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A Visit with David Adelsheim

 A few weeks ago I has the opportunity to visit with one of Oregon’s first, and some would say best, winery founders, David Adelsheim.  David was in town for a special dinner with his club members the evening before, and stuck around to visit with me the next morning. 

Upon first impression I knew I would like David.  He has an immediately recognizable passion for the industry, and a nonchalant approach for creating his high quality wine.

When David, and his wife Ginny, set out for Willamette Valley in the early 1970′s no one really knew what the Oregon wine country could become.  They moved from Portland with a desire to make wine, and thought it would work; but the whole industry was just getting started in the area so who knew what they were really in for. 

They say timing is everything and David immediately got in with a group of fellow enthusiasts, including the founders of Ponzi, Erath and Sokol Blosser, and in an almost fraternal way they worked together to develop what is now one of the best Pinot Noir growing regions in the world, and kept their focus on this temperamental, but stunning grape. 

They knew that the California wine movement was in full development around the same time, with a focus on various varietals like Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. They believed that Willamette Valley land would produce great Pinot Noir and that in order for the region to become special they needed to concentrate their efforts on developing one great grape to the best of their ability. 

Though David planted a few other varietals on his Quarter Mile Estate, near the Chehalem Mountains of Willamette Valley, including Chardonnay and Riesling, the focus was Pinot.  In 1978 the first 1300 cases of wine were made for commercial release.  Production grew year after year, always with David’s core ideals in mind.  The process had to be very gentle – wines picked in small lots by hand, whole cluster pressing for white wine, hand sorting for the reds which are then destemmed into small open top fermenting tanks, all with a tender touch.

Of the various lines produced by Adelsheim now, much of their wine comes from estate grapes, however though they do source some of their grapes.  All vineyards have to be within a short drive of their winery in order to ensure they are a part of the grape growing process.  (It is a good opportunity to see their grape growing pals also.)  Though they like to be close to their grapes, they do believe in a hands off approach when to making wine, and really letting the grapes do their thing.

And they do. Though much of their wine can be drunk now, many also have the ability to age beautifully through the next 5 – 10 years.  Their Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay are ready now.  A classic Oregon Pinot in style with strawberry and mushroom aromas.  I am partial to Oregon Pinot as I like the earthiness and often balanced acidity of these wines, instead of the more fruit forward Pinot that can come from other regions of the world. 

Currently the winery is also making eight single vineyard wines, some of which is from sourced grapes, some their own; some vines are young, some are as old as 40 years.  Mainly, David wants them to highlight the vineyard differences and overall celebrate great flavors.  It really is amazing how a vineyard on one side of a street can grow the exact same grape as a vineyard on another side of a street, and yet produce something completely different.

Adelsheim’s Single Vineyard Pinot Noir line is very small with a limited number of cases produced each year and include Boulder Bluff Vineyard, Bryan Creek Vineyard one of my favorites, Winderlea Vineyard in Willamette’s Dundee Hills.

Mainly they want the guests who enjoy their wine in their tasting room, through their wine clubs, or from picking up a bottle at their local retailer and enjoyed with dinner, to taste their passion and to create special memories through their wine.  That emotional experience is so special, and ties their fans to Adelsheim and David’s original passion when creating Adelsheim.  They hope the dedication that goes into every bottle come through andthat memories are built over an Adelsheim Pinot.

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