As you may have noticed, our stages for the 2009 Tour de Vino have been switched up somewhat from our original plan. Some wineries were deemed unreachable by bike due to long gravel roads (we ride road bikes) and some would require bikes of greater technology. We generate absolutely no income from this blog, so no pair of Bianchi 928 Carbon SLs for us.
One of those last minute changes was a decision to ride out to Benton Lane Winery in Monroe, OR. From where we're at, this means an approximately 42 mile trip back and forth. That may not be far in cycling terms, but keep in mind neither of us are cyclists first and that part of the trip involves carrying wine back. Needless to say, the distance seemed worth it and off we went!
Benton Lane Winery is a family-owned winery that mostly produces pinot noir and pinot gris. They're also very environmentally-conscious; ensuring that all of their wines are salmon-safe as well as a variety of other certifications. Another aspect worth noting is their consistent postage stamp themed branding. You'll see this on all of their signage, labels, and even their wine club shipment wrappers. I point this out only because I'm the Marketing guy and am impressed, so kudos.
Benton Lane's tasting room is actually a rather large facility with both an indoor facility as well as a large outdoor patio area with an amazing view. Upon walking up to the tasting area, Josh and I had the opportunity to taste the only two wines they were currently tasting; their 2007 Pinot Noir and 2008 Pinot Gris. Unfortunately, their 2006 First-Class Pinot Noir (a top 100 wine) was not available for tasting. The reviews:
2007 Pinot Noir: A relatively classic Oregon pinot, this wine is relatively fruit-forward and is very drinkable. The winemaker notes two specific qualities -- a "sexy, spicy character, and incredible fresh cherry flavors." At $26, this is a great bottle to pick up either to pair with a meal or have sitting around for the random occasion.
2008 Pinot Gris: Like the Pinot Noir, this is another wine that aims to be a regional classic for its genre and succeeds. From the winemaker -- "This pale straw colored Pinot Gris has generous floral and pear aromas. In part, this comes from the addition of a small amount of estate grown Viognier grapes. Pressing the juice from whole grape clusters instead of individual grapes minimizes skin contact and this, along with a very cool fermentation, accentuates the delicate aromas." A 93 from Wine & Spirits Magazine doesn't hurt either.
While the wine was fantastic, one thing I do want to point out about our experience at the winery is that it was easily the least-inviting of any winery I have ever been to. While the experience wasn't necessarily negative, I felt as though it didn't matter if we were there or not. We generally don't share about writing for a wine blog until towards the end of our visits, so by no means did we expect any sort of differential treatment. Josh and I were the only two people there at the time and no effort seemed to be made to educate us about the wine nor the property. Perhaps the person behind the counter was just having an off-day, but it left a metaphorical bad taste in my mouth (the wine taste was great).
All in all, the wine and the ride definitely made the trip worthwhile. I'll also make sure to visit their tasting room at another date in the future to see if maybe I experienced an off day. If you're already in the Willamette Valley wine tasting and want to try some great wine, I'd suggest putting Benton Lane on your list of places to go. I caution, however, that their tasting list may not be as robust as others and also that the atmosphere may be a stark contrast from other wineries in the region.