Archive for the ‘Youngberg Hill Pinot Noir’ Category

Bottling 2014 Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley

November 2nd, 2015 by Nicolette Bailey

IMG_1059When do we bottle Pinot Noir in Willamette Valley? It’s about this time of year when Oregon Wineries move the previous year’s harvest from barrels to bottles. This is a great time to revisit last year’s harvest, and explore this wine after it’s spent some time in the barrel. 2014 was a rare year for Oregon Pinot Noir. Across the board, Willamette Valley vineyards harvested not only a large quantity of fruit, but more importantly the harvested fruit was of a high quality. All too often one is sacrificed for the benefit of the other, but not in 2014. That year began with an early spring that continued into warmer than normal weather throughout the growing season. This combination brought in a harvest two to three weeks earlier than normal, a time of year that saw very little precipitation. Often times, late in the growing season, vineyards are at the mercy of the weather, hoping for enough dry days to pick ripe fruit. As a combined result, the 2014 wines in barrel are showing ripe, voluptuous body and weight.

Bottling Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley typically takes place right before harvest in late August and September. The machines used to bottle wine are large, and require specially trained operators. Because of this, a lot of smaller wineries hire a mobile botting unit. When it is time for bottling the mobile unit is pulled to the winery.DSCN1218

Once bottled, the wine is left to age in bottle for at least another 6 months before release. However, Youngberg Hill typically release our Pinot Noirs 2 years after the fruit was harvested, so don’t expect to see these wines before November of 2016. At Youngberg Hill, our Pinot Noirs are bigger and bolder than most of the other wines produced in the valley. Because of this, we give them more time in the barrel. We normally keep our Pinot Noir in barrel for at least 12 months or more. With the 2014 vintage being special, we will hold the wine in our French White Oak barrels for 14 months. This additional time in the barrel will impart more of the oak flavor, complementing the bigger fruit flavor of the 2014 harvest. We believe this will ultimately create a superb and well balanced Pinot Noir.


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Making Pinot Noir in The Willamette Valley

October 6th, 2015 by Nicolette Bailey

DSC_6902Many of us who make Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley either learned our wine-making trade in Burgundy or aspire to make wines in a manner similar to Burgundy. What does that mean? It means using a light touch in the winery to let the wine reflect where the fruit was grown and what weather the fruit was grown in. This philosophy creates wines that will be very different across the valley and vary significantly from year to year.

How is this done? We do this by doing as little as possible in the winery to change the natural characteristics coming from the fruit. An example of that is “crush”. While we all envision Lucy stomping on the grapes in that classic TV episode and in some regions with some varietals, we take great care in not “crushing the grapes before going into fermentation. Because Pinot Noir is a feminine grape with thin skins, it is important not to bruise the fruit, which will change the characteristics of the wine. We also take care not to make any adjustments to the wine like adding acid if it is a low acid year, adding sugar if it is a low sugar year, or adding water if it is a high sugar year. We use the saying “It is what it is”.

I often use the analogy of raising children to wine-making. If you try to make a rocket scientist out of a child with innate skills as a concert pianist, he probably wouldn’t be as good a rocket scientist as he would be a concert pianist. In the same way, if one tries to manipulate the wine to taste a certain way, it is most likely not going to be as good a wine as if it is left to reflect the fruit it is made from.

Finally, the wine will go into barrel, typically French white oak for our Pinot Noirs) for anywhere from 14 to 24 months depending on the vintage and the fruit. After barreling, we will bottle and hold for several months before releasing typically  two years from the time it was harvested.

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The History of Pinot Noir and Why it is THE Willamette Valley Grape

September 22nd, 2015 by Rachel

Pinot NoirPinot Noir is one of the earliest varieties of grape cultivated and used for making wine. Pinot has been grown in the “Slope of Gold” in Burgundy, France for many hundreds of years. There are many factors that make Burgundy an amazing place to grow Pinot Noir. These include:

  • Gentle sloping hills
  • Longer spring and fall seasons
  • Soil that drains well
  • Cooler temperatures

Fortunately, the Willamette Valley and Yamhill Valley have very similar growing conditions. We have the cooler temperatures, the longer spring and fall seasons and unique soil. The terroir here in the Willamette Valley imparts specific tastes to our Pinot Noir that makes it very uniquely our own.

