It was our second wedding anniversary. While I am usually the one who plans our adventures, this year I tasked my darling bride to “surprise” me (I added the quotes here because it’s near impossible for her to keep secret plans hidden from me). She certainly did indeed surprise me with a whirlwind of celebratory events, all culminating on Sunday with a wine tour of Oregon’s Yamhill Valley.
Our guide was a wonderful lady named Trish who works for A Great Oregon Wine Tour. She picked us up promptly at 9:30 a.m. in the Safeway parking lot in Sherwood, OR. Our transportation was a comfortable, aptly ‘wine’ colored mini van stocked well with bottled water, a split of Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs and a wonderful lunch that we would enjoy later in the day. Trish was friendly, polite and very knowledgeable about the wineries, the soils, the region and the wines.
Our first stop of this tour was Rex Hill. Just off of Highway 99W, east of Newberg, this winery has been making wine (mostly Pinots) for over thirty years. It has a long history in the area, in the state and nationally, having been served during at least one White House dinner. In 2007, A to Z Wineworks purchased Rex Hill and brought with them new enthusiasm and new ideas, which included offering classes and seminars. Their tasting room is full of history and charm. Antiques and dark woods abound in this generous space.
Front and center was their Essence Table. Each glass held a different fruit, spice, or herb that the patron is to experience as part of their wine tasting. The staff is very friendly and knowledgeable and you are able to wonder with your wine and take in the various displays including a sample of the soil in which the grapes are grown in,
a Wine Grape Varietal table, a road map of Rex Hill since A to Z’s purchase and a meeting area which still has the rails in the floor from when they used to harvest the grapes before the building became a tasting room.
The wines themselves were well presented. Tom, our Sommelier, started us out with a 2013 Seven Soils Chardonnay. He told us that this wine was aged in French Oak for 11 months and was limited to around 600 cases. Consisting of grapes from six different vineyards this chardonnay has accents of citrus, peach, nectarines and even fresh cut grass. It has a reserved oakiness and while white wines are not my favorite, this wine would be quite nice chilled on a hot summer day with a couple of frozen grapes thrown in the glass.
Our next wine was Rex Hill’s 2013 Pinot Noir, which is mass-produced (approximately 8060 cases) for all the various stores and restaurants. This Pinot is aged in French Oak for 11-12 months and has accents of dark cherry, blueberries, strawberries and violets. Tom explained that as it breaths the smokiness, sandalwood and cinnamon come through, and he was right. This is a pretty good everyday drinking wine in my opinion
Next came the 2013 Rose Rock Pinot Noir. Only 215 cases of this wine were produced and it’s aged in French Oak barrels for 12 months. Now this one, I liked… A lot. It has a fruity bouquet and opens on the palate with an assortment of berry flavors. Mid palate takes these flavors and adds to them the oaky smokiness and hints of cocoa and it finishes very nicely with a teasing of flavors reminiscent of Bing cherries. I decided that this vintage would be an excellent choice with either lamb or steaks on the grill; so much that I ended up buying a couple bottles.
Tom treated us to a wine that was not on the tasting menu next. Rex Hills 2013 La Colina Vineyard Pinot is a pleasant wine. Its subtle flavors berries and Bing cherries are accents by spices, violets and a hint of smokiness. The tannins in this wine are apparent, although not overpowering. Tom stated that only 189 cases were bottled of this vintage and he said it was pretty popular.
We ended our tasting with their 2012 Francis Tannahill Sundown Red. Only 134 cases of this wine were bottled. It’s a red blend of 75% Grenache, 23% Syrah and 2% Tempernillo from the Sundown Vineyard, Aguila Vineyard and Garnier Vineyard in the Rogue River Valley. This was another one of my favorites. The bouquet was exceptional, with flavors of pepper, berries and a hint of oaky leather dancing on my palate. This is a rather complex wine and will go very nicely with any red meat or hearty lasagna. Yes, I bought a couple bottles of this as well.
Rex Hills’ tasting fee is $15 per person, but this is waived if you make a purchase. Tom, our Sommelier, was very knowledgeable and spoke to us about the various soils the grapes grew in, the exposures, temperatures and everything having to do with the grapes. Rex Hill also has their wines available for sale online as well as having a wine club with your choice of 2, 4 or 6 bottles per quarter. It was an excellent start to our wine tour, even if we were tasting at 10 in the morning.
Up Next: The Four Graces Winery
Rex Hill Winery
30835 North Hwy 99W
Newberg Oregon 97132