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Wine of the Week: The pioneering spirit of Adelsheim Vineyards

Scott Greenberg discusses the Adelsheim family's journey from dreamers to doers in Oregon's wine industry. (AP Photo/Michael Felberbaum)

WASHINGTON — Merriam-Webster defines “pioneer” as 1:  a person who is one of the first to settle in an area, and 2: a person who begins or helps develop something new and prepares the way for others to follow.

This definition fits David Adelsheim, co-founder of Adelsheim Winery, to a T.

In 1971, when just a few hardy farmers where trying to figure out what grapes to grow in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Ginny and David Adelsheim looked out over an open field of orange and purple wildflowers and dreamed of one day planting a vineyard in the area.

A year later, they bought a 19-acre parcel that eventually became Quarter Mile Lane Vineyard.

Little by little, they built a home, planted vines by hand and, finally, in 1978, produced their first commercial wines. Along the way, a partnership with Lynn and Jack Loacker allowed the Adelsheims to increase the scope of both their winery production and their vineyard holdings in the Chehalem Mountains, without compromising their vision of producing wines that showcase the sense of place.

And what a place it is. From Parrett Mountain to the south, and running northwest across Bald Peak (1,633 feet above sea level) and Ribbon Ridge, the Chehalem Mountains American Viticultural Area is blessed with three major soil types, composed of sedimentary seabed, lava flows and windblown silt that combine to create the highest elevations and most diverse soils in wine country.

Two of these soil types, red basaltic and marine sedimentary, play a major role in the Adelsheims’ vineyards. The range in elevation varies from 200 to 900 feet, providing diversity and complexity in the fruit.

Just over four decades later, the Adelsheim Vineyard estate has grown to include 10 exceptional vineyard sites in the Willamette Valley, totaling 223 acres. A new generation of experienced wine industry professionals has joined Adelsheim in his passionate endeavor to lead the industry in crafting wines in a style consistent with Willamette Valley’s unique characteristics. Using both traditional and state-of-the-art techniques, they produce wines that show elegance, complexity, balance and richness in their aromas, flavors and texture.

But the journey is not over. They continue to strive to maintain their reputation as one of Oregon’s great wine producers by remaining leaders in the industry and advocating for sustainable economic and social growth in Willamette Valley and throughout Oregon, all while collaborating with colleagues on innovative ways to market the region and its wines in the global marketplace.

David Adelsheim, ever the ambassador for Willamette Valley — one reason why The Oregon Wine Board honored Adelsheim with its 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award for his lifetime of devoted service to the Oregon wine industry — has developed a wonderfully diversified portfolio of quality wines and a devoted following of consumers who want wines that don’t just taste genuine, but feel genuine as well.

Oregon was the first state in America to grow pinot gris, and Adelsheim was one of the first wineries to make it a regular part of their portfolio. Its 2014 Adelsheim Pinot Gris is the 31st vintage the winery produced in the Willamette Valley, so the Adelsheims have really got their wines dialed in.

David Adelsheim is a stickler for “varietal correctness,” so you can bet this pinot gris tastes like — well, pinot gris. The nose is full of ripe green apple, melon and honeysuckle aromas. The slightly creamy mouthfeel supports luscious flavors of green apple, pear and tropical fruit. The textured finish is long and crisp, with hints of tangerine acidity on the back of the palate. $18

Adelsheim’s 2015 Adelsheim Rosé of Pinot Noir is a delicious, crowd-pleasing wine offering aromas of fresh Oregon strawberries, raspberries, apricot and rose petal, which follow through on a rich, well-textured palate that offers juicy, ripe fruit. Though a perfect summer beverage on its own, this rosé will pair with all manner of that season’s meals, from bouillabaisse and grilled shrimp to goat cheese, ham and poultry entrees. $25

2014 Adelsheim Chehalem Mountains Breaking Ground Pinot Noir celebrates Adelsheim’s pioneering spirit as well as a keen understanding of the growing area’s unique characteristics. This pinot noir is made entirely of Chehalem Mountain-grown fruit and contains fruit from all three major soil types found in the Chehalem Mountains: Marine Sedimentary, Volcanic Basalt and Windblown Silt. It offers aromas of roasted spices, black raspberries, lilacs, dark loam and bramble. Flavor follows with notes of cocoa nibs, toasted anise seed and black cherry. Textures are rich and silky, with supple acidity. This wine has a lingering finish that begs for duck confit or roast pork. $45

The phrase “Elizabeth’s Reserve” was first used in 1986 to designate the blend of Adelsheim’s best barrels of pinot noir. From 1987 until 1999 it was designated a single vineyard wine, but in 2000 it returned to a “best of winery” reserve. The 2012 Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir is both elegant and intense, offering layered aromas of red raspberries, fresh Oregon strawberries, brown spice and cedar. Its aromas are repeated on the palate in purity and elegance. It is an exceptionally well-balanced wine, combining silky tannins with a persistent finish. This wine will pair beautifully with the pinot noir classics, such as duck, grilled salmon and aged cheeses. $60

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