If you’re looking for the whole experience… You can find it at Soter.
Soter Vineyards has an interesting technique to keep deer away from their vines. They have sheep, llamas and donkeys on-site. The sheep attract coyotes, coyotes keep deer away, and the llamas and donkeys keep the sheep safe. Soter believes in turning to nature as much as possible to handle their vines. In 2010, infamous year of the birds (early migration due to shortage of some sort of bug, resulting in lots of pecked and eaten grapes), they hired a falconer to protect their 2010 vintage, for which I am grateful since I enjoyed their 2010 Mineral Springs Pinot Noir enough to buy a bottle despite my promise to not buy anymore wine until September.
Soter conducts its tastings in a completely unique fashion. It was an original tasting experience for me–a rare occurrence in a place saturated with tasting rooms. They way Soter sets up their tastings is by reservation; a maximum of 10 people fit around a table in the middle of their tasting room and overlooking a spectacular view of vineyards and Oregon wine country. Although they do take walk-ins, I’m sure it’s a rare occurrence. They have no signage indicating where their tasting room is, so people aren’t likely to happen by it by chance. That means everyone who goes there is there on purpose; they know they are there to try wine, to enjoy and to buy wine.
We called on a Tuesday to receive a 3 p.m. reservation the next day. Upon getting to the top of the hill, our hostess greeted us with a “welcome wine,” a 2009 Brut Rosé. On a sunny day in Oregon summer, the chilled bubbles hit the spot. So exclusive it isn’t even listed on their website, this wine has gained a cult following–and for good reason. It was my top choice of the day and it wasn’t event on the flight!
Another great thing about Soter is that they lay out a few different glasses so you can revisit different wines as you choose. It’s an advantage from “drive-by” tastings where you have one glass and need to finish your wine before you get the next one. Their style of wine tasting gives you the whole thing; the experience, the vineyards, the view, the exclusivity, the great wine, the ability to try and re-try said wine and, most of all, the time to enjoy the wine and watch it unfold.
The flight started off with a 2012 Rosé made of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It was a still rosé, unlike the brut, and not as captivating, but it still had it’s charm. Their 2012 Cuvée white made of Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay wasn’t my favorite, but I suspect that’s because I don’t enjoy Gewürztraminer. We skipped their 2011 Chardonnay since they sold out, and moved on to the 2011 North Valley Pinot Noir, which seemed a little too young to be enjoyed just yet. The 2010 Mineral Springs Pinot Noir was delicious, great with food and complex. It was dry farmed, meaning the vines weren’t irrigated, making the vines work harder to reach a water bank, making for more complex wines. Since we skipped the Chardonnay, we tried a 2009 “white label” Mineral Springs Pinot Noir. Loud nose, dark fruit (maybe a bit of cherry), little thin but nicely spiced. I liked the 2010 better because it was more complex, but the 2009 was a part of that 2010 Pinot Noir. It had less to it, but that is understandable since the 2010 had more wines in it. I am definitely a bigger fan of the Mineral Springs label than the North Valley wines.
If you would like to make a reservation to taste their wine, details can be found here. They do tastings everyday at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Call 503-662-5600 for reservations, or fill out an online request here.