Our last Southern Oregon stop before heading to Portland for the Wine Bloggers Conference was the Umpqua Valley, also known as the “Hundred Valleys of the Umpqua.” Here we discovered two very wonderful but different wineries.
Abacela is a wine country traveler’s paradise. The estate is located on rolling hills, affording fantastic views from their plush and spacious tasting room. Abacela produces many fine wines, but it is the Spanish Tempranillo wine that was behind the beginnings of this winery. With a love of Tempranillo, Abacela owners Earl and Hilda Jones set out on a search for the perfect location to grow the king of Spanish grapes. In 1995 they planted the first Tempranillo in Oregon on the grounds of what was to become the Abacela winery.
The picnic area is beautiful and a terrific spot to enjoy lunch, or just relax with a glass of wine, and take in the beauty of the area. Within a short walking distance, Abacela has created a series of information boards. They give visitors a quick guide to the geology, climate, and various aspects of the Abacela vineyards. There is also a set of rocks that are the source of the various soil types found in the Abacela vineyards.
We enjoyed all of the five wines on the tasting menu, especially the Viognier, the reserve Tempranillo, and the Dolcetto. We just had to purchase a chilled Viognier to have with a long and relaxing lunch at Abacela. It was an enjoyable and picturesque way to spend an hour in the vineyards!
About 14 miles away is a very different flavored winery, Hillcrest Vineyards. Dyson DeMara purchased the winery in 2003 from Richard Sommers, who had founded the winery in 1961. Hillcrest is said to be not only the first winery in the area but the first to plant Pinot Noir grapes. Dyson DeMara is an innovative winemaker, crafting his wines after his winemaking experience at the Robert Mondavi winery and various wineries throughout Europe. His Hillcrest vines must be eight years old before he harvests any of the fruit. The red wines spend 2 to 4 years in the barrel. His vines are sustainably and dry farmed. The tasting room is small and the surroundings very meager. But all that hardly matters to the wine country traveler because the wines are all so good. Each wine we tasted was well made, full of complex characteristics, elegant in the mouth, and with a lengthy finish. The 2009 Cadiz, a Tempranillo, is the best Tempanillo I have tasted in quite some time. It is quite delicious and the finish seems to linger forever.
If you are in the Umpqua Valley, don’t pass these two wineries up. Each very different offering something special for the wine traveler. There are other good wineries also nearby and for complete list, consult the Umpqua Valley Wine Association.
H Bruce Smith says
Thanks for the glowing review of two of our long list of outstanding wineries.
I do have a couple of things I would like to clarify. First, there are more than five wine to taste at Abacela…there are different flights a taster may chose from.
Second, not only was HillCrest the site of the very first planting of Pinot Noir, it was also the very first modern day (1961) winery in all of Oregon. A fact, I’m afraid, that others in Oregon seem to gloss over.
Currently we have 25 tasting rooms to visit in the Umpqua Valley AVA.
Thanks for the clarification. The Willamette folks also have trouble admitting the first Pinot Noir came from Hillcrest. I mentioned that and the response was that it was “open to debate.” It was obvious that they thought I was wrong.