April 30, 2006

Quick tasting at Bethel Heights

My parents are in town for the weekend, so we drove down the valley yesterday to check out the sites.

Leaving the freeway at Woodburn, we passed fields of hops, berries, and seed grasses on our way to the Wheatland Ferry. Crossing the Willamette River on a car ferry is like going back in time a little bit, giving you a few minutes to enjoy floating over the water.

Going west, the ferry leaves you right at the base of the Eola Hills. So we drove up Zena Road to Bethel Heights for a quick tasting before looping around the Red Hills on our way back to Portland.

What a line up at Bethel Heights. They were pouring just about everything they produce without any charge. Being the driver, I sampled just a few including a 2004 stainless steel fermented and aged Chardonnay that was varietal and fairly crisp with a pleasant flavor.

But what really impressed me was the 2001 Bethel Heights Freedom Hill Pinot Noir. Showing a bit of age in the color, this smelled earthy and meaty without uncleanliness and tasting elegant and long, with more intensity and interest than any of the 2001s I tried in a recent tasting. Not tannic and hard like the Freedom Hill reputation, this is drinking beautifully and seems like it will last for a while.

For $30 this isn't cheap, but if you like savory Pinot Noir instead of the jammy, fruit packed versions, definitely seek this out. You might even find it for less, as wineries retailers are still occasionally moving 2001s at close out prices.

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