Today I discovered something about the Willamette Valley…it’s friggin’ big! I left the Willamette Valley today to begin my pilgrimage to the Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon, and after driving south for 3 hours, I saw a billboard proclaiming wine and music at a winery off the next exit. Ignoring the pleas of my GPS system, I headed towards the mystery winery.
The mystery winery ended up being Saginaw Vineyards, and this back country farm was rockin on this summer night. At the tasting table, my first question is, “What AVA is this?” (AVA means American Viticultural Area, or recognized wine growing region), and to my surprise, I was still in the Willamette Valley…3 hours later! The winery is run by Cheryl and Scott Byler, and according to Scott, this is the southernmost vineyard in Willamette Valley.
To be honest, the first word that came to mind when I rolled up to this orgy of music, dancing, and wine was “rustic”. I’d never heard of the winery, and this was no man’s land as far as I was concerned.
Well, the wines were pretty darned good. The one that really caught me off guard was the Muller-Thurgau, which is an relatively obscure crossing between Riesling and Madeleine Royale. This grape has gotten a bad rap over the years, but this example shows what the grape can do. This is BURSTING with peach and apricot notes, and I found myself fantasizing about having this with some homemade peach cobbler. This wine is off-dry with 4% residual sugar.
Scott Byler likes the vineyard site, saying its typically 5 degrees hotter in the day and 5 degrees cooler at night compared to the northern Willamette Valley. The winery’s first release was in 1998, and the winery has enjoyed critical success at county fairs.
The other “wine” that was an unexpected treat was their Blueberry Wine. “Everyone in Oregon has an uncle that makes blueberry wine in the basement”, Scott says as I sip the magic blueberry juice. The blueberries used to make this are all estate grown, but since this wine is not made from grapes, the term “estate” cannot be used. The process of making blueberry wine is not all that different from making grape wine, though the blueberries are typically higher in acidity and lower in sugar, requiring some chaptalization (or adding sugar during production process).
This blueberry wine would be great as a cordial, or with ice cream or cheesecake. I can also see this working well in cocktails.