There are more than 500 wineries in the Willamette Valley, and even though I've been enjoying local wine for quite some time, I bet I've visited only about 75 of them. I know there are many stellar wines I have yet to discover, so I'll keep exploring in the wine country. You should too.
A recent trip to Willamette Valley wine country took me to Patton Valley Vineyard, just off Old Highway 47 near Gaston.
I was interested to visit Patton Valley Vineyard because of its sustainable methods. Both the vineyard and winery are LIVE (low input viticulture and enology) certified.
Co-owner Monte Pitt says they make sustainable wine because it simply tastes better and "ensures that our work does no harm to the land, the people or the greater community." The company was B-Corp certified in 2017, bringing it into the community of more than 2,000 businesses meeting the highest standards of overall social and environmental practices and accountability.
Monte and co-owner Dave Chen purchased the 72-acre site in 1995 on the crest of a hill overlooking the Patton Valley. It was an abandoned orchard of cherries and prunes. They cleared the upper 24-acre portion and planted pinot noir.
The hilltop vineyards are uniquely situated. The rows run true north-south, allowing the east-sloping vineyards sun in the morning, then enjoying a cooler afternoon. The west-sloping vineyards have the opposite; they enjoy cooler mornings and then get heat in the afternoon. This causes different characteristics in the grapes, and makes for interesting comparisons of vintages. Only organic composts are used in the vineyard; no herbicides are used. Planted between the rows are plants selected for their nutritional value to the vines, such as red clover and mustard which add nitrogen to the soil. These sections are all hand mowed.
As a member of the Deep Roots Coalition, Patton Valley is dry farmed, another sustainable practice. DRC, a Willamette Valley-based organization, believes wine should reflect the place from which it emanates: its terroir. Irrigation prevents the true expression of terroir.
Lavender is planted at the ends of rows; it is not only pretty but attracts bees and other beneficial insects.
The wines also take on interesting characteristics from the different wood casks used, adding a complexity.
The Patton Valley Vineyard is planted with about 9 different clones of Pinot Noir, Gamay and Chenin blanc. Monte says the mission of the vineyard is to "responsibly and sustainably grow the Willamette Valley's finest grapes, and make beautiful wines that reflect the character of the land and of the people who produce them."
Derek Einberger has been the winemaker and vineyard manager since 2010, and became a part owner in 2013. Monte says his style of production, "from root to fruit to glass, mirrors that of the overarching ethic of Patton Valley: a light but deliberate hand."
Another sustainable practice is the use of screwcaps to seal the bottles. I find this very handy, especially when picnicking. Not having to pack a cork screw is just one less thing to remember.
"Corks are evil," Monte said. "It really is a quality issue. You never have an issue with corking using screwcaps. They age (the wine) well, too. There is no variable when using a screwcap."
When you go be sure to taste the 2014 West Block Pinot Noir and the 2018 Pinot Noir Rose.
Patton Valley Vineyard has a picnic table in the vineyard which is available to all. Pack a picnic then purchase a bottle or two of their wines to enjoy in the outdoors. Or, let them pack a picnic for you. Their Picnic with Pinot includes wine and food.
Mark another winery off your "To Visit" list and go wine tasting at Patton Valley Vineyard, located at 9449 SW Old Highway 47 in Gaston. If driving to Gaston seems too far, then visit Patton Valley's Monaco Tasting Bar at 506 SW Washington St. in Portland.
Go online to pattonvalley.com or call 503-985-3445 to learn more.
Just in case you wanted to pack your own picnic I am sharing a recipe for a fun make ahead small bite, Grilled Zucchini Rolls with Herbs and Cheese. Add a hearty pasta salad, salami and cheese and you are set for a fine culinary adventure.
Bon Appetit! Make eating an adventure!
Grilled Zucchini Rolls
with Herbs and Cheese
Makes 4 servings
3 zucchini (about ½ pound each) sliced lengthwise into ¼-inch slices
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ ounces soft goat cheese
1 tablespoon freshly minced parsley leaves
½ teaspoon lemon juice
2 cups baby spinach leaves
¼ cup basil leaves
Discard the outermost slices of zucchini and brush the rest with oil on both sides. Season with salt and pepper. Place on a preheated grill or grill pan for about 4 minutes on each side, or until tender.
In a small bowl combine the goat cheese, parsley leaves and lemon juice, mashing with a fork.
Put 1/2 teaspoon of the cheese mixture about 1/2-inch from the end of a zucchini slice. Top with a few spinach leaves and 1 small, or half of a large basil leaf. Roll up and place seam side down on a platter. Repeat with the rest of the zucchini slices.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.