What happens when a NASA scientist gets into the winemaking business? Spectacular things! At Vidon Vineyard in Newberg, Oregon you’ll experience the amazing Pinot Noirs that Don Hagge has to offer, along with his unique winemaking process and shining spirit.
Ghost Hill Cellars in Carlton, Oregon has a story to tell – And it’s not just about ghosts. This is a story of family, farming and Pinot Noir.
First thing’s first – Why the name? Is there really a ghost? Yep! Legend has it that during Oregon’s gold rush in the late 1800s, a miner travelling to Portland camped for the night at the top of what is now known as Ghost Hill. During his sleep, someone invaded the camp, killed the miner and horse, and ran off with his stash of gold. It’s said that that miner can still be seen to this day, wandering the hill, searching for his stolen gold. Spooky, right? I don’t think I want to be around once the sun goes down…
When the sun goes down I want to be enjoying a bottle of Ghost Hill Cellar’s Pinot Noir Blanc and watching an episode of the Real Housewives.
Pinot Noir is what Ghost Hill Cellars does. Their wines are produced from 100 percent estate grown fruit and their 1,000 case a year portfolio includes a Pinot Noir Rosé, Pinot Noir Blanc, a Pinot Noir labeled with the Bayliss-Bower single-vineyard designation, and a Prospector’s Reserve Pinot Noir.
Ghost Hill Cellars is truly a family affair. Mike Bayliss is a fourth-generation farmer of this land in the Northern Willamette Valley. He and his wife, Drenda, live in the same farmhouse he grew up in, which is located onsite, just next to the recently opened small tasting room which was hand built by Mike and his son, Michael. It features a sliding barn door and reclaimed windows from the nearby Trappist Abbey Church.
Drenda and Mike have been married since 1967, and have been through a lot together. As a farming family, there have been tough times, and times when they were not sure if they would be able to maintain the farm that has been in the Bayliss family for 100+ years. It was Drenda’s idea to plant a vineyard, sell the grapes, and in time, make wine.
Youngberg Hill Vineyard believes in producing unmanipulated wines – allowing the true nature of the vintage to shine through. Visit them in McMinnville, Oregon for a tasting of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. #WineWednesday
Last month I got an itch to go set out and explore some wineries that I’d not yet been to before here in the Willamette Valley. So I rounded up the girlfriends, we hopped in the car, and made the drive from Portland to McMinnville, Oregon. We had four stops on our agenda that day, the first was Youngberg Hill.
Located amongst the hills, Youngberg Hill definitely makes an impression as you drive up to the tasting room. The views are sweeping and the outdoor space is expansive. My friend Deann said she had actually been here before, to photograph a wedding – I can see why this would make such an amazing venue.
My favorite way to enter a winery is to be greeted by the wine dog – This ‘lil guy definitely takes his job seriously.
We were lucky enough to meet with owner Nicolette Bailey, who took us on a tour of the premises. I had no idea that there was a bed and breakfast onsite. The rooms? Not your typically brass bed, with creaky floors, and flower printed curtains type of spot. These rooms are amazing. The view – You get to overlook the vineyard and the cattle grazing outside. The bed? The headboard is of recycled slats from used wine barrels. And the kicker? There is an oversized soaking tub with a glass fireplace at the foot of it. Can I just soak there all day?
But today we’re not here for soaking (even though it’s pouring outside).
Nicolette also gave us a sneak peek at their new 3,600 square-foot indoor/outdoor event center. Overlooking the wooded valley and the vines, this new space takes full advantage of their beautiful location, allowing them to host events, weddings, and musical performances year-long. They officially unveiled the space over Memorial Day weekend. I can’t wait to go back and check it out now that it’s fully completed.
Let’s talk wine. Winemaker Wayne Bailey (and Nicolette’s husband) let us through a beautiful flight of his premium Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. Produced from the estate vineyards that surround the inn, they are some of the oldest vines planted in the McMinnville area.
Wayne describes his winemaking style as “unmanipulating.” With a desire to work with the grapes and the seasons, he understands that each vintage will grow and develop differently – Like children. He is just there to nouture them. Fittingly so – Each of his Pinot Noirs are named after his three daughters – Natasha, Jordan and Aspen. The youngest, Aspen, was at the vineyards with us that day. Roaming the grounds, playing on the tractor, and being the best mini-hostess out there. She gently stated that her favorite wine was the Aspen, adding “But not just because it’s named after me.” – We had to agree.
