Winter’s Hill Vineyard Review
Address: 6451 Hilltop Lane Dayton,Oregon 97114.
Phone Number: 503-864-4538
Tasting Hours: Wed-Mon 11:00-5:00
Region: Willamette Valley AVA, Dundee Hills AVA, Oregon
Reviewer: Jade Helm
Review Date: 8/14/2014
Reviewer: Jade Helm
Visitors and personal guests often ask me for winery recommendations here in the Willamette Valley. I try to determine what is most important to them. Is it a chic tasting room, educational tours, location? Winter’s Hill Vineyard is on my short list for people looking for two things – really delicious, well-made wine and the quintessential small family winery experience where you are bound to talk with one of the owners.
Peter and Emily Gladhart met while serving in the Peace Corps in Ecuador. In 1961 Emily’s parents purchased the land that is now Winter’s Hill. They grew wheat and crimson clover. Later in life Emily’s mom needed help so Peter and Emily moved from Michigan to Oregon. “We were happy to be with Mom,” Emily shares. In 1990 Peter and Emily planted the first vines at Winter’s Hill. They read the Oregon Winegrowers Handbook, took advantage of ongoing educational offerings within Oregon, and hired some experienced help. Initially, they sold all of their fruit. In testament to the quality of their fruit, some wineries bottle the wines made from Winter’s Hill grapes as vineyard designates under their own label.
Starting in 1998 they also began making wine. Today they grow and bottle estate Pinot gris, Pinot blanc and Pinot noir. Emily points out that their vines are planted in jory soils. Jory is the Oregon state soil known as the ideal for Pinot noir. Emily believes jory soil is good for the whole Pinot family. Their 2013 Pinot blanc was awarded Best in Class at the Sunset International Wine Competition. Their son Russell Gladhart and his wife Delphine are partners in Winter’s Hill. Russell handles marketing and sales. Delphine grew up in France and started working harvests when she was 15. She is now the winemaker at Winter’s Hill.
To visit the tasting room is to step into a working winery. Guests enjoy wine at the tasting bar while the business of making wine goes on around them. Emily says it is a unique tasting room experience. “Sometimes it gets noisy, but it gives people an opportunity to ask questions.”
There aren’t little cafe tables dotting the room. This is winemaking space. Picnic tables are outside. The property includes a pond, walking trails, woodland with Oregon White Oak and Douglas Fir, and other native plants. Named to the Willamette Valley Birding Trail, Winter’s Hill is a place where guests can enjoy the land and wildlife, along with the wine.
A private reserve tasting offers the chance to sit down with the family at Winter’s Hill for a comparative tasting of reserve level Pinot noir plus barrel samples. A vineyard walking tour is also included. Expect to learn about soil, elevation, and the other aspects of the Dundee Hills terroir.
Those who simply wander in for a basic tasting are still in for a treat. Tastings usually include 4-5 estate wines and visitors are likely to speak with Emily or Russell. We tasted the award winning Pinot blanc, a 2012 Pinot gris, and a 2013 rose of Pinot noir. In addition, the tasting menu that day included a 2009 Dundee Hills Pinot noir, plus two barrel select Pinot noir from 2008 and 2009.
Guests are offered a list of wines they can taste, along with tasting notes. This is helpful, but not unusual. It is unusual that the notes leave out flowery descriptors that often lack meaning. The 2012 Pinot gris really does present flavors of “Golden Delicious apple, crisp Asian pear, and a hint of sweet herbs.” Sip the 2009 Pinot Noir Dundee Hills and do not be surprised when “white pepper and anise” entice your palate. Visitors won’t be left wondering why they too can’t taste elderberry, quince, chocolate, and chewing gum in one wine!
This is a no frills tasting room. The experience hinges on the quality of their wines, and the decor occurs naturally on the walking trails. Winter’s Hill Vineyard is also situated in the beautiful Dundee Hills, a stone’s throw from other uniquely stellar wineries, so expect a scenic and tasty drive.