Wildlife Refuge and Wine?

For those of you not familiar with the fall and winter here in the Pacific Northwest, there really is only one word that describes those seasons...WET. It rains or precipitates in some manner pretty consistently from the end of September to about the beginning of April.

I don't mean that we never see the sun for those 6-7 months, or that it is dreary all the time, but we have a lot more gray days, and it will usually at least drizzle more than half the days of the week. As a result, you have to imagine everyone's surprise and delight when it was the middle of October and the rainy season still had not arrived.

Josh made note in his last post that he was in Vancouver, British Columbia for a period of time. I was in BC during the same time, and upon my return to Oregon I was greeted by a friendly visit from my dear colleague from Washington State University, Kyle Steven (otherwise known as just Kyle). It seems that Kyle Steven had chosen the best weekend to come to visit the Willamette Valley as he choose the last nice weekend before the rainy season started.

I know that Kyle enjoys wine tasting, and when coming to the valley, it is something very high on his list of must dos. We woke up at a decent hour last Saturday and I started looking for
what we could do prior to wine tasting. Yes, it's always 5pm somewhere, but I didn't think we should start off the day first thing in the morning drinking wine. Judge me if you must.

On an unseasonably dry , cloudless, and warm Saturday, we decided to start off the day with an adventure at Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge just outside of Salem. I had driven by Baskett Slough many times in the nearly four years that I have lived in Salem, and had always wanted to visit, but never had. I am glad I waited.

From the website, you learn Baskett Slough is a refuge of over 2400 acres that provide for a place for Canadian Geese to spend part of their winter. It is has a combination of cropland, wetlands, grasslands, and forests.

Kyle Steven and I explored and did a beautiful hike. We saw the remnants of the last of the Queen Anne's Lace, went through the Oregon white oak forrest, and went up to the observation platform. While hiking, Kyle and I spotted among the most amazing sites, a true gaggle of geese. I think there were several hundred geese, while Kyle thinks there were easily at least 1000 plus.

After working up an appetite, Kyle and I decided it was definitely time for wine, and as I planned, there is a winery just outside of the slough - Van Duzer Vineyards. Josh and Rick did a review of a Van Duzer sparkling wine previously, but I got to be the first one of the group to visit the winery.

We turned off Smithfield Road, from Highway 22, just west of Highway 99W. The gravel road got us pretty excited about what lay ahead as we could see a building in the distance on a hill.

We turned and up we went until we pulled in the parking lot for the tasting room. From the tasting room there was a view of Baskett Slough, the Pacific Coast Range mountains, Van Duzer Vineyard, and the valley around you. It was a beautiful sight to see.

We walked in and met with and spoke with Josh Kimball, the Hospitality and Sales Manager who did our pours. Josh spent some time telling us a bit about Van Duzer, which has a long history. The vinery has been growing grapes since 1983, which, is a long time for an Oregon winery, and producing wine since about 1989. Josh told us that Van Duzer has only been a stand alone winery since about the late 1990s. Before that, it was part of a winery with a vineyard in California sharing the same owner and I believe the same label. The beautiful tasting room we were in was less than five years old having been built in 2006.

Josh spoke with Kyle and me about the grapes still being on the vine even at this late time. When Kyle and I were driving up the to the tasting room both of us thought that it might have been because they were late harvest grapes. I then remembered, and Josh confirmed it was because the 2010 growing season had been so short that wineries were leaving the grapes on as long as possible to maximize the benefits.

Van Duzer specializes in Pinot Noir. In fact, seven of the 11 wines they make are Pinot Noirs. The pours we had consisted of the Estate Pinot Gris, about five of the Pinot Noirs, and their two ports. They were all enjoyable wines. Kyle and I found ourselves knowing we couldn't leave empty handed, and ironically we both decided on a port - The Windfall. So be on the look-out for a post on that once I open it.

It was an great way to spend the last beautiful weekend in the Willamette Valley. As I right this, it has been raining almost all weekend, with us getting more than 2 inches in Salem alone. While I love the rain, I know that it means less visits to vineyards. That being said, I am grateful to Kyle Steven for coming to visit, and to Josh and Van Duzer for providing a great visit. I look forward to having more experiences with their wines.

Until next time...


Josh Gana said...

Sounds like a fantastic day! Almost perfect, if you will. If only you had bagged some geese for dinner...haha.

I know Josh from Van Duzer follows the blog, so thanks for taking care of the staff, Josh!

Scott said...

Nice, this brings back memories for me. I spent a summer interning with some botany Ph. D. students from OSU and we did a bunch of research at Basket Slough. It is indeed a very beautiful place. Unfortunately we never went drinking after work (I was probably 16).

Josh Kimball said...

You're very welcome guys. It was our pleasure. Keep up the great work!

Josh Kimball
Van Duzer Vineyards