Holman Ranch is an ideal location in the hills above Carmel Valley perfect for special events and weddings. The grounds feature a stone hacienda, sweeping views, and an olive grove. While their estate vineyard produces amazing Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir.
Travel 12-miles inland from the Pacific Coast, and in the hills above Carmel Valley, and you’ll find the lovely Carmel Valley Village. This quaint town features several wine tasting rooms, art galleries, and yummy restaurants.
We were lucky enough to be brought to this area as part of a media visit, to tour the amazing Holman Ranch, a private estate and vineyard that sprawls across 400-acres. We first stopped by the Holman Ranch tasting room to grab our keys. Of course, while we were there, we definitely had to partake in some wine tasting! Duncan led us through and extensive tasting of Holman’s wine portfolio, including Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
After our tasting, we made our way up into the hills to the property. It was one of the most serene locations I have ever been to.
Hahn Estate Winery in Soledad, California is a family-owned vineyard specializing in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
On the second day of our trip to Carmel, California it absolutely poured on us! We were a bit bummed because we were scheduled for an ATV tour at Hahn Estate. Renee, the Director of Estate Operations for Hahn, and Andy, Director of Viticulture, greeted us at the tasting room and said that although we’d be skipping the ATV part of the tour, there was still plenty to see. Boy was there – This was the single most informative winery visit I have ever had!
Before heading out for our visit, Andy told us a bit about the vineyard. It was purchased in 1979 and is family-owned. Hahn produces 400k cases of wine across their 5 lines – Hahn, Hahn SLH, Lucienne, Smith & Hook, and Winery Selections. There are 20 clones of Pinot Noir growing on the property – All of which go into their Orchestra Block Pinot Noir, which is in its second year of production.
Andy explained that the winds in the area help to build up the skins of the grapes, while the plants around the vines affect the flavoring. For instance, those vines planted near an almond tree tend to have an amaretto flavor – Something I particularly enjoy in my Chardonnay.
Hahn has been certified sustainable since 2008 and uses falcons to patrol the vineyards in the fall, protecting it from critters. The sweeping grounds are truly a sight to be seen (even on this gloomy day).
After a bit of inside information we headed to the barrel room, where the Chardonnay is housed. Renee really gave us a lesson by allowing us to taste the differences in the barrels of wine that are strictly produced by hand vs. those that use machinery to process the grapes.
Even though the grapes are identical, the taste is exceptionally unique. Of course I preferred the taste found in the more expensive way of doing things, all by hand. While that Chardonnay was a bit more smooth, and feminine, the barrel which was produced with the aid of machinery had a bit more of a petrol note and didn’t seem quite as well-rounded.
It felt like a fairytale when we walked into Folktale Winery & Vineyards in Carmel, California – And that is just the way it was meant to be.
Just a quick 5 minute drive from the Pacific Ocean in Carmel, California, you’ll find Folktale Winery & Vineyards. Originally founded in the early-80’s as Chateau Julien, Bob and Patty Brower were inspired by their journeys to the Bordeaux region of France, to bring that experience of wine and good cheer to Carmel.
In 2015, the property was acquired by local Carmel winemakers, Gregory Ahn and Jonathan White. They renamed the winery Folktale, inspired by fairytales, and the thought that inside every great bottle of wine should be a exciting, fun, story waiting to be told.
The property itself looks like a fairytale when you walk in – With the white castle-like buildings, the floor to ceiling fireplace, and nooks and crannies for exploring.
Lots of natural elements are used in the décor, and, on chilly nights, there are plenty of fire pits outside to huddle around while you enjoy your wine.
An oversized Connect Four, Jenga, and Cornhole will keep you occupied all afternoon long.
Folktale Winery and Vineyards is committed to sustainable farming practices throughout their vineyards and gardens. Their onsite 5-acre vineyard, which grows Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, is farmed 100% organic. The remainder of their wine-producing grapes are growing at their 150 acres of estate vineyards in the Arroyo Seco AVA of Monterey County.
It’s impressive to note that Folktale Winery & Vineyards is the only glass to grape tasting room in Carmel Valley. Equally impressive: They were recently named by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the top 10 reasons to visit Monterey County.
We were extra lucky in that we had the personal experience of meeting with John Fitzgerald, Director of Hospitality at Folktale, for a personal tour of the entire property. He greeted us with a glass of their Sparkling Brut (perfect for this bubblehead), and then led us on a tour of the barrel room. Some of the barrels have even been personally signed by the musicians who have visited on the property.