by The Traveling Winers
Since 1989, Youngberg Hill has been a fixture in the McMinnville area, with sweeping views of the Willamette Valley, Mt. Hood, and the Cascade Mountains. As we learned during our stay in their 9-room Inn overlooking the vineyards, there is no time of day or weather outside that could make the views anything other than extraordinary. From the early morning fog to evening sunset, rain or shine, it is a feast to your eyes. And the Bailey family has gotten to enjoy this view every single day since purchasing the land in 2003.
Youngberg Hill began with the Inn in 1989, with the hills being planted to vines some two years later. Today, along with the Inn and the vineyards, Wayne and Nicolette Bailey also run a winery, tasting room, and a very sought-after event facility which hosts corporate events, weddings, and the like. And to top it all off, the family is devoted to biodynamic practices, not only in their vineyard management but to every part of their operation as well as their personal lives.
Biodynamic Farming Explained
Boy, was Elizabeth, our “Hippy” winer, in her element on this winery visit! She felt right at home with Wayne’s devotion to “all things nature” and understood all of the terminology and processes. Miki, our “This is the Life” winer, on the other hand, had a few questions. Namely, she asked Wayne to describe in a bit more detail the aspects of biodynamic farming. And boy, was he happy to do that! Listen here as Wayne puts the pieces together of how our environmental system, when left to its own devices and not interfered with by man, can be a very balanced and healthy system. He describes the importance of the cows, the insects, the mites, and the grass, and how balance requires us to “do less, not more”.
The Impetus For a Biodynamic and Sustainable Way of Life
Elizabeth was just so impressed with the Bailey’s dedication that she had to probe a bit farther. She asked Wayne “Why?” What made them be so devoted to this style of life. Wayne explains in the video below recalling his childhood farming days in Iowa, where pesticides and herbicides were, and still are, the norm and long-term health problems seem to be the resultant outcome. He also tells of a time when the farm grew and raised everything the family needed to survive and his desire to go back to this sustainable way of life.
One Aspect of Vineyard Management
While taking pictures of the vineyards, we noticed an interesting pattern in some of the vineyard blocks. One row would be mowed down and the next would have taller field grass. It was actually quite pretty, but we seriously doubted that that was the reason for the for the practice. We asked Wayne why this difference in grass length between the rows and he imparted one more piece of education with regards to biodynamic farming. It all has to do with returning the vineyard to the soil, insect habitation, and accessibility of water to the vines.
Wayne’s Prediction on the Future of the Willamette Valley
This was kind of a déjà vu moment for us. We had just met with David Adelsheim, an icon in the Oregon wine industry, who had just told us that his vineyard and winery were making a big change…a change to only produce Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Well, either Wayne and David are friends or sit on the same winery committee, both of which are possible in this wine growing area, or they are just two men with the same philosophy and belief about the future of Oregon wine. Wayne predicts that in the not so far future Oregon will be known for its world-class Chardonnay just as it is known for world-class Pinot.
As usual, we are only going to focus on a couple as we tasted through their menu more than once. Okay, give us a break here! We stayed with them for three nights so there was plenty of time. Plus, there are some educational pieces within each wine section that we wanted to share. Wayne has such a special talent for explaining his winemaking choices in a way that really brings it all together. We hope you learn something new!
2015 Chardonnay – This was the first year for Chardonnay for Youngberg Hill. With Wayne’s commitment to producing great
Chardonnay, in 2014 he took upon the task of grafting Chardonnay vines to the existing Pinot Gris rootstock. This Chardonnay was a wonderful balance of clean, crisp fruit with just the right amount of oak to round the edges and impart a smoothness. Wayne says that he uses once-used barrels and only ages the wine for six months. He says that the oak is “not necessarily meant to really impart a lot of oak characteristics on the wine but just allow it to age, grow, and evolve”.
2014 Pinot Noir Cuvée – The interesting thing about this wine is that it is a cuvée, or blend, of the same 7,7,7 clone but from three different vineyard blocks showcasing the characteristics of three different soil types. The first is from his estate’s Bailey Block which sports volcanic rock soil with a shelf of shell running down the center. The second and third are from a neighboring vineyard in the Amity-Eola Hills AVA, one block being marine sedimentary soil and the other being Willakenzie soil. All of the vines are relatively young. The result? A cuvée that has some complexity due to the different soil expressions, but a bit of a lighter style with a lighter oak footprint so that the fruit’s “playfulness”, as Wayne puts it, can shine through.
2014 Natasha Pinot Noir – The grapes for the Natasha come from the oldest vines on the hill. They are clones of Pommard and Wadenswil, are 28 years old, and are “own-rooted” vines (original rootstock, not grafted for phylloxera resistance). The Natasha block consists of Willakenzie and marine sedimentary soil, and with other environmental conditions, tends to accentuate more of the Wadenswil clone characteristics. Now, compare this to the….
2014 Jordan Pinot Noir – The Jordan block soil consists of volcanic rock, is 200 feet higher in altitude than the Natasha block, two degrees cooler throughout the growing season, much shallower soil and less access to subsoil moisture, making the vines work harder and stress, producing a more complex variation. The Jordan Pinot Noir uses the exact same clones in the exact same proportions, but the wines taste significantly different. The Jordan block tends to accentuate the Pommard clone to a greater degree bringing out the Pommard characteristics. This was Miki’s favorite!
The Winer’s Experience
|AMBIANCE||GROUNDS & SCENERY||TASTING ROOM|
|Warm, cozy, just like you are at home.||Breathtaking. ‘Nuf said.||Again, warm and cozy. Plenty of room to mill about with tall tables if you would like to sit. The tasting bar itself it small but adequate. Shoot, you have the entire surrounding veranda overlooking the vineyards as your extended tasting room. It couldn’t be better!|
|WINE TASTING EXPERIENCE||CUSTOMER SERVICE||TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE|
|You are going to love these folks! They walk you through the wine tasting as if you were long lost friends.||The best….you are home as far as they are concerned.||Wow! We met with both the owner and winemaker and also the tasting room and Inn manager and they were both wonderfully sharing of their knowledge.|
Vineyard & Winery Information
|Youngberg Hill||10660 SW Youngberg Hill Road, McMinnville, OR 97128|
|Daily 10 am – 4 pm|
|MUSIC||WINE CLUB||TASTING FEE|
|Yes, live music Wednesday evenings June – Sept. Check website.||Yes||$15, $25 for private tastings|
|By appointment||Appointment in advance||Don’t forget about their Inn and Event Center!|