Posts Tagged ‘Youngberg Hill Pinot Noir’

November Wine Touring in the Willamette Valley

November 16th, 2015 by Nicolette Bailey

Is thGregor Halenda Travel Oregon Jessis a good time to go wine touring in Oregon?  November wine touring in the Willamette Valley is a great time to taste Pinot Noirs. There are over 300 tasting rooms throughout the valley, and most all of them are open through the Thanksgiving weekend. Additionally, most of us in the valley are releasing new wines, having pick-up parties, wine club events, and winemaker dinners throughout the months of November and December. It is a great time to be out in wine country, celebrating the bountiful harvest.

With the holidays approaching, it is a great time to stock up on your party wines and dinner wines for the festive season. Many wineries offer wine specials during this time of year.

When you’re traveling through Oregon’s Wine Country, the restaurants in the area offer great dining experiences. Which dining experience is best for you? Ask around and be prepared to have a lot of options. To make your wine tasting tours easier there are several touring businesses to drive you from tasting room to tasting room. Most also offer dinner service, which is a ride to and from dinner.Fall vineard

It used to be that the “season” for tasting in Willamette Valley wine country was from Memorial Weekend until Thanksgiving. Today the “season” is all year long as many wineries are open for tasting, restaurants are open for lunch and dinner, and warm and cozy B&Bs are open to with nice fireplaces to cuddle up and enjoy that bottle of Oregon Pinot. Even after the holidays, there are plenty of places to go, wines to taste, and places to stay and eat. In January, the Oregon Truffle Festival takes place. In February, there are many Valentine events. And as March rolls around, white wines for spring and summer begin to be released.

There is never a “closed” time in the Willamette Valley.

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

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.


Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley: Then and Now

July 7th, 2015 by Rachel

Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley

Pinot Noir in the Willamette ValleyNot only are we at Youngberg Hill celebrating our 25th anniversary this year, the entire Willamette Valley is celebrating 50 years of Pinot Noir. In honor of both of these anniversaries, we wanted to talk about the development of Pinot Noir here in our beloved valley.

Brief History of Pinot in the Valley

Back in 1965, David Lett planted Pinot Noir here in the Willamette Valley. By 1970 there were just five bonded Oregon wineries. In the ’60s and early ’70s, winemakers were simply matching varietals with climate. They ordered the cool climate varieties and crossed their fingers – hoping the match would be perfect. Luckily, it was and Oregon Pinot Noir blossomed throughout the Willamette Valley.

By 1974, Oregon State University was able to help create clones of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay imported from Burgundy, France. The Burgundy weather and land is very similar to the Willamette Valley climate, and these clones thrived. Oregon wine was put on the map as a force to be reckoned with and in 1975, Portland restaurant L’Omelette created the very first wine list featuring Oregon wines.

Over time, more and more wineries sprouted up throughout Oregon. By 1980 there were 34 bonded Oregon wineries and in 1985 Oregon wine saw a huge triumph. Our local Pinot Noir outshined the French in the Burgundy Challenge at the International Wine Center in New York. By 1990 – when Youngberg Hill came to the Willamette Valley – there were 70 bonded Oregon wineries and by 1997 sustainable winegrowing became a hallmark of Oregon winegrowers. There are about 400 wineries in the Willamette Valley now, and that number is still climbing.

Here at Youngberg Hill Willamette Valley Winery

Over the years Oregon wineries have worked toward carbon neutral, sustainable farming practices. At Youngberg Hill, we work to embody these environmentally friendly strategies in both our farming and winemaking practices. We feel these processes don’t just help the environment, they allow our wine to express the terroir in taste and texture.

Not only have we made sustainable improvements in farming practices, we have added variety to our wine repertoire. At the moment we have three distinct blocks of Pinot Noir and one block of Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.

One thing that shows up strongly in Willamette Valley wines is the terroir (the taste and flavor imparted to a wine by the environment in which it was produced). We have 20 acres of vineyard and each block has a distinct taste based on varying soil types and microclimates just in those 20 acres. We feel this variety is what makes Oregon wine country produce such fine and distinguished wines.

There has never been a better time to visit Oregon wine country. We are excited to see what harvest this year has to bring us and are proud to present our 2014 wine selection. Be sure to visit us this year for our silver anniversary and look forward to our 2015 wines next year. We are thrilled to share them with you!

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.


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!

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!

How to Read a Wine Barrel

October 28th, 2014 by Rachel

Youngberg Hill Wine Barrel Reading a wine barrel sounds like a relatively simple process. You are looking at a label imprinted into the wood, right? There’s a little more to it than that. On the left you will see one of our new barrels for our estate Pinot Noir. On the top of the barrel is information about it. Some barrel manufacturers (called “cooperages” in the wine world) put more information on their barrels than others.

On this barrel we have:

  • Cadus is the name of the cooperage.
  • France is the source of the barrel.
  • Origine means the point of origin.
  • YH are the initials of Youngberg Hill. This barrel was made specially for us.
  • Troncais is the oak forest in France that the wood is from. There are six different forests this oak type comes from and each forest has specific characteristics.
  • French oak – 30 months air dried means the amount of time after harvesting the tree during which the wood is dried out in the open. After the wood is dried, the barrel is created.
  • M+ signifies that the inside of the barrel has been toasted a certain amount. In this case it was toasted to medium plus. The amount a barrel has been toasted contributes to the taste of your wine.
  • Slow extraction means that this barrel is best used when the wine will be in it for more than a year because the wood slowly interacts with the wine.

At Youngberg Hill we are very specific about our choice in barrels. We use white oak as it has been the standard in the winemaking industry for centuries. It brings out unique qualities in wine and allows wine to interact with it and through it. Youngberg Hill Pinot NoirOther wood has been experimented with, but winemakers around the world have come back to white oak.

The white oak we use for barrels is from France. French white oak barrels have been the barrel of choice for Pinot Noir producers the world over. The qualities we look for are:

  • The age of the oak trees.
  • The weather in which they are grown (cool so the growth is slower and the grain is more open.)
  • The drying conditions of the wood in an open air environment.
  • The manufacturing process of the barrel.

All of these qualities allow Pinot Noir to age beautifully. Every one of these qualities are found in French white oak barrels.

Big red wines like Cabernet, Borolo, Malbec and all those big reds in between can use a wider variation of oak barrels. They are thick skinned, big boned, heavy wines that can compete with other oaks more easily without losing the character of the wine. Pinot Noir is a delicate grape with thinner skins that can be easily overwhelmed by other oak options. French white oak has been found over the centuries to be subtle enough to interact with Pinot Noir.

What else would you like to learn about the Pinot-making process?  Let us know below.