On our insanely wet Halloween (that one that flooded streets, made neighborhoods rivers, and caused some garage flooding in our area), Ben loaded us into the car and took me on a surprise-destination Saturday trip. By the time we took the "to wine country" exit, I was pretty sure I knew he was taking me to my happy place - the vast selection of wineries in Dundee, Carlton, McMinnville, and Newberg - but I wasn't prepared to try out an entirely new AVA. An AVA is an "American Viticultural Area," a term that basically defines the geographic pedigree or background of a winery/wine (and one that you'll find on the back of your wine bottle). There are seven AVAs that make-up the greater Willamette Valley AVA - the Eola-Amity Hills (near Salem), McMinnville, Yamhill-Carlton, Dundee Hills, Chehalem Mountain, and Ribbon Ridge. We've done a lot of tasting within the Dundee hills and Yamhill-Carlton AVAs and usually focus our trip on wineries there. It's close to some stunning wineries with great views, close to shops, carbo-loading locations (like Red Hill Market), and a lot of easy-access tasting rooms.
The Chehalem Mountain AVA actually entirely contains the same geographic area as the Ribbon Ridge AVA, but Ribbon Ridge is a teensy little section within that was our stop on Halloween. Ribbon Ridge is only a 1,000 (plantable) acre-area and there are currently 20 wineries located within the AVA. It's terroir, or defining feature that affects the wine, is marked by an uplift of ocean sediment in the area. Because it's on a hill, the area also has less degree-day accumulation (the amount of heat required for an organism to develop and grow) than the surrounding AVAs - it warms later, has lower temperature spikes in the afternoons, and therefore has a more well-rounded ripening process (without those oppressive late summer heat spikes).
We stopped at three wineries that we saw along the way - Trisaetum, Adelsheim, and ArborBrook. By the third winery, the rain had started to fall at an alarming rate and the streets were flooded, so we headed home.
Trisaetum (named after the founder's two children Tristan and Tatum) is a pretty tasting room surrounded by pretty vines, especially during the fall, and offers some great, high-end wines to try. We enjoyed sampling their all-Pinot red flight and strolling through the tasting room, which doubles as an art gallery. We didn't buy a bottle due to the $65+ bottle price, but found the wines to be wonderful. They had a mix of styles - bolder and fruitier reds and then lighter, more minerally Pinots that I enjoyed.
Adelsheim had a beautiful tasting room and a pretty outdoor area that would have been wonderful for a summertime wine tasting afternoon. I'd been wanting to try Adelsheim ever since I tasted their wine at Feast. I'd heard a lot about their Pinot (~$30) as well but hadn't ever bought a bottle. We tried some fantastic Pinots and a great Chardonnay at their tasting room. They were also a bit cost-prohibitive at $50+ for a bottle in the tasting room, but at Oregon grocery stores you can get their most well-known Pinot for considerably less.
Finally, we stopped at ArborBrook with a free-tasting coupon from Trisaetum. We found their service to be fantastic, their views (the last photo of vines) moody and beautiful, and their offerings of delicious cheese and crackers to go with your wine wonderful! We didn't love their wines as much as the other wineries but they were a bit lower in price. The tasting room was also quite crowded on a rainy day.