The first winery you visit in a region can have a tremendous impact on your visit to a new area; it absolutely did for us in the Willamette Valley.
We began with a 10 am appointment at Soter Vineyards, a sustainable producer of Pinot Noir and sparkling wines in the heart of the valley near Carlton. Their first vintage was produced in 2005.
The vineyard was founded by Tony & Michelle Soter in 1997. It’s a working farm, Mineral Springs Ranch, that includes crops, grazing land, vegetable gardens and an array of animals along with 34 acres of vineyards. The family’s goal is to achieve biodynamic certification for the ranch.
The tasting room is set atop a hill with a panoramic view of its vineyards and surrounding farms. The building was built as the Soter’s residence and includes two additional small buildings, both set off on the edges of the hill, that were originally used as sleeping cottages for the family.
We were greeted with glasses of the 2013 North Valley Rose by Savannah, our hostess for the visit, and given time to wander through the main tasting room, take in the gorgeous view and tour a bountiful vegetable, herb and flower garden before continuing with the tasting. With its soft floral/fruit nose, the rose was a perfect start to the morning.
Our tasting was set up in one of the former sleeping cottages down the slope from the main tasting room. We followed the rose with Soter’s 2011 North Valley Reserve Chardonnay, noting a rich nose and the taste of peach and apple. It was crisp with a dry finish.
Next was the 2011 North Valley Reserve Pinot Noir, Soter’s first reserve pinot, and we followed it with the 2011 Mineral Springs Ranch Pinot Noir. This wine is created from the grapes of a single vineyard that includes 5 different clones. It was richer than the reserve. with an infectious carmel nose.
The final wine we tried was the 2011 Mineral Springs (White label) Pinot Noir. This wine is made from the grapes grown in the rows on the very crown of the hill of the vineyard. Wow! It had a fragrant, spicy nose followed by a taste of cola and mineral earth.
Savannah was a veritable wealth of information about the ranch and about the Willamette Valley. She provided us with a terrific perspective of the area that helped to make our stay more enjoyable.
To start tasting the Willamette Valley’s Pinot Noirs we would certainly recommend beginning with an appointment at Soter.
Thank you Savannah and the Soter family. We look forward to sharing your wines in Sarasota!
p.s. – Here is a link to a terrific article in the Oregon Winepress about Tony Soter.