Pre WBC12: Salem Outside The Bottle

If you have never had an opportunity to attend a Wine Bloggers Conference pre-excursion, I highly recommend doing so. This year was my first year attending the Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland, Oregon. When planning for the trip, it was suggested by friends that I pick this particular pre-conference excursion and I am really glad I did. Attending a pre-conference excursion allows you to spend some time with some conference participants before the madness of the conference begins, while allowing you to visit and learn about the local wine-producing regions.

The tour I went on this year was, “Salem Outside The Bottle.” It was a two day tour focusing not only on the local wine producers, but a look at the town and it’s fascinating history. The excursion was put together by Irene Bernards, Marketing and PR Director for Travel Salem. Irene was full of energy and her love of her town showed. She was wonderful to learn from and always kept us on schedule so we got the most out of our excursion.

The first stop on the excursion was a trip to the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon. For those of you that don’t know me well, I am a huge aviation geek. I love everything aviation and airplane related, so a trip to this museum was a highlight for me. We started our tour by tasting their very own line-up of wines. It’s only appropriate that a museum in the heart of the Willamette Valley have wine tasting available.

Wine tasting at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum

After tasting the line-up of the Evergreen wines, we did two separate tours: one of the space museum and one of the aviation museum. Highlights of the museum for me were. The Spruce Goose, helicopters, general aviation aircraft, and military aircraft. The museum also houses The Evergreen Wings & Waves Waterpark, perfect for summertime family trips.

Helicopters at the museum

The next stop on the excursion was wine tasting at one of my favorite Oregon producers, Johan Vineyards. We were met with their usual wonderful hospitality. Stacy, had a wonderful flight waiting for us that consisted of their Grüner Veltliner, which is currently in barrel. I am super excited about that one. We tasted through their Chardonnay and did a vertical of their Drueskall Pinot Gris and a vertical of their elegant Pinot Noir. We were poured a glass of their Chardonnay and it was time to walk on over to neighboring Left Coast Cellars for more wine tasting and dinner.

Stacy, pouring Grüner Veltliner for us at Johan Vineyards

On the bus ride that day, along with Irene, we also had Ivy Hover of Left Coast Cellars with us. When we arrived at Left Coast Cellars, we were greeted by the winemaker and did a bit of barrel tasting of their 2011 Pinot. After barrel tasting, there was a wonderful BBQ waiting for us that included many of Left Coast Cellars’ wines. One of my favorites, was their 2011 White Pinot Noir. This is a really food-friendly wine bursting with tropical fruit aromatics and Asian pear and mango on the palate, all tied together with a touch of residual sugar and nice acid. I was also a fan of their 2007 Latitude 45 Pinot Noir. We enjoyed a wonderful evening of great food, wine, and friends. It was a perfect ending to a wonderful day. A very special thank you to Ivy and Left Coast Cellars for hosting us and providing such gracious hospitality.

Left Coast Cellars 2011 White Pinot Noir.

After dinner at Left Coast Cellars, we were broken up into groups and checked into different hotels for the night. I ended up at the lovely Grand Hotel in Salem. After a much needed night’s sleep and breakfast, we were off to start a very full day with our first stop of the day at the Willamette Heritage Center for a tour. The Willamette Heritage center was a highly fascinating place that showcased the history of Salem from the early settlement homes to the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill, that was one of numerous textile mills that operated throughout the valley.

Next stop was a tour, tasting, and lunch at Willamette Valley Vineyards. Willamette valley Vineyard’s mission is to grow cool-climate varietals that are elegant, while maintaining sustainable practices in every stage of the winemaking process. We started with a tour of the beautiful vineyards and did some barrel tasting of their Pinot Noir, followed by a delicious lunch paired with all their fantastic wines. It was a wonderful and informative afternoon. Special thank you to Willamette Valley Vineyards for hosting us.

Tasting Pinot at Willamette Valley Vineyards

Fellow bloggers enjoying the day at Willamette Valley Vineyards

Fantastic lunch provided by Willamette Valley Vineyards

Full of great food and wine, and we were off to Piluso Vineyard & Winery. Piluso Vineyard & Winery is located in Aumsville, Oregon. The vineyard was started about 12 years ago, producing seven different varieties:  Tempranillo, Pinot Noir, Dolcetto, Gamay Noir, Viognier, Marechal Foch, and Müller-Thurgau. All varietals are hand harvested in small lots. During our visit, we toured the vineyards and tasted through all their current releases.

Tasting line-up at Piluso Vineyards & Winery

We were then off to our final stop of the excursion, E.Z. Orchards for cider and shortcake tasting. E.Z. Orchards is a specialty market selling farm fresh produce and they produce their very own delicious hard cider. They also sell fresh baked shortcake topped with various mouth-watering fruit toppings. E.Z. Orchards grows a selection of French, English, and early American apple varieties for their refreshing hard cider. The cider is fermented in the traditional French method. Their cider was a wonderful, welcome refreshment on a hot summer day. I admit, I did buy some to take back with me. We later sampled their delicious fruit-topped shortcake. This outing was a wonderful end to an amazing excursion of Salem.

Cider tasting

Strawberry shortcake at E.Z. Orchards

This excursion was a wonderful opportunity to explore the lovely town of Salem and the surrounding areas. We were met with gracious hospitality at every place we visited. A very special thank you to Irene Bernards and the team at Travel Salem for putting all the details together for this memorable excursion. A wonderful time was had by all and many friends were made.

The bloggers on the Salem Excursion

Up next, a recap of the 2012 Wine Bloggers Conference.



About fabocwinechick

Wine lover and wine blogger and foodie. Passionate about good food and wine, travel, and living life to the fullest.
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