Posts Tagged ‘Youngberg Hill Wine’

Oregon Wine Harvest 2016 Update

September 8th, 2016 by Nicolette Bailey

DSC_6926It is hard to believe that September has just begun, and in the Willamette Valley Oregon wine country is in its second week of harvest. Even the pioneers that have been growing Pinot in the valley for 50 years do not remember harvesting a vintage this early in the season. As a result, wines in this year’s vintage are expected to be more robust and fruit forward due to ripening fruit in hotter days of August rather than cooler days of September.

This early harvest isn’t because this was a particularly hot year. In fact, the 2016 growing season was slightly below normal in temperature. Vintners use what’s called Degree Days to calculate the seasonal DSC_7121temperature.  This measurement is the number of hours the vineyard experiences above 60 degrees.  In a typical year we expect degree days to be somewhere around 2,100 hours.  This year we were below 2,000 hours.

So why are we harvesting so early? An early spring, occurring about 3 weeks earlier than normal, and warmer than normal temperature during the spring contributed to this early harvest. In fact, at the start of June, our degree days were already about 200 or 300 hours above normal. Added to that were little heat spikes at just the right time to push fruit through critical stages of ripening faster. All these factors resulted in a significantly earlier harvest. The last two years we have picked our first fruit the 17th of September. This year we may be picking our first fruit before the 10th. At this rate, we could be done harvesting by the end of September, compared with October 7th of last year.

Is this a global warming trend? Who knows. It was only 5 years ago, 2011, when we had our coldest growing season ever and finished harvesting on November 7th.



Veraison in the Willamette Valley

August 15th, 2016 by Nicolette Bailey

Veraison blogGrapes turning color in the Willamette Valley means that veraison is upon us. Veraison is an exciting time for grape growers because it signals the beginning of the ripening stage. Pinot Noir grapes turn from green to a dark black-blue color. Pinot Gris grapes turn autumn colors like orange, red, and yellow. Pinot Blanc grapes turn a very light frosty green. This process typically takes about two weeks to complete and then serious ripening begins.

Although it is the easiest to recognize, skin color is not the only change to occur. The pulp of the berries change from a gelatin to a more liquid consistency.  With this change, the pulp also adheres less to the seeds. The flavors of the fruit begin, meaning that instead of just tasting like grapes, you can taste all the other flavors that will later be enjoyed in the wine. The seeds themselves will turn from green to brown, lending to more mature seed tannins. The tannins that will show up in the wine later also develop in the skins, softening as the grape matures. And yes, the fruit becomes sweeter, shifting away from the unripen tartness.

From the time of veraison forward, we hope for continued long, cool, dry, sunny weather through harvest. This will slow the ripening and allow all of the above transitions to evolve in concert.  The more balanced all these characteristics are in the fruit at harvest, the more balanced and of higher quality the finished wine will be. Hot weather during ripening pushes the fruit to ripen faster bring out more robust, fruit forward characteristics that typically throw the wine out of balance. Too cool of weather may also lead to an unbalanced wine via unripe fruit.

It’s this important stage of the grapes growing cycle that makes Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley so special. We are blessed with the weather needed to provide wonderfully balanced fruit to produce the highest quality Pinot Noir.

blog action photo tasting room sing

Top Three Wine Tours in the Willamette Valley

June 6th, 2016 by Nicolette Bailey

wine-tasting tourWhat are the top three ways to wine tour in Willamette Valley?  With the sheer number of fantastic Oregon wineries it is easy to become overwhelmed trying to decide where to visit, organizing and planning your route, and for safety reasons: who will be the designated driver. Fortunately, wine tours are a simple solution to what could be a complex adventure. Wine tours are a great way to see and experience The Oregon Wine Country easily without sacrificing time or energy on the logistics. All you need to do is sit back, relax, and focus on enjoying all that the Willamette Valley has to offer. The following are our favorite wine tour companies.

