Umpqua Valley Barrel Tour: The Day Before   Leave a comment

In between my travel weeks of Texas and DC last month I went on a quick 2 day getaway to the Umpqua Valley for their Barrel Tours. We boarded school buses which took us to six wineries, and at each winery we enjoyed tastings they had prepared to match with their wines and were able to try tastings the other wines they offered as well. We were signed up for the North Tour, which offered stops at Bradley Vineyards, Brandborg Vineyard and Winery, MarshAnne Landing, Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards, River's Edge, and Sienna Ridge Estate.

We headed there starting early the day before though, so we ended up stopping at 5 wineries the previous day too. Our first stop in the Umpqua Valley was Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards, of which my friend was a member, even though it would be on the tour the next day. Since we were able to arrive without the bus though, we were able to enjoy tastings in peace and absorb the beautiful atmosphere in their custom built cave which includes scripture engraved on the floor, angels on the walls, and a reacreation of part of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.


 

The snacks that came with our wine pairings: a Gruner Veltliner, a Pinot Noir, a Tempranilo, a Syrah, all of which were great. I really liked the fruity brightness of the Gruner- most of the wines in the Umpqua are of the pinot variety, and even though this was my first stop, my visits later over these two days reinforced that this Gruner is unique and a highlight. I thought all their wines were great here, complex in flavor and well rounded, and was only held back by budget. Everyone here seemed very intelligent and knowledgable about both wine and food and more well traveled in terms of experience and viewpoint.

 

  

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Umpqua Valley Barrel Tour- North

We also stopped at Becker, Juliana, Delfino, and Melrose. Becker Vineyards was a misadventure as we were lost between Reustle and Becker and drove past the right road probably twice unknowingly. When we arrived though, it was worth it: their pinots are very syrah-like because of how they have a hint of smokey or spicy parallel to their juicy fruity body, and ironically they didn't have any syrahs to offer yet but I can believe that they are known for them (Becker was recommended by Reustle). Becker also had a gorgeous Lab/St Bernard mix which resulted in a gigantic lab-looking dog but at the size of a Bernard at even only a year old. He was like the size of a minature horse! The wife of the winemaker had her hands full preparing tastings for the barrel tour the next day, but was very welcoming to spend time with us anyway and share doggy stories.

Julianna Vineyards is a new winery to the region: the two lovely ladies I was having this wine adventure with go every year to this area and they had never been here. Julianna partners with a winery in Germany and so their style is very different in terms of taste profile from what you would expect from wineries in the region. I only liked their muscat- it was very light, a good summer drinking wine, and the muscat varietal is a bit sweeter grape which balanced the acidity underlying their wines. A lot of their wines also were thinner in body and sweeter, like cousins of Rieslings. When you follow the map and then see the large sign to Julianna, don't be fooled that the winery is where the sign is: that's actual a stable, and despite the number of cars parked there that seem like it's your stopping point, it's not. You have to continue down the road a bit until you see another sign and then vines and a little house where the actual tasting room is located. We almost fell for this mistake but decided to keep driving while another couple looking for them apparently gave up because they never joined us in the tasting room. The woman who served the tastings was surprisingly defensive about this, even though she admitted she had made that same mistake… so who knows if they'll fix this.

Next stop was Delfino, and then finished at Melrose because they closed the latest of all the vineyards. Melrose's acid legs were not to my taste, so I won't go into detail on them here. At Delfino when we pulled in and were greeted by a very excited pack of dogs- literally half a dozen dogs barking and running around the car as soon as we pulled in as we nervously tried to keep moving so we could park. In a silly moment, the owner Jim almost accidentally offered us doggy treats to go with our tastings instead of the crackers! Delfino has been growing the grapes that go into Abacela's Tempranillo but they have been putting together their own wines recently and they have a great berry fruit-forward syrah and even offer syrah-chocolates (which was an amazing pairing with the liquid mother syrah and would work just as well if you age and enjoy it with the tempranillo). Delfino also has a bed and breakfast on premise and if I was coming here for a weekend that would be a lovely temptation to stay here! I mean, look at a member of their staff checking me closely and learning on my leg to see if his owner gave me the doggy treats or crackers… how darling is he? He and and his doggy pals and the owners were a very warm, friendly tasting room. 

 

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