A Tasting at Soter Vineyards
Jade and I love to enjoy things together. When we go to the theater, we usually are either holding hands, have our arms wrapped around each other or are practically in the others lap. When we go out to explore our city, we love to take in every little thing and trade thoughts about what’s happening in the moment. When we go out to eat, we share everything. Yes, we are those people eating off of each others’ plates. Our blog has become the perfect culmination of our being able to be creative together. Before we had our blog, we would do creative things separately. Jade had her art and I had my music. But now, we have been able to combine our interests into one. We both have our roles in this, Jade taking photographs and I talking with artists and creators and scribbling notes in my journal. Of course we trade these skills from time to time.
Our trip to Soter Vineyards was no exception to how we have developed our creative style together. As we drove up to their brilliantly designed tasting room, we couldn’t help but gasp in excitement as to how beautiful the place was. How did we not know such a place existed out here before? As we walked up to the building we were greeted by Jules, with a gleaming smile and two glasses of their Compass Cuvee Rosé just for us. We were invited inside and shown out on to their veranda. She told us to take a seat or take a look around the tasting room if we liked and get antiquated with our surroundings. Of course I first had to say hello to some of the puppies that the employees had brought from home that were gleefully stirring about. I sat down to sip further on my rosé. It had a crisp and juicy taste like pears and apples with gentle hints of star anise. Probably the best rosé I have ever had. Maybe the only rosé I have ever had. I will admit this is the first wine tasting I have ever taken part in, so this was no small occasion for me. It was exciting. And there was no way I was using the spit bucket.
While indulging in the taste I couldn’t help but to notice the stunning view over the seemingly never ending countryside. Vineyards met with coniferous trees which met with sprawling fields and then on to farm land. The veranda was adorned with rustic tables and wicker chairs. Wine casks were sat in between some of the chairs as tables. It was obvious that this was a very unique and special place. The Soters have spent a life time developing the ideas in their craft and their business model in general. It truly shows when you see what is captured in the view not only from the tasting room but when you sip on their wine as well. They have chosen to remain a relatively small, family owned business and not become a large corporate entity. After doing my research I found the Soters are Oregon natives and seem to keep the spirit of locally robust ideals close to their hearts.
Jules came back and invited us for a tour along their vineyard, which we were eager to explore. She first showed us around their employee garden where they have planted everything from wild strawberries to chamomile flowers that they use for making fresh tea. They host dinners and special events for their wine club members where they will use only ingredients farmed on the Soter Vineyard property. She was proud to disclose that their garden is bio-dynamically farmed. They even are keeping their own goats, sheep and cows and have plans for chickens and quails in the future. We could hear the bah-ing of sheep in the distance but could unfortunately not see them since they were craftily hiding themselves from the sun down in a parcel of trees and shrubbery. When Jules talked about the plans that the vineyard is undertaking, she seemed almost thrilled to be able to tell someone else about them. They would like to create a sense of full sustainability and family at Soter and it reflects in how passionate the people are who work there.
Jules then took us up the hill farther from the tasting room to where the vines begin and can be seen for what seems like miles. She explained about how the vines grow and how they have taken to using vertical shoot positioning where two canes of grape vines are bent together to grow more efficiently. She bent down and showed us how double guyot and cordon pruning can help the grapes grow and retain the vine vitality over time. The wind is such an important element to the way the grapes are cooled and kept dry which effects the way the wine tastes down the line. Their vineyards are being switched over to all bio-dynamically farmed in the future as well which should effect not only the wine in a positive way, but the environment around their vineyard too. Bio-dynamics allow the grapes to be as they are on the vine. They are not manipulated in any way after entering the winery. The higher elevation of the hills where Soter has planted their vineyard is also important because it allows their wines to achieve a better botanic brightness. They do not irrigate upon their property and vow everything is dry farmed. The grapes are grown at the will of the elements and there can never be a wine produced exactly the same way twice because of this, which makes their wine making process so unique.
I was curious about the actual land that they decided to grow their vineyard. Jules explained that there is clay in the soil around the hillsides of Soter which is important to growth and each hill has different soil content in someway or another that lends to the grapes in how they grow. The hills that the vineyards are planted on were dairy pasture in the early 1900’s and what happened to the soil at that point in time has definitely had an effect in soil fertility today. On some of the older hills, they have vines with roots reaching up to one hundred feet into the ground. The hill we were being shown was an area where the grapes were planted in 2002. For only a decade of growth, it was incredibly lush. As far as horticulture goes, growing grapes for this kind of use seems to be some of the more interesting I have seen in my time.
After our brief education on the hill we walked back down to the veranda and took a wicker chaired seat at one of the tables. Jules joined us. Several bottles of wine sat on the table. She selected one and poured it into one of our many glasses. This second wine we sampled was the Compass Cuvee White, equal parts chardonnay and gewurztraminer wine. It had a green and yellow hue with a taste that closely resembled the look. Green apples, slight ambiances of honey and citrus at the end. I don’t think I had every tasted something that reminded me so much of the moment when spring turns to summer. We sat and exchanged thoughts on the taste and were ready for the next bottle. The following wine was the North Valley Chardonnay. This wine had subtle hints of lime zest, tropical fruits and vanilla bean. It was the most interesting and complex in flavor of the light colored wines. If I would have had fresh salad to eat with it, I believe it would have paired quite nicely.
The last two wines we tried were pinot noirs. Now these were my kind of wines. The first was the North Valley Pinot Noir, which was… mesmerizing. There was definite fruity vibes to this pinot. Jules mentioned that black cherry and marionberry were the most apparent. I could taste it, and even more the darkness of the grapes that rippled down my throat. The last wine in our tasting was the Mineral Springs Ranch Pinot Noir. At first it had a hint of spice with a deep dark red-raspberry and cranberry fruitiness to it… but then came the twist. Though I could definitely taste the fruit aspect of it, there was an overwhelming amount of scent to it. I do not mean when the wine was smelt it had a strong scent. I mean the taste reminded me of certain scents brought to my memory from my past. There was an overwhelming amount of fresh cut leather, expensive cigars and the ruggedness of the outdoors that came to mind. This was not a displeasing sensation either. I loved it! It was fantastic! I could have had the entire bottle. At this point in the tasting I really could had gone on all the day long sampling more of their spectacular wines. We couldn’t resist purchasing a bottle of the Compass Cuvee White. I look forward to becoming members someday.
For my first wine tasting I could not have asked for a more enthralling and layered experience. Not only did we learn about how this wine was made and the history of the people who make it, but we are able to take part in sampling the true fruits of their labor. Sharing this experience with Jade was the highlight of it all though. If it wasn’t for her, we would have no blog where I would have the opportunity to do things like this. Thank you Jade for being my partner in our blog and in life, and thank you Soter Vineyards for the loveliest of afternoons.