Oregon wineries. Pinot Noir abounds here and the commitment to planting Chardonnay is on the rise. The two are the linchpins of Champagne.

The quality and character of the wines poured at Bubbles Fest 2015 sent an unmistakable message: Oregon should make more sparkling wine.

A 2013 survey determined that sparkling wines other than Champagne accounted for 8 percent of total world wine consumption and was trending up. Spain’s Cava exports increased by more than 100,000 cases, and those of Prosecco, the sparkling Italian stallion, doubled.

Departing Anne Amie’s distinctive hilltop, it takes only a few minutes to drive Mineral Springs Road to Lafayette, then take Highway 99W into Dundee.

Wine is having its way these days with the historic strip that once aspired to be a major rail hub. Three of Oregon’s largest wineries — NW Wine Company, Wine by Joe and 12th and Maple — are headquartered in Dundee. Not to mention Argyle Winery, the state’s largest sparkling wine producer, along with several winery tasting rooms.

The newest is Chapter 24, whose owner, Hollywood producer Mark Tarlov, has transformed an unlikely survivor into a show-stopping gem. The former gas station and garage across the street from Wine by Joe now causes passersby to gawk in awe and curiosity.

A mural dominating the interior almost comes to life with abstract imagery Ohio artist Cathie Beck says was inspired by the Missoula Floods. This dynamic setting was the scene of sizzling salsa sessions by Salsa Con Coco of Portland, including lesson-style participation from the couples in attendance.

Gourmet appetizers served as the introduction to a three-course, Crown Paella feast. More dancing lessons preceded the dining, giving attendees the chance to work up an appetite.

The Spanish-style event was highlighted by Chapter 24’s elegant pinot noirs carrying the Fire Flood and Last Chapter labels. All of this is steeped in symbolism, which will be fully revealed when you visit one of the hippest little tasting rooms in the Pacific Northwest.

Karl Klooster can be reached by e-mail at kklooster@newsregister.com or by phone at 503-687-1227.

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