On our first trip to Oregon’s Willamette Valley wine country some years ago we floated in a balloon high above the vineyards early on a sunny summer morning. This time around we were greeted by a watery winter sun when we arrived in Newberg for wine tasting with friends. In the morning we drove through the peaceful countryside with its rolling hills covered with sleeping vines and filbert orchards where each tree was hung with hundreds of chartreuse colored catkins, presaging spring. In between the orchards and vineyards the rural scene was embellished with alpacas and llamas grazing alongside sheep and goats in green pastures.
Soon it was time for our first official tasting. We started at Ferraro Cellars, owned by another friend, one who had visited us in Italy. In contrast to many of the other wineries in the area he concentrates on Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel made from grapes grown east of the Cascade mountains. A few sips encouraged us to buy a case of his Merlot to put aside in our own small cellar. The next stop was at Archery Summit, home to highly rated Pinot Noirs. Our tasting event was presented formally in their candle-lit cave filled with rows of huge oak barrels full of aging wines. Soon bottles of 2009 Premier Cuvee joined the others already in the car trunk.
Winter is peaceful but our next trip will be at harvest time when the color of the vines and their fruit will brighten the scene.