Vista Hills Vineyard & Winery Review
Address: 6475 NE Hilltop Lane Dayton,Oregon 97114.
Phone Number: 503-864-3200
Tasting Hours: 12:00-5:00 and by appt.
Region: Willamette Valley AVA, Dundee Hills AVA, Oregon
Reviewer: Rob Boss
Review Date: 7/2/2014
Reviewer: Rob Boss
(Photos by Jai Soots)
Just down the street from Domaines Serene and Drouhin is Vista Hills Vineyard. Instead of over-the-top glamour, Vista Hills offers a down to earth, feel. A lower roof, fireplace, and darker wood show a more Pacific Northwest sensibility with the more intimate feel of a cabin, and where most wineries have an iPod dock or other piped in music, Vista Hills has a turntable and a shelf full of records in the corner. While we were there, Mark, the tasting room maven and DJ, spun real, honest to goodness LPs for the visitors. It’s a welcoming, light-hearted atmosphere that stands out against the intensity exhibited by their big gun neighbors both up and down the hill (Archery Summit and Sokol-Blosser are on the other side). The place was packed.
However, the first taste was not for the faint of heart: the 2012 Tree House Orange Wine is made from 100% Pinot Gris. The short explanation of an orange wine is that it’s a white wine that’s made like a red, with long-term contact with skins and seeds. The nose is nice, with strawberry and floral notes. Tartindeed, sourrhubarb and strawberry flavors followed. It’s an extremely oxidized character that many people like but I don’t, despite all the current media attention. This one didn’t make a believer of me, but I heard somebody get excited about it while I was there; there’s an audience. The 2012 Pinot Gris that came next offered a straightforward apple and pear flavor that was more my taste, and welcome change of direction.
Moving to reds, the 2011 Treehouse Pinot Noir had a nice briary nose, with crushed fruit elements, bright, red fruit flavors and medium-plus acidity. Production? “900 cases. That’s as big as we get.” Next was a 2010, one of my favorite vintages, which according to Mark had sat on the lees for eighteen months. The wine had a smoky, musky character; reduction. Some would consider that sulfurous “funk” a flaw but I didn’t think it overpowered the rest of the wine. It was still soft and elegant, with cherry, raspberry flavors and a stemmy, briary note. Not for everyone, but I bought one to pair with a steak. (It was a hit with sirloin and mushrooms.)
Suddenly, a group of equestrians burst in, high spirited and animated, livening the party up even more. Vista Hills is a destination on an equestrian winery tour and offers accommodations for the horses while you taste.
After everyone got a glass and chatting a bit, I went back to the 2011 Marylhurst, which comes from an ’04 planting and shows a youthful exuberance. A crushed fruit nose followed with intense, dried fruit flavors; cherries, raspberries and blackberries. Conversely, the 2011 Piedmont was made from older vines and aged in 40% new oak. It showed darker, cooked fruit on the nose. There were plenty of ripe fruit flavors to go around, but they were darker, too; blackberry and boysenberry, and other black fruits, more defined and integrated than it’s younger sibling.
The wines are overall pretty good, although the style might be considered rough around the edges by some. That was fine with me, and I certainly didn’t see anyone leaving in a huff. No, the clientele were particularly gregarious, which seemed to transfer to each new wave that kept coming through the door. It was a great atmosphere and that certainly accounted for the number of bottles being bagged and sent home. Wine tasting in the Willamette Valley is rarely dull, but Vista Hills stands out as one of the most fun experiences in the Valley.