I have driven by Belle Vallee's winery on Buchanan for a few years and have always been intrigued, so the opening of a new tasting room was the perfect opportunity to check out the winery. Immediately we were struck by the gorgeous tasting room and expansive deck (where they serve appetizers and wine by the glass on the riverfront), and were greeted by Brad, the new Director of Sales & Marketing. Belle Vallee offers a few different flights for tasting; we decided to go for the big red flight.
Upon chatting with Brad, we found that not only is he a heck of a nice guy, but it's clear he knows the Oregon wine industry inside and out and was a great rep for Belle Vallee. They haven't done much retail business prior to the opening of the tasting room, so Brad was pouring some of the 2002 vintage reds from the first year of production. Belle Vallee sources from some wonderful vineyards, the wines we tasted were from Quail Run and Del Rio in the Rogue Valley. After taking a small deviation to the Whole Cluster Pinot Noir, which winemaker Joe Wright learned in his time at Willamette Valley Vineyards, we dug into 4 big reds. We walked away with two bottles:
2002 Merlot: As one of the inaugural vintages, we were lucky to taste this wine and I immediately knew I was coming home with one. It's obvious the years have treated it well, and it was very nicely received by our non-merlot drinking friends. With "opulent black fruit flacors" and a nice finish of blackberries and chocolate, our taste was quite enjoyable despite the heat of the day.
2006 Southern Oregon Red Wine: This Southern Oregon red blend consists of mostly Cab Sauv with Merlot and Cab Franc rounding out the finish. While this is not a wine that I predict will win many awards, what's great about this blend is that it's one of those perfect "utility" wines. It's blended in a fashion that it will go well with a variety of food pairings, is inoffensive to both enophiles and non-enophiles, and can even hold its own by itself. Just enough spice on the nose with a healthy dose of fruit behind it made this one a winner for all of us.
As Brad noted, it seems that Belle Vallee is better known in New York than in Corvallis due to the distribution model -- and they are hoping to change that. We look forward to seeing that change as they are putting out some wonderful wine from great fruit. I foresee many a Friday evenings spent on their deck sipping some vino by the river.
Up next, we have Stage 5 which will take us to Enoteca, also on the Corvallis waterfront.