One aspect of our land allows us to really bring out specific and unique tastes in our wine. That is: the soil. Each block here at Youngberg Hill has very specific soil types, and you can taste this in the wine itself.

For example, the Bailey block is composed primarily of volcanic rock and shale while the Natasha block features mainly marine sedimentary soil. When you taste Pinot Noir created from each of these distinct blocks in the same year, you can tell they are distinct.

To compare the different soils in another way: the 2012 Jordan Pinot Noir pairs well with red meat and game, while the 2012 Natasha Pinot Noir pairs with duck, salmon, and pork. Both are created from Pinot Noir grapes, but they have distinct flavors.

We are very lucky to have such a perfect climate for Pinot Noir here in the Willamette Valley. It’s much like living in a little slice of Burgundy, France.

Don’t believe us? Come visit and enjoy our lovely rolling hills, temperate climate, and fabulous wines for yourself!blog action photo tasting room sing

Growing Wine Grapes, from Budbreak to Harvest

August 11th, 2015 by Rachel

Wine GrapesThere are many significant parts of the wine grape growing process. Any plant growth is slow and steady and wine grapes are no exception. However, we wanted to share the points in the growth of our grapes that make us jump for joy each and every year. Here is a rapid breakdown of what it takes every year for us to grow the grapes we use to create delectable wines:


Our wine varietals are planted on 20 acres of vineyard space. They produce grapes each year, beginning in spring with budbreak. This is when the first buds of the season emerge from the vine after winter.Wine Grapes

The next spring activity is usually flowering. This is when the vine develops tight bunches of flowers. These flower clusters will eventually grow into grapes. We are extremely excited to see flowers bursting forth throughout the vineyard during this time.


The flowers eventually turn into tiny green spheres. This is fruit set. We work tirelessly to make sure these little spheres grow into juicy grapes using canopy management and other farming techniques.

By late summer the grapes have gained fullness and color. This is called veraison and is the time of year when you can tell which grapes are green and which are purple.


Wine Grapes

Harvest is in fall. This exciting time is when we are out in the vineyard every single day, deciding when the grapes are at the perfect ripeness for plucking. Once this is decided, we pick every bunch by hand.

After harvest, we crush the grapes and begin the winemaking process.


In many farms, winter is the quietest time of year. However, since we create our Willamette Valley wines onsite, we are working hard during winter to make sure fermentation is going correctly and the wine is developing beautifully. Additionally, we must prune the vines to get them ready for budbreak next year.Wine Grapes

Every season is exciting in Oregon wine country. We hold our breath for budbreak, rejoice in seeing our grapes gain fullness and color, and keep a watchful eye out for harvest time. Not only are these times exciting, they are incredibly beautiful. If you haven’t visited us here at Youngberg Hill, pick anytime of year and come. You won’t be disappointed.


Five Seasonal Foods Paired with Summery Wines

August 4th, 2015 by Rachel

Summery WinesWith summertime in full swing, our mouths water as we think about pairing seasonal foods with a variety of summery wines. We know that most people think of beer when they consider barbecues or other summertime cookouts, but we argue that wine adds more depth and flavor to grilled foods. Here are some of our favorite food and wine pairings:


Food: Hamburgers, the American classic. Any grill master who is worth their title knows how to barbecue a great burger. Add a little cheddar cheese, some mayo, lettuce, tomato, and onion and you have an American classic.

Wine: You can actually pair both red and white with this American classic. On the white side, a buttery Chardonnay or bubbly Champagne may be the perfect pairing.  When it comes to red, we love a straightforward Cabernet Sauvignon, a peppery Zinfandel, or an earthy Pinot Noir like the Jordan.


Food: Grilled zucchini. We think fresh summer veggies brushed with olive oil and seasoned with a little bit of salt and pepper and then cooked directly on the grill taste amazing.

Wine: Lemon-bright wines like our Aspen Pinot Gris and 2014 Pinot Blanc bring out the smoky, grilled flavor. Smoky reds like Spanish Tempranillo will intensify your culinary experience. Other delicious options include Riesling and Chianti.Summery Wines


Food: Barbecue chicken or shrimp. When it comes to barbecue sauce, traditional “red with red meat, white with white meat” logic flies out the window. You need to pair your wine with the sauce. So, what do you love? Sweet, smoky, or spicy? That will be what determines your wine.

