Witness Tree Vineyard Review
Address: 7111 Spring Valley Rd. NW Salem,Oregon 97304.
Phone Number: 503-585-7874
Tasting Hours: See Website for hours.
Region: Willamette Valley AVA, Eola-Amity Hills AVA, Oregon
Reviewer: Rob Boss
Review Date: 1/4/2014
Reviewer: Rob Boss
(Photos by Jai Soots)
Witness Tree Vineyards is named after an approximately 250 year old oak that overlooks the property. 150 years ago, surveyors used the tree to mark the corner of a claim. Now the tree overlooks the vineyards of this modest operation and graces the labels of their wines. Its been designated a historical artifact, of sorts, by the Oregon Heritage Tree program. While the grounds and buildings might seem plain on first glance, the trail that winds its way up the hill from the tasting room to the Witness Tree is lovely, and at over four feet in diameter, the tree itself is quite a sight. The staff was friendly and took the time to step outside and show us the path.
Depending on your point of view, the building that houses the winery and tasting room is either unpretentious and spartan, or just not much to look at at all. The tasting room itself looks like the waiting room in a doctors office, and the glassware is equally utilitarian. Obviously, most of the energy here goes toward making wine.
Our tasting flight started with a 2010 Pinot Blanc that showed very bright acidity, pears in the nose and tart, Granny Smith apple flavors. This should be a great fooder, ready for summer salads and chilled shellfish. The steely, straightforward 2010 Viognier that followed, however, didnt really express the varietal.
After this was a 2009 Vintage Select Chardonnay, produced from 30 year old vines and aged in 50/50 new and neutral oak. The new oak gave it a butterscotch note on the nosenot a surprise. But the palate was tart and lemony. Plenty of acidity here could age a few years, although there wasnt much complexity to back that up.
The 2011 Estate Pinot Noir showed strawberry and cherry on the nose; young, tart fruit on the palate, with an earthiness that kept it interesting. Only 300 cases were produced of the next wine, the 2010 Vintage Select. The wine showed good acidity for food, young red fruit and an earthy finish. Both were pretty good wines, but their prices were not in line with the quality.
Next up was the most interesting wine of the flight: Claim No. 51 from 2009. The Witness Tree is in the corner of the vineyard that spreads down a steep hill made up of Jory and Nekia soils. Its only a two acre patch, producing a mere 90 cases. But the nose was full of pine needles, wet stones and forest; beguiling. The wine had a lush mouthfeel, bright acidity and typical of the 2009 vintage, cherry, raspberry, strawberry, and other red fruits.
Everyones taste is different, of course, and Witness Tree will resonate with some, even if the wines arent on par with some of their more high profile neighbors. But the winerys not off the beaten path so its worth stopping for the hike to the tree and the view. There are tables and umbrellas for a pleasant picnic, too, which is another good reason to drop in.