DiscoverExploring the Authentic Charm of Oregon's Yamhill-Carlton AVA

Exploring the Authentic Charm of Oregon’s Yamhill-Carlton AVA

Earlier this year, I had the privilege of spending a day in Oregon’s Yamhill-Carlton AVA in the Willamette Valley. While the region is known for many amazing, mass-produced wines and prominent wineries, my adventure was set apart by the discovery of smaller vineyards and the captivating stories of their winemakers, employees, and the enchanting landscapes of the valley.

I’m one of those people who likes to break out of the conventional travel methods, and my visit to Yamhill-Carlton was no exception. This impromptu trip was initially a freelance photography work project but I arrived a few days early to see Willamette Valley. I found myself in a situation without hotel reservations or any pre-arranged winery tours. But sometimes, spontaneity leads to the most unforgettable experiences.

Finding a Place to Stay:

As I scoured the web for accommodation options, I stumbled upon a small bed and breakfast in the heart of the valley, complete with its own vineyard where they grow grapes for local wineries. Yamhill Vineyards Bed and Breakfast. Despite my initial skepticism, I took the plunge and made a booking, even though their Google account only had two reviews. Little did I know that this decision would lead to a remarkable stay and introduce me to the warmest, most endearing elderly couple who had called this area home for over five decades. 

Their home, like their hearts, was humble. Although I was the sole guest during my stay, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them that most of us now rely on modern online reviews and professional photographs tailored for Instagram’s perfection. The essence of staying at such places lies in the authenticity of the experience, where you encounter people in their truest form, unfiltered and unaltered.

This couple had built their home and inn many years ago and graciously shared their life story as we sat together, sipping on their organic wine juice and blackberries for breakfast, which they sell to local wineries that don’t produce enough for a full wine crop each year. They also made an incredible breakfast for me with locally sourced honey, eggs, and vegetables. It was one of the freshest and most flavorful meals I’ve ever had. 

Now let’s jump into the beautiful wineries I explored in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. 

Solena Estates: 

Solena Estates is a testament to the artisanal craftsmanship of Oregon’s winemaking tradition. Unlike the glitzy, high-traffic wineries that dominate the scene, Solena Estates offers a more intimate and personalized experience. I was surprised by the small amount of people at this vineyard despite its wonderful wine and amazon scenery. Even with no prior reservations, I felt like I could immerse myself in this vineyard. I had no time constraints. 

Solena Estates is actually owned and run by a 22-year-old woman, Solena, who inherited the site just a few years ago. Talking to one of the vineyard’s head sommeliers, Hugo, was a highlight of the trip. He gave us a full history of the wines and even brought us down to the private cellar where we saw wines from every year dating back to 1999. It was amazing to hear the history of this vineyard and learn more about its origins.

Wines to Note: Pinot Gris 2020, Pinot Noir 2019 & 2003 (2003 is Private Reserve)

Roots Vineyard: 

Tucked away in the rolling hills of Yamhill, Roots Vineyard is a gem for those seeking an authentic and down-to-earth wine experience. True to its name, Roots focuses on the fundamental essence of winemaking, cultivating a connection between the earth and the glass. The tasting room, with its rustic charm, invites visitors to unwind and savor wines crafted with a commitment to organic and biodynamic practices. The friendly staff imparts a genuine passion for the craft, making each tasting a journey through the vineyard’s history. At Roots, it’s not just about the wine; it’s about embracing the roots of the land and the stories within every bottle.

Wines to Note: Pinot Noir 2014, Pinot Noir 2016

Lemelson Vineyards: 

Lemelson Vineyards is an artistry of winemaking, blending tradition with innovation. It’s located in the heart of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. This vineyard is renowned for its sustainable practices and commitment to producing high-quality Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. The tasting room is welcoming and offers a glimpse of the vineyards. We loved sitting outside in their Adirondack chairs with a charcuterie board! With its breathtaking views and stunning wines, Lemelson is a can’t-miss stop! 

Wines to Note: 2016 Jerome Reserve, 2022 Chestnut Hill Pinot Gris, 2019 Chestnut Hill Pinot Noir 

Belle Pente Vineyards: 

Belle Pente, translating to “beautiful slope” in French, perfectly encapsulates the essence of this in their vineyard. Beautiful slopes all around!  Perched at a higher elevation in Yamhill-Carlton AVA, Belle Pente Vineyards is an ode to elegance. Their tasting room provides a welcoming atmosphere to explore their handcrafted Pinot Noirs and aromatic Pinot Gris. The dedication to organic farming and minimal intervention shines through in every vintage, just like most of the vineyards in the Willamette Valley! But Belle Pente is not just a vineyard. This winery is influenced by the prestigious regions of Burgundy and Alsace, giving it a European feel with mouth-watering wines.  

Wines to Note: 2020 Chardonnay, 2021 Pinot Gris, 2018 Pinot Noir 

Overall, my experience in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA in Willamette Valley was very beautiful. Even though I only had a day and a half to explore the local wineries, the people I met along the way and the wonderful small wineries I visited gave me an intricate experience. I felt connected to the land and with the non-pretentious winemakers. If you get an opportunity to come to this region, make sure you stop by some of the lesser-known areas! 

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