Youngberg Hill, whose history dates back to 1989, sits in the McMinnville section of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. It’s a cozy and beautiful spot, even by the standards of a region that is loaded with stunning vistas and tranquil landscapes. In addition to producing wine, largely from their estate, the proprietors also run an upscale inn on the property.
I recently had the opportunity to not only taste through their wines with founder and winemaker Wayne Bailey but to also stay at the inn. The accommodations include four suites and four guest rooms. The rooms are spacious, well-appointed, and very comfortable in a country chic style. It’s impossible not to feel at home and, more importantly, at peace in the placid surroundings. And though you may feel like you’re staying in the middle of nowhere, in truth it’s a short 10-minute drive from the heart of McMinnville, whose growing downtown has an ever-expanding number of excellent restaurants of all sorts.
My personal favorite was Thistle with its eclectic menu and wine list, not to mention perfect service. And if you want to venture one town over to Dayton, the legendary Joel Palmer House continues to deliver remarkable meals that have had mushroom-lovers salivating for many years now. Speaking of meals, the breakfasts served to overnight guests at Youngberg Hill were another highlight.
Though Youngberg Hill Winery was born in the late 1980s, Bailey shifted to organic and sustainable practices only in 2003. Today, the winery is moving toward biodynamics as well.
It was clear when I tasted through their wines with Bailey that they’re nailing their stated goal of producing site-specific wines that showcase what each vintage brings. Willamette Valley is dotted with boutique producers who bottle distinctive small-lot offerings, and Youngberg Hill is one of the best of that bunch. Theirs are wines that are to be sought out (and the inn is a wonderful place to stay).
Here’s a look at my favorites from their portfolio.
Youngberg Hill Pinot Blanc 2015 ($25)
The fruit for this pinot blanc was sourced at another nearby vineyard within the McMinnville AVA. Citrus and pineapple aromas dot the nose. Bits of apple, pea, and tropical fruit are evident on the palate. Hints of crème fraîche show on the finish along with sour yellow melon and white pepper. This is a fine example of an underappreciated white variety.
Youngberg Hill Pinot Noir Cuvée 2013 ($35)
The pinot noir grapes for this Willamette Valley cuvée were sourced at three different vineyards, including Youngberg's estate vineyard. Strawberry and bay leaf aromas dominate the nose. The palate shows off continued red fruit, minerals, and hints of black tea. Cranberry characteristics and finely ground bits of earth show up on the lengthy finish. This is a really good value in Willamette Valley pinot noir.
Youngberg Hill Jordan Block Pinot Noir 2013 ($50)
The Jordan Block is a steep, south-facing slope that’s part of the Youngberg estate. Sage, thyme, and blackberry notes are present on the nose here. Black cherry, blackberry, and a host of spices dominate the palate. Substantial earth, chicory, and more savory herbs fill the above-average finish. Firm acid and tannins provide excellent structure. This is a wonderful pinot noir that will pair with a cornucopia of foods. In short, it would be perfect for the varied flavors of Thanksgiving or other holiday feasts.
Youngberg Hill Natasha Pinot Noir 2013 ($50)
The fruit for this wine comes from a southeast-facing parcel of just under seven acres on the Youngberg estate. Black cherry and bits of raspberry fill the nose here. A host of savory herbs, hints of wet earth, and continuing dark fruit characteristics fill the deeply layered and well-proportioned palate. Oodles of sour black fruit and hints of smoked meat are present on the long finish alongside hints of salinity. This precise and site-specific pinot is both delicious now and age-worthy.