Bucolic and pastoral hazelnut and walnut groves dotted amongst picturesque red barns and vineyards – that’s what the Willamette Valley is made of.
Having first tried the Dundee Hills AVA White Rose Estate wines at a Vancouver, BC tasting in 2012, we decided to visit the winery in person this past holiday weekend. Taking in their astounding 360 degree view from the top of one of those picturesque hills, it’s easy to see why the low yield fruit from this vineyard is widely sought after. It boasts neighbours who are as accomplished and well known as they are themselves – including Archery Summit, Domaine Serene and Domaine Drouhin Oregon.
The wines were as outstanding as the scenery. Ably led in the tasting room by Neil and Dago (whose brother, I believe is Jesus Guillen, the Head Winemaker at White Rose), we started with a palate cleanser shot of sparkling water – especially nice as this was the third winery of the day. This was also one of only three wineries out of the nine we visited in the Willamette that had personal spit buckets, a detail much appreciated by those of us who hate communal spittoons and freaking out others in the tasting room who are there to drink and not taste.
This is a boutique winery with capacity of about 3000-3500 cases per year, but their spit and polish (no pun intended, llama or otherwise) with regard to presentation, branding and presence is anything but small time; they’re first class, professional and knowledgeable. Neil went out of his way to find me winemaker’s notes on every wine I tried; top marks to their half page ‘our notes/your notes’ format. And they openly shared tips about where we should go to for our next stop (yes, we really enjoyed DePonte and their unique Melon de Bourgogne).
But back to the tasting – we started with the 2010 White Rose Estate Luciole Vineyard Pinot Noir. Made with 33% whole clustered fermentation from Dijon clones harvested on Parrot Mountain in the eastern Chelalem Mountains AVA, there were only 196 cases of this produced. It was full of raspberry and cherry, some floral notes and spice, juicy with medium plus acidity, and a satisfyingly rich and round almost medium plus body. It saw 15 months in French oak and was bottled in 2012.
We also tasted the 2011 White Rose Estate Guillen Vineyard Pinot Noir that was a medium garnet and medium plus intense aromas and flavours of mint, earth and truffle in addition to the expected cherry and raspberry. The 2011 White Rose Estate Anderson Family Vineyard Pinot Noir was an absolute pleasure; raspberry cordial and baking spices with violets and such well balanced and perfect tannins. This wine was made with 95% full cluster fermentation.
The 2009 White Rose Estate Guillen Vineyard Pinot Noir was different as the cool year produced a higher acidity wine with a red licorice, flat cola notes and ripe raspberry profile. This was 45% full cluster fermented.
But the one I bought was the last one – the 2009 White Rose Estate Pinot Noir made from 60% whole cluster fermentation and fruit from the four oldest blocks in the estate’s stunning vista vineyard.
Clear and bright, deep garnet with elegant legs, on the nose this wine is developing with medium plus intense aromas of Bing cherry, red plum, anise, baking spice, cranberry, raspberry and subtle oak. The palate is dry with a medium plus acidity and the most perfectly delicate and integrated tannins. The alcohol is medium plus and the flavour characteristics are medium plus and consist of more raspberry, plum and cherry, whispers of truffle, wood, dry leaves, cedar, clove, nutmeg with a long finish.
This is WSET ‘Outstanding’ wine. Really beautiful and a stunning companion to our west coast salmon and quinoa with fresh garden salad and basalmic vinaigrette.