Wine: Let’s break down the wine pairings here:

Sweet: An excellent pairing would be a white or blush wine like white Zinfandel or Rosé

Smoky: Pairs well with a strong red like Malbec or Merlot. Another great option is the 2011 Natasha Pinot Noir.

Spicy: Sip on something citrus-forward like Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc.


Food: A big, juicy steak. If there’s one thing we love it’s a fantastic, local steak grilled up and served with new potatoes or some other delicious vegetable.

Wine: We all know that red wine pairs with red meat, but how do you determine the right red for the job? Here at Youngberg Hill, we have created full-bodied red wines that go perfectly with that fat steak you want to chow down on this weekend. For example, our 2011 and 2012 Jordan Pinot Noirs are a fantastic pairing with red meat. Other pairing options include a classic Bordeaux, Cabernet, or Merlot.


Food: Veggie burger. Sometimes you have to go vegan or vegetarian, but that doesn’t mean you don’t get to drink wine! Two of the best veggie burgers we have seen either have a strong mushroom element or quite a lot of quinoa, so those are the flavors for which we will recommend pairings.

Wine: Pinot Noir generally pairs excellently with mushroom flavors. This is because here in Oregon, we are known for both mushrooms and Pinot Noir, so the flavor profiles go hand in hand. Another great pairing for mushroom-forward veggie burgers is Mourvèdre.

Quinoa has a completely different taste and requires lighter white wines like Sauvignon blanc or Viognier.


We would love to hear what your favorite summer food and wine combination is! Share it with us in the comments below.


What Wine Terms Really Mean

May 12th, 2015 by Rachel

Willamette Valley Wine TermsWinemaking is a highly specialized field. Because of this, there are a number of wine terms which can get pretty confusing because they often have both specialized meanings as well as non-specialized definitions. Many of these wine terms have roots in other languages, which can make them seem more confusing.

We want to help you articulate and understand what it is about wine that makes it something you love. We’ve created a list of terms that many people find confusing. Knowing these terms will help you discover even more wine that you love.

Acid: This chemical is produced during the fermentation process. Grapes from cooler regions or chilly seasons have higher acidity levels while grapes from warmer climates have lower acidity. In white wine, acidity can taste like lemon or lime juice. Acid adds tartness and zest to wine.

Body: This is a very commonly used term when one is trying to identify a type of wine. The term “body” is used to describe the weight or feel of the wine in your mouth. Often what determines body is the amount of alcohol in the wine. The higher the alcohol, the more body the wine has.

Earthy: When we say something is “earthy,” we often mean that it is evocative of the pleasant smell of rich, fresh, clean soil. It can also indicate that the wine has woody or truffle scents. In French, this term is called goût de terroir.

Finish: The term “finish” is used to describe the quality of a wine. Finish indicates the taste the wine leaves in one’s mouth after drinking. When it has a long, rich taste that lingers after your wine has been swallowed, it is said to have a “long finish.”Willamette Valley Wine Term

Mineral, Minerality: This is a wine tasting term that indicates the smell of wet stones or crushed rocks. It can also mean that a wine has a taste indicative of the land in which the grapes were grown. This means it can have different tastes – anything from chalk to slate. Often wines with minerality are complex and nuanced.

Oaky: We use oak barrels to age our wine. The type of oak barrel and the length of time the wine resides in the barrel affect the taste. Usually oak adds flavors of butter, vanilla or coconut to white wines. In red wine it often adds the taste of baking spices, toasty vanilla or sometimes dill. A wine can become overly oaked and the taste can overwhelm the wine making it taste charred or burnt, or like lumber or plywood.

Residual Sugar: This is the sugar that remains in the wine after fermentation. This may or may not be done on purpose. Sugar can be left in to help change the taste of your wine, making it less astringent or creating a sweeter wine. However, sometimes residual sugar can cause a less than pleasant taste, making a wine too sweet.

