Leah Jørgensen is the owner and winemaker of her eponymous label, Leah Jørgensen Cellars. An 18-year veteran of the wine industry, she has worked at several Oregon wineries, including Erath Winery, Adelsheim Vineyard and Shea Wine Cellars. Here is Jørgensen’s don’t-miss list for fall wine tasting and Thanksgiving in Wine Country.
North Willamette Valley
Dundee has a full day’s worth of exceptional wine tasting experiences — all within the downtown limits. As you approach the tiny town, you can hit The Four Graces, Dobbes Family Estate, Panther Creek Cellars, Chapter 24 Vineyards and Argyle Winery. Take a lunch break at Dundee Bistro or Red Hills Market (Domaine Trouvére’s tasting room is upstairs) and then continue a few blocks to the quadrant of tasting rooms at the opposite end of the Inn at Red Hills — Le Cadeau Vineyard, Evening Land Vineyards, Tertulia Cellars and Angela Estate. Packed with high-scoring, sought after wines, downtown Dundee is the perfect wine country attraction.
Calkins Lane Wineries
When visiting wineries, there’s nothing like convenience packaged with premium quality. You get that driving up Northeast Calkins Lane in Newberg. Pinot is the word, and you’ll get to sample plenty of elegant versions of it along this road. First, pop into time-honored Adelsheim Vineyard with its impressive winery and tasting room and wonderful selection of stunning wines. Next stop is ArborBrook Vineyards with its sunny farmstead charm set in a tasting room that’s nestled in a beautiful red barn with lovely wines to sample. Don’t miss the enchanting Sydney “Semillion” Sauternes-style dessert wine. Moving down the lane, visit Bergström Winery, a charming, family-owned estate winery with a commitment to Biodynamic methods. Bergström is crafting memorable artisanal wines, including an unforgettable chardonnay. Finally, there’s Lachini Vineyards, another small, family-owned winery with an emphasis on biodynamics. They combine state of the art winemaking and old world techniques to handcraft wines of complexity, grace and profoundness. Don’t miss this trip down Calkins Lane.
Applegate Valley in Southern Oregon
Quady North and Cowhorn Vineyard
Don’t miss Quady North and Cowhorn Vineyard in the Applegate Valley. I just love the quaint Old West town of Jacksonville, and I’m enchanted by the rebellious concept behind this place Herb Quady proudly calls the “State of Jefferson,” perhaps because I’m a devoted fan of our third U.S. President who was a great inventor, statesman, visionary and, yes, wine grape grower. Quady North has a lovely tasting room on the main strip downtown, and the wines are lush, gorgeous and engaging. From stand-alone viognier, syrah and cabernet franc to delicious blends, these wines are the heart and soul of the south. I would say the same for Cowhorn Vineyard, a magical oasis just outside of downtown, where Bill and Barbara Steele’s winery became the first in Southern Oregon to achieve both biodynamic and organic certifications. They focus on Rhône grapes, including syrah, grenache, viognier, roussane and marsanne. These wines reflect Steele’s sage-like commitment to the land, nature and environmental responsibility. (Cowhorn isn’t open this Thanksgiving Weekend, but you can usually visit them Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.) Also, discover nearby Ledger David Cellars – which is fast becoming one of the most decorated wineries in Southern Oregon. Their 2013 Malbec recently turned heads with “SIP Northwest Magazine’s” Best of the Northwest, and Portland Monthly Magazine named their 2014 Sauvignon Blanc one of Oregon’s Best Wines Under $25. Ledger David is nestled between the world famous Rogue Creamery and Lillie Belle Farms gourmet chocolates, making it the ultimate wine lover’s destination.
Columbia River Gorge
Phelps Creek Vineyards, Viento Wines and Stoltz Vineyards
There are so many reasons to visit the fetching little town of Hood River – great wine, beer, coffee, shopping, fine dining and gorgeous vistas of the Columbia River. With several tasting rooms to choose from, you can plan an afternoon jaunt to delight the senses. One of the best producers is Phelps Creek Vineyards, with a tasting room flanking the Hood River Golf Course. The director of winemaking is Alexandrine Roy from Burgundy, France. Seek out the Fleur de Roy Rose of pinot noir. You won’t want to miss Viento Wines. Thirty-year winemaking veteran and owner Rich Cushman is a native of Hood River and makes thoughtful, delicious wines; the Grüner Veltliner from Underwood Mountain is a favorite. A new discovery is Stoltz Vineyards, located downtown, producing single-barrel lots of pinot noir, chardonnay and other cool untapped varietals like fernão pires and zweigelt. Even more interesting, the winery and tasting room are located in the town’s oldest house still standing, called the Mansion on the Hill (1886). Before conversion into a winery, the building was a mortuary for 45 years. When you are downtown, don’t miss The Pines 1852 tasting room for a glass of the 2012 Old Vine Zinfandel, whose vines were planted in the 1800s by an Italian stone mason. Just south of town, Mt. Hood Winery has jaw-dropping views of the mountain for which it was named and pours estate grown pinot gris, pinot noir and riesling.