Bounty beyond the bottles
The Wine Country Weekend of Memorial Day 2013 is nigh upon us. From Saturday, May 25, through Monday, May 27, wineries will roll out the red carpet — and the white and rosé ones as well — for the wine-consuming public.
As this weekend approaches, I am always filled with a mix of anticipation and frustration.
Anticipation in that by its very nature, the occasion generates an energy and excitement that courses across the length and breadth of the Yamhill Valley.
Frustration in that there are way too many winery opportunities and way too little time. It makes me fantasize about being the black suited, shades-wearing bad dude in “The Matrix” movies.
You know the guy. The ultimate villain, he has the ability to clone himself at will. One individual in many identical bodies, he has become so notable in his own weird way that he is now featured in a national TV commercial.
It’s not that I want to be like him. It’s only that I’d like to have the ability to visit many tasting rooms at once and experience all those satisfying sips and the environments associated with them in only a couple day’s outing.
That unreality aside, simply venturing out into Yamhill Valley Wine Country during the height of Memorial weekend is a trip in itself. Consider the imagery associated with such an event.
Thousands of vehicles converging on the valley from points north, south and east, some even from coastal lands to the west.
Tons of traffic topping the crest at Parrett Mountain and hurtling down the Highway 99W grade into the valley. Visitors from the cities, the suburbs and beyond bent on viewing vineyards and sampling the nectar that comes forth from their fruit.
Adventurous wine buffs negotiating curvy backroads, snaking high into wooded hillsides, putting up with gravel and dust in search of first-hand enological experiences seldom offered to the public.
For those who prefer to take a less jarring journey, several all-in-one opportunities — or at least all within walking distance opportunties — have emerged in recent years.
Carlton, once a modest outpost where Jay McDonald’s Tasting Room held singular sway, has burgeoned into a wine-infused wonderland of side-by-side tasting attractions.
Within the confines of two blocks, mainly on Main Street, one can find 14 tasting rooms and four wineries. And even that count may not be accurate, as new venues seem to crop up overnight.
Nor does it include the north end of town, where 11 wineries share space in the Carlton Winemakers Studio and guests can sip Italian varetals right next door at Cana’s Feast, in addition to engaging in some bocce bowling.
Those who prefer close proximity should also consider downtown McMinnville. The county seat and Yamhill Wine Country’s central city boasts six tasting rooms on shopping and dining dominated Third Street, as well as 11 separate wineries within the city limits.
Not to cause confusion, but none of this takes into consideration dozens of other winery brands operating within the walls of host wineries in Mac and elsewhere around the valley.
Picking up the May edition of Oregon Wine Press, available at wineries and wine shops statewide, helps clarify matters. It contains statewide listings of who, where and when.
It also includes the Willamette Valley Wineries “Memorial Weekend in Wine Country” brochure.
Being a curious sort, I enjoy taking the back roads. The more, the better.
Such trips have been rewarded with the discovery of a handsome winery clinging to a distant hillside or suddenly coming upon one just around a curve. Merely driving along, enjoying the bucolic beauty of Yamhill Wine Country with no need to rush, is a pleasure in itself.
Wineries are tucked away in all manner of interesting and sometimes unanticipated places. They often don’t reveal their full architectural artistry until more closely approached.
Nor is striking design necessarily confined to a building’s facade. Interiors, too, often hold surprises, both decorative and structural.
Some obviously talented owners have taken great care to create public rooms of character and charm — showplaces in which they can justifiably take pride.
A sense of style can be seen in utilitarian spaces as well — rows of gleaming, stainless steel fermentation tanks lining scrubbed concrete floors, masterfully-coopered examples of the barrel maker’s craft stacked high and stretching deep into arched ceiling niches.
What’s beneath the surface can be even more laudable. More and more, owners are incorporating energy-saving features into their wineries from the ground up. It’s reflective of an industry as green as any around.
There are so many local-area wineries with compelling attributes both inside and out — besides what is being offered from opened bottles — that it would take way too much space to list even a fraction of them.
However, to whet your appetite for edifice ogling as well as for fine wine sipping, following are a few.
Adelsheim: A stairwell to heaven. Argyle: It’s not just about the bubbly. Bella Vida: All on the up and up. Colene Clemens: A rustic redoubt, without doubt. De Ponte: Welcome to our living room.
Maysara: Rock me naturally. Rex Hill: An Oregon showplace. Trisaetum: Artistry from every angle. WillaKenzie: The grandest of halls. Winderlea: Bauhaus, eat your heart out.
Looking behind the facades, wineries like Sokol Blosser, Stoller and Lemelson have gone to great lengths in their efforts to create environmentally friendly structures.
How about congenial tasting room staffers? Willful winemakers? Reclusive winegrowers? Breathtaking views? Not to mention some of the world’s finest fermented grape juice.
The Yamhill Valley is home to 41 percent of all the wineries, 33 percent of all the vineyards and 45 percent of all the pinot noir production in the state of Oregon.
You may have heard some or all of that before. It you haven’t, you should be aware. If you have, a reminder never hurts. Pass it along.
And, remember, there’s a reason wineries charge for all those tastes they are providing.
If you don’t buy a bottle or two, it enables them to at least break even. If you do, you usually get a refund on the fee.
Karl Klooster can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 503-687-1227.