Tannin: The mouth-puckering substance that comes from grape skins, seeds, stems, or even oak barrels. Tannins help your wine age and develop. Younger wines have a stronger taste of tannin than wines that have been aged. This is often solved by decanting a bottle or aerating.

Terroir: A French term that indicates the entire physical and environmental characteristics of a particular vineyard. These characteristics influence the grapes and the wine that is made from them. We respect our terroir here at Youngberg Hill.

There are an enormous amount of terms associated with winemaking and wine tasting. These are just a few of them. You can always come to our Willamette Valley winery and ask us what we mean when we describe our wines. Associating specialized words with an actual taste will help you deepen your knowledge of wine and help you find even more wines that you love.


The Perfect Wine for Cinco De Mayo

April 28th, 2015 by Rachel

The Perfect Wine for Cinco De MayoCinco De Mayo is right around the corner!  What better way to celebrate this day of delicious food than with the perfect wine? Here are suggested pairings for five of our favorite Mexican meals.

Tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole – This is a classic starter at any Mexican table. The spice of the salsa paired with creamy guac and salty chips make this a perfect pairing for Pinot Gris, Riesling, or Sauvignon Blanc. Pinot Gris works the best if the salsa is a chunky Pico de Gallo.

Beef barbacoa tacos with lime and cilantro – Barbacoa spiced beef tacos have a very strong flavor all on its own. This pairs well with full-bodied reds like Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon,  and Tempranillo.

Enchilada suizas – This cheesy, rich Mexican dish used to be incredibly popular, but is hard to find on menus these days. There is a lot of red sauce, heavy cream, and cheese involved in this dish, so it can be a little tricky to pair wine with it. The best wines for this dish are fruit-forward whites like Pinot Gris, unoaked Chardonnay, or Riesling. If you don’t want to drink white, you can also try a young Beaujolais with this dish.

Cheesy nachos with black beans and salsa – You don’t need creativity to make cheesy and delicious nachos and cheese into a meal. This can be a tough one to pair wine with though because of the spice of the salsa, starch of the beans, creaminess of cheese, and – let’s face it – greasiness of the deep-fried chips. We love sparkling wine for this scrumptious Mexican meal. Other options are Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Barbera, or Zinfandel.

Steak fajitas – Who doesn’t love fajitas? There are so many flavors to enjoy, from the zing of lemon and lime to the spice of onions and peppers to the creaminess of sour cream. This flavor-forward Tex-Mex favorite requires a juicy, high-alcohol wine like Primitivo.

Some Additional Cinco De Mayo Pairing Advice

Mexican food varies greatly when it comes to spice. If you are more likely to eat milder foods, the go-to wines for most Mexican food are Pinot Noir or Zinfandel. If you want to kick the spice up a notch, try a sweet wine like Riesling or Rosé.

No matter what wine you drink or food you enjoy on May 5th, we hope you have a happy Cinco De Mayo!

Why Should You Join a Wine Club?

April 7th, 2015 by Rachel

We love Willamette Valley Pinot Noir here at Youngberg HillThis Saturday is our wine pick up party for wine club members visiting us here in the Willamette Valley. Members who wish to pick up their wine can swing by anytime between 10 AM and 4 PM on April 11th to receive their spring shipment… and the traditional fresh batch of baklava.

The wine club here at Youngberg Hill is a close knit group. We think there are many reasons for this. Here are just a few:

1. Because we are both a vineyard and winery, we can offer more when it comes to wine club membership. For example, our standard club membership provides wine as well as savings on additional wine purchased.

However, membership also provides access to private events, library wines, limited releases and exclusive bottlings. Pinot Club membership not only gives the member additional bottles of wine, but provides them with complimentary attendance for two at a select winemaker dinner as well as a vineyard/winery tour for four.

2. We both grow and create the wine right here at Youngberg Hill – and we have a large number of events and dinners every year. This means our members get exclusive access to activities whenever they are visiting the Willamette Valley.

3. Exclusivity allows our members to meet each other and become friends with all of us here at Youngberg Hill. So, our wine club members not only receive the wine they love all year round, they have access to the winemakers, special events, and limited-batch wine. All of this creates a close-knit group of wine lovers.Willamette Valley's Youngberg Hill wine club

This is what we feel a wine club should be. There are larger, more corporate-type wine clubs out there. These provide members with wine every few months along with a newsletter or discounts. This hands-off approach may work for some, but for those who care about the terroir and want to delve into the winemaking process, the corporate approach leaves them out in the cold.

