Rex Hill Vineyards Review
Address: 30835 N. Hwy 99W Newberg,Oregon 97132.
Phone Number: 503-538-0666
Tasting Hours: 11:00-5:00; Memorial Day-Thanksgiving 10:00-5:00
Region: Willamette Valley AVA, Chehalem Mountains AVA, Oregon
Reviewer: Rob Boss
Review Date: 6/11/2014
Reviewer: Rob Boss
(Photos by Jai Soots)
Rex Hill Winery is an easy access stop off Highway 99 before Newberg in the Chehalem Mountains AVA. There was some nasty construction going on when we were there (sewer line, we were told), so we were guided around to the back of the building. It was here that we found a delightful and telling snippet of the winery’s personality: the employees had garden plots in the back, their names displayed proudly among spices and vegetables. A quick look at who was growing what developed into a quick game of picking the personality in the tasting room. None were correct but everybody seemed as happy that we noticed the plots as we were to find them.
Even with such a happy-go-lucky first impression, walking through the entryway creates a sense of awe. There’s something relishingly old school about the dark wood, wine barrel in the middle of the large room, and a long table in an adjoining room set for cellar tastings. Thirty two years old and going strong, Rex Hill’s tasting room offers classic elegance that few Oregon wineries can match.
My own introduction to Rex Hill was some fifteen years ago as a waiter in a prestigious LA restaurant. With my “Cali Zin” palate, I was at a loss for what I had in my mouth. It took me almost two years to “get” Pinot Noir, and while I’d tasted Rex Hill wines in the interim, it was fun to take a look at how far I’d come. But first, there was a 2011 Chardonnay to wake up the taste buds. It was oak fermented, aged in 25% new oak and really nice! Bright apple, white peach and pear flavors, a little star fruit, it was crisp and delicious.
Now I was ready for Pinot Noir (according to my tasting room guide). The 2011 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir offered a nose of intense, crushed fruit with a pine note. On the palate, lovely, light, tart fruit. It was a beautifully balanced, quality wine. The 2011 Willamette Valley Reserve was made from mostly from Jacob Hart Vineyard, Rex Hill’s original planting; very rocky soil. It showed a pretty, fresh fruit nose. Ripe cherry and young strawberry flavors followed.
The highlight of the visit was the 2011 Alloro Vineyard, even though it seemed shy that day. There was a beautiful nose with crushed fruit and briars. Bright acidity and tart cherry flavors lingered on in a wondrous, gorgeous finish. At this point, I felt like I’d arrived.
The game changed quite a bit when Rex Hill’s original owners retired in 2007, and the property was bought by A to Z Wineworks. The short story is the high production wines became part of A to Z (their mission) while keeping Rex Hill’s top tier. The wines have always been good, but winemaker Michael Davies has raised the bar even higher. If you’ve never had an Oregon Pinot Noir, this is not a bad place to start. If you weren’t exactly blown away by Rex Hill before, now might be a good time to revisit.