Oregon’s Willamette Valley is legendary for its fabulous Pinot Noir wines, and a great many of them happen to sustainably grown and produced. My husband, Ken, and I decided we really needed to investigate some vineyards; we discovered that there were so many organic, biodynamic, and sustainable wines that in two days, we could barely skim the surface of this quaint, lovely region.
A Passion for Pinot Noir: Sokol Blosser Winery
From Portland, we drove south to the Dundee Hills to Sokol Blosser Winery, located just two miles from the town of Dundee. Sokol Blosser is truly committed to creating delicious wines and to pursuing environmentally friendly practices in all phases of its business.
The Sokol Blosser family planted their first grapes in 1971. Over the years, they have perfected their art and protected the land and its biodiversity. Here are some of its eco-friendly measures:
- The vineyards are organically farmed according to USDA regulations.
- The estate is certified by Salmon-Safe as a vineyard that protects and restores salmon habitat.
- Farm tractors run on 50 percent biodiesel.
- Sokol Blosser’s underground barrel cellar, built to U.S. Green Building Council standards, became the first winery in the country to earn the prestigious LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.
- The vintners use unbleached paper products for labels, wine boxes and gift bags whenever possible.
- They recycle everything from office paper to pallet shrink-wrap.
- Solar panels located in the grape fields provide about one-third of the winery’s electrical needs.
So how about the wines? You can relax and enjoy them all in the lovely tasting room that overlooks the acres of rolling hills and rows of grapevines. (The tasting room is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
We said “Mmmmmmm,” in honor of Meditrina (named for the little-known Roman goddess of wine and health), a rich, fruity marriage of Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel. We also adored Evolution, a blend of nine grapes that creates a light white wine that pairs with nearly any food.
Homage to Mushrooms at the Joel Palmer House Restaurant
This restaurant is a must if you like mushrooms and are in Oregon wine country! All the dishes at the Joel Palmer House revolve around wild mushrooms (which the staff gathers themselves), and local/organic greens, herbs and vegetables.
Yes, even the desserts are mushroom-centric: Try the Mushroom Gelato or the Crème Brulée with Essence of Candy-Cap Mushroom.
The elegant and exquisite The Joel Palmer House is in a stately, Victorian historic mansion. The chef/owner, Jack Czarnecki, came to the tiny town of Dayton, Oregon because he learned mushrooming from his father, and Jack wanted to blend fine mushroom-based cuisine with great wine—especially Oregon’s finest.
Even though the ingredients are local, the menu includes dishes from all over the world: I chose scallops on lotus root with a wine/mushroom sauce; Ken had wild salmon with an Argentinian chimichurra sauce. To start the meal, we were treated to a mushroom risotto amuse-bouche with white truffle oil and shavings. Divine!! (Who knew truffles grew in Oregon??!)
As we debated whether to order the Heidi’s Three-Mushroom Tart (a house specialty) a silver-haired East-Coast gentleman stopped at our table and said in his distinguished voice, “Heidi’s Tart is to die for. You must have it, but do share it between you two.” And so we did. It was rich, and very foresty with its blend of wild mushrooms.
If you’re really hungry, splurge for the $75 Mushroom Madness dinner in which Chef Czarnecki serves a variety of items. It would be the best way to get lots of tastes, but we were completely satisfied with our a la carte choices.
A-Snooze at the Wine Country Farm B&B
From the verandah of the Willamette Room at the Wine Country Farm B&B, Ken and I sipped some wine and beheld the rolling vineyards in the valley. As a fox went scurrying by, we realize how his quiet and peaceful the countryside in wine country is.
The B&B is situated on a charming working farm (they raise grapes and Arabian horses) near Dayton, Oregon. Its grounds are lovely, filled with garden sculptures and blooming flowers to enjoy.
After our fabulous dinner (and a chocolate chip nightcap from the B&B’s bottomless cookie jar) we drifted off into sweet slumberland.
—Laurel Kallenbach, writer and editor
P.S. Share your stories of wine country: in Oregon, California, Italy, France, Australia.