Begun in 1986 Eola Hills Wine Cellars is a relatively large winery. Our two previous wineries were in the South Willamette AVA; this one is in the southern area of the Eola-Amity Hills AVA just north of them. As we toured the area we came across many of the Estate Vineyards for this winery. The unassuming building that houses the tasting room also has a gift shop and a large production/event space. Emily, back at her summer job since her college classes let out for Spring, poured for us from the Reserve lists.
Beginning with a mango and oak 2012 “LaCreole” Chardonnay followed by a 2013 “LaCreole” Pinot Gris, aged sur lie in Acacia wood barrels, it has a light, fruity taste, smooth texture with ‘gentle’ acids – I noted they were easy drinkers. Apparently, despite the clouds and chill of the day I could picture these on my patio as I write in our summer heat or enjoy a repast.
The two Pinot Noir wines on the list were blended Dijon Clones (clones developed in Dijon, France) and a single-clone ‘667’ named “Wolf Hill”. Tasting them in that order the 2011 “LaCreole” has a leather beginning with raspberry and pomegranate finish. The “Wolf Hill” sidles by with a smoky start and currants, first red ending with black, lingering on the tongue. Realizing that we couldn’t predict anything about a Pinot Noir wine we laughed at how each wine we tasted so far had been different – drastically different – in many ways. We hadn’t traveled but about 60-65 miles from the first two wineries we tasted at.
A non-vintage Cuvee (II) has 57% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Franc, and 16% Cabernet Sauvignon provided a smooth, bright contrast to the leather and smoke of the Pinot Noir. We were happy to try the 2011 “Lodi” Old Vine Zinfandel as we had forgone traveling into California for wine tasting in favor of Crater Lake, the Redwoods and several days on the beach. This bottle of dark, rich fruit with smooth, easy tannins from 75-100 year-old vines hit the spot, we knew a bottle would come home with us.
From the Reserve dessert wines we tasted a 2012 Vin d’Or from Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc dripping with pineapple, honey and vanilla. Freezing the grapes (or the juice, since I didn’t finish writing the information down) provides the depth of color and flavor. The 2008 LBV Port Style Wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon is a dark, cherry, blueberry compote while the non-vintage Vin d’Ete is a grape-based Raspberry Dessert Wine. Oddly the raspberry comes through on the front and back of the palate but there is a grape flavor in the middle, to my palate.
Take away at this point on our Pinot Noir journey is that we still need an open mind with every new bottle. That each clone in each growing region in the hands of each wine maker was going to be an experience to contemplate. Have I begin to ‘like’ Pinot Noir? Possibly, but I am still not sure that is the right word yet.