On the road in Oregon wine country, day 2
Woke up early at King Estate to a gorgeous summer's day and a beautiful view. After some coffee, a pastry and a vanilla bean yoghurt I drove up to the winery to taste with winemaker Lindsay Kampff, who was brilliant in dealing with my geeky techno-head questions. The wines were good too, and like many young winemakers in larger companies, she's also got her own small label called Journey's End, a high-end Pinot which impressed.
By the time I left for my next appointment, the temperature was nudging 80 F, with a bright blue sky plus a little haze on the horizon from the fires lit by grass seed farmers to deal with their stubble. Oregon is one of the world centres for grass seed, as well as hazelnuts (second only to Turkey here). In fact, the Willamette Valley grows just about everything. I was tempted to stop at one of the the pick-your-own blueberry farms, because they looked so gorgeous.
Next stop was Benton Lane, another beautiful property with rolling hillside vineyards. It's owned by Steve and Carol Girard, who moved here from Napa some years ago, having identified it as a perfect place to grow Pinot. We lunched on delicious home-made pizza that they fired in their Pizza oven, and it was hard to leave for the next appointment. Once again, the wines were very good.
After quite a drive north, I headed to Bethel Heights - a pioneering property in the new AVA of Eola-Amity Hills that's home to identical twin brothers Ted and Terry Casteel and their families. It's yet another beautiful property (I haven't encountered any ugly or boring Oregon vineyards yet) and the wines are quite special, including a brilliant Chardonnay and some mesmerising Pinots.
A short drive over to the other side of the hill took me to the final visit of the day: Cristom. Steve Doerner (above) is making some amazing Pinot Noir here, as well as an impressive cool-climate Syrah that's amazingly fresh and peppery. It turns out that Steve is a bit of a guitar nut, so we had a fun conversation telling each other which guitars we had.
Finally, after checking into my hotel in McMinnville, I had dinner with Bryan Croft from Firesteed at a Spanish joint in town. It was a lovely dinner, and I was amazed to find out how inexpensive the Firesteed Pinot Noir is ($13-15 on the shelf), because it's actually pretty good.