We take the personal approach to all activities here at Youngberg Hill. From growing the grapes to hosting winemaker dinners. From music on the deck in summertime to the annual grapevine wreath making party in the winter. Each activity allows us to deepen our connection with our community, the land around us, and the wine we create.

What is your opinion of wine clubs? We would love to hear from you!

How to Make the Perfect Wine Pairing

March 17th, 2015 by Rachel

Wine PairingThere are probably a million “perfect pairing” charts and articles discussing the ins and outs of wine pairing on the internet. We also post articles once in a while discussing what wines would pair well with certain foods. With the ultimate wine pairing event – a winemaker dinner – coming up, we thought we’d take a look at how to pair wine with food once again.

Yum and Yuck

Before you even start pairing wines with food, you have to think about the “yum” and “yuck” factor. That is, if you don’t like the wine or the food, no amount of pairing will make it delicious. So, pick both wine and food that you enjoy.

Rules, who needs them?

There are exceptions to every rule. For example, you don’t always have to pair red wine with red meat. Pinot Noir goes great with rich fishes and roasted veggies, as well as some white meats.

Compare and contrast

Think about the similar flavors in food. Would you pair this food with a zingy lemon sauce? Then a wine with lemon notes would likely treat it well. Is this food better with butter? A rich, buttery white might do the trick. Are there earth notes in the food? An earthy red may be just what you need.

Go local

If you are eating local foods, it’s likely a local wine will pair well. We often drink local wines with our meals because we are eating food from Willamette Valley farms. Another tactic is to look at where the food you are eating is from and go for a wine in a similar region. If you are eating a traditional Bordeaux-style meal like confit de canard, you can go with a Willamette Valley Pinot as we have a similar region to Bordeaux.

Acid, fat, salt, and sweet

When stripped down to the barest essentials, food and wine are all about flavors. An acidic wine will pair well with fatty and sweet food. Wine with high tannin levels will go well with sweet food while wine with a high alcohol content will cut through fatty food. Salty foods should get a low acid wine while sweet foods will want a little acidity.

In the end, wine pairing takes some practice. However, always go for foods and wines that you love. Be adventurous and tell us where your culinary adventures take you!

Willamette Valley Winemakers Celebrate 50 Years of Pinot

March 10th, 2015 by Rachel

Willamette Valley WinemakersBoth the Willamette Valley and Youngberg Hill are celebrating anniversaries this year. The entire valley is celebrating 50 years of Pinot Noir production and we are celebrating our 25th anniversary!

With these great events in mind, we wanted to take a look back to our beginnings, how our vision has developed over time, and what our plans are for the future. Winemaker and Youngberg Hill owner Nicolette Bailey sat down and answered these questions, explaining how Youngberg Hill, as a small family farm, fits into the overall Willamette Valley winemaking vision.

Interviewer: What was your original vision for the vineyard and winery when you and Wayne first started out?

Nicolette: “The idea was to emulate what we experienced in Burgundy. We are a small family farm, farm organically, use small lots, and have site specific bottlings.”

Interviewer: What in the valley inspired or affected your vision?

Nicolette: “The similarities (to Burgundy, France) in size, weather, and community.”

Interviewer: How has this vision evolved over time?

Nicolette: “The vision hasn’t so much evolved as confirming the similarities we love between Burgundy and the Willamette Valley, which encouraged us to continue pursuing our winemaking goals.”

Interviewer: Has living and growing here in the Willamette Valley had an affect on your vision?

Nicolette: “We are enjoying living a simpler life.”

Interviewer: What can we look forward to from Youngberg Hill in 2015 and beyond?

Nicolette: “More wine at an even higher level of quality, along with the addition of Chardonnay.”

As you can see, Youngberg Hill has fit into the fabric and vision of the Willamette Valley winegrowing culture. We started with Pinot and are expanding our vision to tackle other grapes and creating new wines.

What do you love most about Oregon wines? Comment below to let us know!