Airlie Winery Review
Address: 15305 Dunn Forest Rd. Monmouth,Oregon 97361.
Phone Number: 503-838-6013
Tasting Hours: Mar-Nov: Thurs-Mon; Dec-Feb: by appt. or chance
Region: Willamette Valley AVA, Oregon
Reviewer: Becky Parr
Review Date: 8/2/2014
Reviewer: Becky Parr
Wineries near Monmouth, Oregon, in the lower Willamette Valley, seem to subscribe to the philosophy that they can make and sell great wine in a very casual, homey atmosphere, without the pretention of the North Willamette (according to them) or some of the larger establishments in Napa or Sonoma. Two prime examples are a pair of neighbors: Emerson Vineyards and Airlie Winery.
Airlie Winery has hours posted, but “by appointment or by chance” is also an option. We lucked into the “by chance” option on a glorious Wednesday in July. We’d visited Emerson Vineyards, and the proprietor had called over to see if there was anyone at Airlie fortunately, owner Mary was waiting for a truck to make a pickup, and she already had other customers, so she told us to come on down. I’m SO glad we didn’t miss this.
The Place:  Airlie’s grounds are gorgeous. Sitting outside and tasting, I felt as close to “sitting on the dock of a bay” as I ever have. Of course, the bay is a pond, and we weren’t actually sitting ON the dock, and we were landlocked in Oregon, but the feeling was there! Another pair of tasters was already at the winery when we arrived, and the two kids with them were happily hunting for frogs down at the pond. It was tranquil and summery and perfect.
The actual tasting room was very small, but cute and quaint. It was so gorgeous on the patio that all I did was duck inside to take a picture.
The People: Mary‘s awesome. She told us about her move to Oregon from Wisconsin, her former life with the phone company, and deciding not to wait until retirement to live her dream of owning a winery. She purchased Airlie as an existing winery, so she didn’t have any startup stories, but she and her winemaker, Elizabeth Clark, have gone on to produce some award-winning wines. The winery is also certified sustainable, and they’re very proud of that fact.
Oh, and there are two winery dogs, Irish setters called Rusty and Riley. I couldn’t tell you which was which, but they were super friendly ambassadors for the winery!
The Wines:  We got to taste the wines Mary had open presumably because it wasn’t a regular tasting day, and she didn’t want to open a bunch of wines and have them sit around. I understand that. We tasted three whites and a red, so I think we got a good sampling. I really enjoyed the Pinot Gris, which is aged in stainless steel. It’s advertised as pairing well with seafood. The Gewurztraminer and the Riesling are both lightly sweet, so they weren’t my favorites, but very nice for sweet wines. The Rose was probably my favorite of the whites
The prizes literally were the two Pinot Noirs. The 2009 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir won a double platinum in the 2013 Wine Press Northwest Best of the Best Competition; and, unlike the only other Pinot Noir to win this award, which is priced at $60, this one is priced at $22! It’s fruity and really yummy. I liked the 2008 Dunn Forest Pinot Noir just as well. Airlie lived up to Oregon’s reputation in terms of making great Pinot Noir.
The Experience:  This was a great stop very relaxing, with a great atmosphere and good wine. We were so glad we’d caught Mary there on her day off! I’d suggest stopping on a nice day when you really have time to sit outside and enjoy the wine and the view. Warning, though, you may not want to leave!