by The Traveling Winers
It’s no doubt that if you are a Pinot Noir lover and happen to be browsing the Pinot aisle of your local wine store you will have at some point stumbled upon the brand Adelsheim. It makes sense. If you’re looking for a great Pinot Noir you would walk straight to the Oregon section. And within that section, you should find one of the great Pinot producers – Adelsheim – a part of the Oregon wine country since the very beginning.
The Traveling Winers were lucky enough to have the opportunity to sit down with the legend, David Adelsheim, share some of his famed Pinot and a tray of goodies and get the scoop, as they say, “straight from the horse’s mouth”.
The Godfather of Oregon Wine Country
During our interview with David, we asked him the same question we ask almost every wine producer, “What got you started in the wine industry?” Although we are putting David on a “wine pedestal”, the man himself doesn’t quite see it that way. He told us his story in the most casual, unpretentious and humble manner. He starts off by saying that back in the early 1970’s, a time when young adults just went about life in such a way as to “piss off their parents instead of thinking what could actually make a living”, he and his young wife, Ginny, bought some land simply because they wanted to live in the country. What to do with that land was another story.
As it turned out, at the time, 1971, there were a couple of other land-loving renegades that were planting vineyards. Their names were Dick Erath, David Lett, and Bill Blosser, now big names in the Oregon wine industry. The catch here though is that in the early 70’s Oregon was not known for growing grapes or producing wine. These men were the pioneers. David recalls,
“We were collaborating with these other families to make great wine, talked very idealistically at the time, but had no idea what we were talking about. In fact, in those days, nobody knew about soil types and what differences could make. All they knew was that they were looking for Jory soil, the basalt soil of the Dundee Hills, a southernly slope to help ripen the grapes in the cool climate and needed to plant the varieties that could make great wine….from Northern Europe, Reisling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. I’m not convinced that what went on in Steve Job’s office or in the Apple offices at that time was any different. They couldn’t have possibly known what would come out 30, 40, 50 years later. You just couldn’t imagine this. [But] at the time, there were only a few fine wines made in California, but basic thinking was fine wine come from France and in U.S. is what Italians drink with dinner. We stood that almost on end.“
And so now here they are almost 50 years later making some of the best Pinot Noir around and were the stimulus for the Oregon wine industry and world-class Pinot.
Change is in the Air at Adelsheim
While the news is already on their website, we felt very fortunate to have had the personal discussion with David himself and heard in his own words the reason & commitment to Adelsheim’s new brand direction: Focusing on just 2 estate varietals.
Over the years, the winery’s direction has been to make wines from their own fruit in addition to fruit they sourced from other vineyards, whether in the Willamette Valley or elsewhere in Oregon. Their new brand direction changes all of this. The future of Adelsheim Vineyards, according to David, is in producing a product that is unique and set apart from others. And this is possible in the Willamette Valley. As David explains:
“Willamette Valley is not a monolithic place… there are grapes grown in different places and each place has a somewhat different story [soil], one that is easily seen when tasting the wine. Adelsheim as a winery, as is the model of a lot of the founders, took advantage of other people growing grapes. You buy them and they are spread out throughout the North Willamette Valley. This is how it was back in the beginning and for the last 15 years, making wine from the North Willamette Valley. But in the last 3 years, we came to realize that that story is being told by everybody. It is a common story, a great story, but it isn’t uniquely “our story”. The story that we can tell people in the next 5-10 years going forward is the story of Chehalem Mountains, not the more general story of the Willamette Valley. So, in fact, we are doing a lot of refocusing our brand and giving up buying grapes from other places and really focusing on our estate and the Chehalem Mountains.“
As if this major change wasn’t enough, David and his team are taking it one step further. They are changing the playing field with regard to their opinion of what should be grown in this part of Oregon, or at least in their own vineyards. David announces,
“Two years ago we were making wine from 6 varieties. Going forward from this year we will be making wine from only 2 varieties, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. This decision was a longtime discussion. We could envision it as a Burgundy model if you will. A model that has to do with the imprint of the brand, of the vineyards and the winemaking on what we do. But ultimately we had to show my co-owners and staff that this actually made us a more profitable company, and a more rational company, and a company that was much easier to explain. Once upon a time, we had 6 varietals and we were making wine from all over the Willamette Valley. Well, that elevator speech better have been in a really tall building. The speech now is Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, the Chehalem Mountains, Estate. That’s it. “
And lastly, we have just recently learned of one final change at Adelsheim – a change in ownership. In 1994 David and Ginny took on business partners Jack and Lynn Loacker. They have worked side-by-side all these years to make Adelsheim what it is today – a leader in the Oregon wine industry. As of mid-2017 David and Ginny have handed over the reigns of the business to new owners Jack and Lynn Loacker with David remaining in an advisory role.
So, there you have it. Changes all the way around for Adelsheim Vineyards. Except for one, that is – their ability for making exceptional wine.
So many wines…so little time. Here are two that we tasted that really made a big impression:
2014 Caitlin’s Reserve Chardonnay – Smooth and creamy, but not overly so, with the right balance of crispness. Flavors of lemon and green fig delight the mouth. Caitlin is a close friend of the family and when asked, David says, “she would be a family member if we had more than one daughter, but we don’t.” Caitlin lived with the Adelsheim’s for some time and apparently was close enough to them that they named a wine after her! Suggested pairings: Pasta, rich seafood.
2014 Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir – Aromas of raspberries, strawberries, oak and spice, and with flavors of the same along with soft round tannins. This is the reserve wine named after the Adelsheim’s only daughter. Very special indeed. Suggested pairings: duck, lamb, grilled salmon, aged cheese.
All photos courtesy of Adelsheim Vineyards. Photo by Kent Derek.
The Winer’s Experience
|AMBIANCE||GROUNDS & SCENERY||TASTING ROOM|
|Upscale yet welcoming and unpretentious. We experienced a feeling of warmness and welcoming.||The grounds and scenery matched the ambiance of the tasting room. Add in a splash of “serene” and the picture is complete.||The tasting room was warm, comfortable, and welcoming. There is plenty of space for a busy crowd, both to stand about enjoying each other’s company and bellying up to the tasting bar (although we can’t imagine anyone “bellying” up here!). They extend this space with an attractive patio area that overlooks the vineyards.|
|WINE TASTING EXPERIENCE||CUSTOMER SERVICE||TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE|
|Ours was a bit different than the normal experience as we were sitting with “the man himself”, but I can only imagine that you wouldn’t be disappointed in their staff.||Same comment as for “Wine Tasting Experience”….we would expect nothing less than great.||Uh…hello! We were talking to the Godfather! Need we say more?!|
Vineyard & Winery Information
|Adelsheim Vineyards||16800 NE Calkins Lane, Newberg, OR 97132|
|Daily 11 am – 4 pm|
|Contact form on website||http://www.adelsheim.com||(503) 538-3652|
|MUSIC||WINE CLUB||TASTING FEE|
|Check calendar for activity schedule||Yes||$15 – $25|
|Yes – reservations required, fee associated, includes tasting and cheese and salami pairing||NoshBox – $35, call a week in advance||Wine club members may bring in outside food for picnics|