Last weekend Dave and I took a romantic little day trip down to wine country. Dundee is frequently the place we go on the way out of Portland, but this time we headed a little further south to the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, which is just west of Salem. It’s kind of pretty. Only mildly overwhelmingly beautiful. 🙂
We had a great time using an Encompass guidebook to explore the region (an event each Labor Day weekend), but you can visit these wineries on other weekends of course.
What I found was that the wineries seemed a little smaller and more family-oriented than many of the ones I’ve been to before. The price per bottle was about the same as what I’ve encountered in other Oregon wineries, but the tastings were actually less expensive – around $5 at most places. If you go on Labor Day weekend with an Encompass book, many area wineries will offer a special free tasting for book holders.
We had such a nice time visiting – I wanted to share a couple of photos, and some notes on the wineries we visited and the bottles we brought home.
Calamity Hill – Our pick: 2013 “Starlight White” Pinot Gris
Open just a few days a year, Calamity Hill is the kind of property you dream about owning one day. The owners have “day job” but are brilliant winery hosts. After a broader-than-average tasting, they give you a final pour of the wine of your choice and encourage you to walk the grounds, which include a gorgeous outdoor fireplace, a koi pond, a vegetable garden that would make Martha Stewart jealous and, of course, gorgeous vineyards.
The neighbor’s goats are very friendly, too.
This was our very favorite stop of the day. The people from Bjornson Vineyard AND from Mystic Vineyard actually sent us there because they are so seldom open for guests – and they recommended the exact wine we ended up taking home.
Bjornson Vineyard – Our pick: 2012 Pinot Noir
This winery is the epitome of a family business. Because a new winery is under construction, we tasted four or five pinots in their kitchen. A husband, wife and daughter were excellent and funny hosts, and we enjoyed the full spectrum of their pinot noirs, made from three sections of property named after each of the family’s kids. All of them were great, but we ended up taking home the 2012, which was both of our favorite.
Cristom Vineyards – our pick: 2013 Estate Pinot Gris
Cristom was the most established of the wineries we happened to visit that day. It has a stately hilltop tasting room with elegant carved wooden doors, amazing views and thousands of colorful flowers vying for space in the beds near the tasting room. They offered and extensive tasting. We ended up taking home their Pinot Gris – which is saying something, because we don’t often bring home Pinot Gris and we brought home two on this trip!
Mystic Wines – Our pick: 2008 Syrah
Mystic gave their guests a warm welcome with an array of cheese, nuts and other snacks. Perfect for pairing with wine. I wish more wineries would do this – wine is great on its own, but showing how well it goes with food really highlights what I’m going to be using it for every day, and it definitely pushed me toward taking a bottle home. Mystic had one of the widest variety of grapes that we tried during our trip. We ended up taking home the 2008 Syrah.
And all that said, I have to say it was the nicest day trip. It would be fun with friends or family, and it can be a great romantic getaway. We’ll definitely be back!
Note: I received our Encompass guidebooks from the Eola-Amity Hills AVA for free. My thoughts and opinions are my own.