A vienyard Wine Tour

A Vineyard Wine Tour Led by Debra Kabarsky, A Vineyard Wine Tour designs a special tour just for you. Debra can create the perfect and most memorable day visiting up to four breathtaking, world class, Willamette Valley Wineries. With their Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van, A Vineyard Wine Tour will deliver you in style with first class door to door service and a fresh seasonal lunch. Enjoy the beauty and splendor of the Willamette Valley. Website:

Black Tie Tour

Black Tie Tours  Operated by Stefan Czarnicki, whose family moved to the valley in 1997 to drink wine, hunt mushrooms and open a restaurant (The Joel Palmer House – Dayton, OR). They’ve been showing off Oregon ever since. At Black Tie Tours, it’s Stefan’s passion to share the best that Oregon has to offer. Their vehicles are always clean. Their drivers are always courteous, knowledgeable and on-time. And they always strive to give the best experience that suits you. Oregon is the star – they are the lens. Take a peek!  Website: www.blacktietours.cominsider wine tour


Insider’s Wine Tours  Operated by John Swenson, Insider’s Wine Tours accommodates groups of all sizes for visits to small, boutique wineries and premier wineries, as well.  All tours utilize their executive cars for a private affair. Tours include, private winery visits with winemakers, complimentary dinner transportation, picnic lunches and water. Located in the heart of Oregon Wine Country, they have easy access to unique wineries!  Website:

If you are curious about what vineyards to experience, visit Top 10 Vineyards in Oregon


blog action photo tasting room sing
By: Molly Goldberg

The Heart of Burgundy or the Heart of Willamette Valley

May 17th, 2016 by Nicolette Bailey

beaune blog mapBeaune is the capital and heart of the Burgundy: a historic and storied Pinot Noir region. McMinnville is the capital and heart of Willamette Valley, which is home to many wineries that specialize in Pinot Noir.  In addition to geographic similarities, McMinnville is also home to the IPNC, or the International Pinot Noir Celebration.  McMinnville is in many ways the Beaune of the New World.

Now in its 30th year, the International Pinot Noir Celebration is held the last full weekend of July in McMinnville, Oregon. The event offers Pinot noir consumers and industry members the chance to enjoy an unparalleled selection of Pinot noir from around the world via a full schedule of seminars, walk around tastings, winery tours, and unforgettable meals prepared by top Northwest chefs. With the exception of vineyard and winery tmcminnville blogours, the IPNC is held on the beautiful and historic campus of Linfield College. The IPNC offers three experiences for guests to choose from: The Full Weekend (Friday-Sunday), Salmon Bake (Saturday evening), and the Passport to Pinot (Sunday afternoon).

IPNC is open to the public as a celebration to Pinot Noir and is truly international. Wineries and winemakers from all the major Pinot Noir growing regions in the world are represented including Willamette Valley, Burgundy, New Zealand, California, as well as other regions like Austria, Germany, Canada, and Chili. It is a great way to experience Pinot Noirs from all over the world along with learning about terroir and what differentiates Pinot Noir from around the world. The weekend is laced with one of a kind eating and wine tasting experiences. For more information, go to blog

Prior to IPNC, it is customary for wineries in the valley to have welcoming dinners on Thursday night. Similar to years past, Youngberg Hill will be hosting one of these culinary experiences. This year, renowned chef Michael Smith, of Michael Smith Restaurant in Kansas City, will be the guest chef. The dinner will be held outside in our new event building overlooking the most fabulous views in the valley.  It’s in this very relaxed environment, that you will enjoy an intimate evening of wine and food. Go to for more information and to reserve your seats now.

The IPNC is separate from another Pinot event: OPC, or Oregon Pinot Camp. OPC, on the other hand, is for educating individuals from all over the world, who are involved in the wine trade.  They spend time learning about what makes growing Pinot Noir grapes and making Pinot Noir in the valley so special. With this experience, these lucky individuals become ambassadors for Oregon Pinot Noir around the world.

blog action photo tasting room sing

Enjoying February Wine in the Willamette Valley

January 20th, 2016 by Nicolette Bailey

Couple drinking wine in Oregon at Youngberg Hill.Have you thought about enjoying Willamette Valley wine country during February? True it rains much of the time, but what better excuse than the weather to snuggle up next to a warm fire with your loved one and enjoy a delicious Pinot Noir? There is a lot happening in the Willamette Valley during the month of February with many Valentine’s events at different wineries with chocolate and wine pairings, new releases, and winemaker’s dinners.   Don’t forget about the local restaurants, which will be having spectacular dinner specials.

