It was our second weekend in Oregon. My girlfriend Carla and I had taken a trip to Wandering Aengus Ciderworks in Salem to fill our growler with Anthem Hop Cider. We were becoming hungry and exhausted after we left, and we were making our way to Mcminville for a winery visit before heading back to Portland.
Maysara Winery is the first place featured in Katherine Cole’s book Voodoo Vintners: Oregon’s Astonishing Biodynamic Winegrowers, and the portrait she painted of Moe Momtazi’s uncompromising and genuinely radical vision for his namesake vineyard had captured my attention and kept me scratching my head about such an unusual form of viticulture until I reached the book’s index.
We stopped at a café a few miles from the vineyard for a roast beef au jus to sate our appetites, and turned into the inclined dirt road an hour before Maysara’s scheduled closing time. Each row of vines had colorful flowers in front of them, a practice we later learned was intended to attract insects and keep them away from the grapevines.
The winery and tasting room appeared majestic and medieval, with tall ceilings and large stones on the walls. We met Naseem, the middle daughter in the Momtazi family business and National Sales Representative for Maysara. She poured seven wines for us, five of them Pinot Noirs, each its own wild animal with unique subtleties of flavor. We walked out with the white (a Pinot Blanc) and two of the reds: the 3 Degrees and the Asha Pinot Noirs that had an ample balance of soil, bramble, and fruit to please my finicky palate for this elusive grape. On our drive back, we saw a sign for Anne Amie Vineyards.
“Oh, Anne Amie,” I said. “They make such a great dry Riesling. I wish we had time to stop there.”
“Maybe next weekend, mi amor,” Carla said softly, patting my back.
It was our third Saturday in Oregon, our only remaining full weekend in the State, and we were driving back from Chatoe Rogue, a farm owned by Rogue Brewery that grows hops and barley for use in their microbrews made in the coastal city of Newport. Once again, our last stop on the way back was a winery.
We had checked the website for Anne Amie Vineyards and learned they would be hosting a movie night that evening, which allowed us to make our way back leisurely without worry of their tasting room closing.
The sky was full of cirrus clouds made gold by the bright sun touching the tips of the vineyard’s rolling hills of vines and its perennial bushes on its patio. Carla and I walked in the tasting room and were told the movie would start at 8, so we tasted a few wines and bought a cheese plate to enjoy with their Viognier. It was a bright and beautiful example of such a friendly white grape, full and layered with floral tropicality that cooled our lips as the sun shone over us.
We drained the bottle well before the movie was even close, and opted to take another one home in addition to their dry Riesling. The simple pairing of herbed goat cheese, Viognier, and an approaching sunset over their vineyard had provided enough entertainment that evening.
It was our last Saturday in Oregon, and we would be leaving the State before the afternoon closed. Our last stop was again a winery, one that had also captured my interest in Katherine Cole’s book, and had been the subject of a previous post: Montinore Estate.
The site was the most beautiful winery we had yet seen. We were again confronted by roses in front of the vines, a densely packed bunch of low-lying green specimens covering a wide expanse of rolling hills.
“Interested in a tasting?” the Attendant said as she rose from her chair behind their bar.
We chose ten wines to taste and with every few, I walked around the room, sipping and browsing the diverse array of products they were selling. I sipped the first Pinot Noir she had poured, and recalled the last night I went out to dinner with my parents at FIG in Charleston, South Carolina where I had tried a glass of the same wine for the first time.
“What’s this?” I asked, picking up a large bottle full of brown liquid labeled “VERJUS.”
“It’s basically the best thing ever,” (the Attendant) said. “It’s the juice of unripe grapes. I use it in everything, for salad dressings, poaching pears, cocktails.”
Carla gave me her first look of longing at the bar. “Are we buying it?” she asked.
“I guess we are,” I responded.
We tasted through another few wines and were at our last, their Pinot Noir Ruby Port. She poured it for us and I raised my glass and smelled it.
“Wait, let me get you some chocolate,” she said from the back of the bar. She presented us with two small paper sample cups with a thick chocolate reduction. “This is our Pinot Noir chocolate sauce.”
Carla gave me her second longing look, and I consented yet again.
We walked out with the majority of what we had tasted, and I filled the gaps in the box with some additional loose bottles of beer and wine we had bought earlier. I snapped a few pictures with my new iPhone of the flower-lined vine rows before getting in the car to begin our drive to Seattle. No VIP tours, no sample bottles, no business lunches, not even an industry discount anymore since I have shifted my focus back to the tea world. Just good wine worth devoting the time for our taste buds.