What Makes Willamette Valley Wineries So Special? The People!
Many of you have visited wineries in California and other locations around the world. How many times have you met the owners and/or winemakers while there? Or were you greeted by a tasting room host/hostess reading a script on the history of the winery and the aspects of each wine? Did you actually learn anything beyond what you could have learned from their website or their Vivino listing?
Well, the experience is far different if you trek off the beaten path (i.e. Route 99W) with Triangle Wine Country Tours into the Willamette Valley. I have been amazed at how quickly we were welcomed by the movers and the shakers at the boutique wineries here. My many years of sales experience (a topic for a future blog post!) trained me well in networking and building relationships. I often heard how well I served my clientele by responding quickly to inquiries, suggesting alternative solutions to issues, and referring customers to competitors if I couldn’t help them. I used to say none of these activities are rocket science, just common sense, but buyers would tell me that my actions were above the norm. I have transferred these skills to building relationships with winery owners and staff and it has served me well in the short time we have actively toured here.
Listed below are some of these special people worth getting to know and I urge you to support these small business owners through a Triangle Wine Country tour. There is no specific order to the names included and this is not an exclusive list:
Boyd & Cassandra Teegarden/Natalie’s Estates are both owners and winemakers. Boyd makes his numerous big red offerings in small batches via an old fashioned basket press and Cassandra manages the office and tasting room. When Cassandra is busy, or Boyd is not, he will also conduct the tastings in their tree-house-like cabin up on the hill in Newberg surrounded by ancient moss covered oaks. Many of his grapes originate in Columbia Gorge and Columbia Valley AVAs as well as estate grown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. If you like reds and are passionate about wine you will find something to love here from Cab Sauv, Zin, Malbec, Sangio, Merlot and blends. And, you will walk away with a friend in the wine business!
Andrew and Annedria Beckham/Beckham Estate Vineyard: Across 99W on Parrett Mountain sits the Beckham compound, not just of vines and wines but of amphorae that Andrew makes by hand in his on-site ceramic studio and kiln. A ceramics teacher by education, Andrew purchased this land to set up a studio and teach. Along the way he bought some vineyard land from a neighbor and he and Annedria started to make wine. Now they are renowned not just for their Pinot Noirs but also for the terracotta amphora that they sell around the world for the storage of wine, beer and distilled spirits. Andrew also experiments with wines such as their 9-grape white field blend: Amphora Blanc. Come for the wine, stay for the ceramics lesson and the view!
David and Sara Specter/Bells Up Winery: With a history of playing the French Horn, which adorns their logo, David names each wine for a piece of music: Rhapsody, Prelude, Titan, Candide. After several incidents in their previous lives in Cincinnati, Ohio which caused them to re-evaluate their future, they chucked the corporate world of business and accounting, moved to Newberg in 2012 and never looked back! Their self-proclaimed micro-boutique winery is next door to their home, they welcome just one tasting group at a time and pride themselves on making friends with all their club members, well enough to set aside special wines for each member’s tastes. Also an experimenter, David is the first grower of Seyval Blanc (a white French hybrid more common in the midwest) in the Willamette Valley and also taught me about an obscure Italian red he is hoping to grow here.
Dru & Erin Allen/Vidon Vineyard: Named after previous owners and founders Vicki Lewis & Don Hagge, the Allens purchased Vidon in 2020, retained master winemaker David Bellows and hired Tiquette Bramlett as president. All four are critical pieces to the family atmosphere at Vidon. Besides Chardonnay and several Pinot Noirs, which are excellent, they produce Tempranillo (Tiquette founded Raise the Temp Tempranillo fest in 2021 to celebrate the dozen or so vineyards producing this Spanish grape in WV), a Syrah/Viognier field blend (per Rhone Valley tradition) and sparkling wine is in the pipeline. My personal draw to Vidon stems (pun intended) from the science-geek nature of David’s winemaking, revealed in the erlenmeyer flasks and graduated cylinders used in the tasting room/production area. A microbiologist and biochemist by education, David recently regaled my last tour guests with stories about Don Hagge’s NASA physicist history, which included drinking martinis with astronaut Alan Shepard, while pulling out barrel samples of their new rose and pinot noir vintages. Did I mention the south facing views of the Valley from a gazebo with adirondack chairs?
There are many more stories like these and I plan to continue to seek them out. Every tour with Triangle can include any of these wineries where you feel like family when you walk in the door. And, you walk out with stories and wine to share back home. Why? To promote the uniqueness of the Willamette Valley, bring more people here to help these wineries succeed and enjoy the wines, the scenery and the people!