Wine tasting in the Willamette Valley

It is fun to taste throughout the Willamette Valley this time of year because of the unique and serendipitous experiences one might have. To start, it is typically not as busy in the tasting rooms so you can have a more intimate tasting experience, learn more about the wines and why they taste the way they do. This gives you the opportunity to meet the winemaker or owner hanging around who are willing to share their experiences with you and maybe even break out a library wine or take you to the barrel room. Many of us wineries are family operations and you may have the opportunity to meet other members of the family developing a more intimate relationship with the family, the winery, and the entire operation.

There are plenty of wineries open for tasting throughout the winter months which means that there is no lack of both old favorites and new experiences to enjoy. Visit Youngberg Hill’s tasting room and relax next to the fire while tasting the newly released 2013 vintages, or join us on February 12th for our annual Valentine’s dinner with outstanding chocolate charged menu items paired with some of our favorite Youngberg Hill wines.

And there nothing that puts a little heat back in the relationship than a couple of nights at our cozy intimate inn overlooking the vineyard. Snuggle up in front of your private fireplace and enjoy a glass, or a bottle, of your favorite Youngberg Hill Pinot Noir with the person you adore.


2015 Vintage in the Willamette Valley

January 9th, 2016 by Nicolette Bailey

Harvest 2013 1042015 vintage in the Willamette Valley was a banner year for growing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and other grape varietals, especially at Youngberg Hill.

I’m sure you have heard a lot about the on the west coast 2015 drought and its impact on agriculture. In the Willamette Valley, we are blessed with plenty of rain during the off season that sustains us through the dry growing months.  In fact, we don’t want any rain during the growing season. Because of this, we didn’t suffer from lack of water even though Youngberg Hill is a dry farm. What was a challenge this last year was the heat.  It required us to be more diligent in our management of the canopy and protecting the fruit from the sun. In addition, we took more time and care cutting off dried and sunburnt fruit from the vine before harvest. And in a wonderful turn of events, September turned ouIMG_8304[1]t to be cooler than normal which slowed down ripening and gave us fruit that is very well balanced. All of these factors combined should make 2015 the best vintage ever for Youngberg Hill!

In December, we bottled the Pinot Noir’s from the 2014 vintage, and are excited to share them with the world upon their release in September of 2016. While 2014 vintage was also a warmer year, the fruit aged beautifully in the barrel and is showing just as good as the renown 2012 vintage. In the meantime, the newly released 2013 vintage is tasting great right out of the bottle.

join our wine clubLooking forward, 2016 looks to be another great year as the age of the vines and health of the vineyard continues to improve. Youngberg Hill’s organic and biodynamic farming practices are really paying off both in the health of the vines and also in the quality of the fruit.

We wish everyone a great 2016! Cheers!

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.


blog action photo tasting room sing

Making White Wines in The Willamette Valley

October 19th, 2015 by Nicolette Bailey

IMG_2086What is the difference between making white wines or red wines in the Willamette Valley? The main difference is that rather than leaving the juice from the grape on the skins after destemming, whites wines typically are not destemmed and the grapes juice is immediately pressed off the skins, stems, and seeds. Second, while red wine is fermented over a 12 to 14 day period at warm temperatures (75 to 80 degrees), white wines are typically fermented over a longer period, 30 plus days, at cooler temperatures around 60 degrees. Red wines are also typically fermented to dry meaning all the sugar has been converted to alcohol. With white wines, that could vary significantly from a very sweet wine (stopping fermentation before the sugar is all converted) all the way to bone dry (no residual sugar).

Depending on the varietal, white wines may go directly from stainless steel tanks to bottle within four months or go into barrel for several months before bottling. For example, our Pinot Gris goes directly from tank to bottle and is released about six months after harvest. Our Pinot Blanc goes into neutral oak barrels for a couple of months just to allow the wine to age a little more. Our Chardonnay is put in once used barrels for six to eight months to provide some slight oak character while retaining all the fruit profile. They process isn’t done just in the Willamette Valley but are standard practices in the wine industry.

blog action photo tasting room sing

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.

blog action photo tasting room sing