Caravansary: White Rose Estate Winery. Dundee Hills, Oregon USA
White Rose Winery, Willamette Valley. Dayton, Oregon USA
After being on the road for a few days with friends and shooting photos in concert venues, I must say I was eager to introduce my friends to the amazing Willamette Valley wine country in Oregon. I. Love. Oregon. Wine. There, I said it! Now, back to the story.
We began our day a little foggy from a few days on the road with Brendan James, Brian Jarvis, and Miller James who were on a Fall West Coast tour. Incidentally, they were amazing shows. Check these guys out if you like fantastic singer/songwriters that also happen to be really great guys. A bit tired and perhaps slightly hung-over, we began the ride to the home base of a few of our favorite wines. Cruising down the winding roads through the area just outside Portland that makes up the Willamette Valley wine region was nothing short of a magical drive. Miles of vineyards, beautiful homes, spectacular horizons, and deeply saturated fall colors added up to a wonderful experience. The sky was a little grey, the vines wet from the on-going drizzle familiar to all in this area of Oregon, and the day was relaxed.
The Willamette Valley is a grand and varied appellation that includes six "sub-appellations" including, in no particular order: Dundee Hills, Chehalem Mountains, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge, Yamhill-Carlton, and Eola-Amity Hills. All are equally spectacular and shielded from Pacific Ocean storms by the huge valley that follows the Willamette River from North to South. The wine country covers hundreds of square miles, yet with its massive tourist draw, it still exudes a humble and relaxed energy. We were going to try and touch on each of these sub-appellations. Ready, GO!
While on the Amtrak train from Seattle after the previous night’s concert and associated festivities, we cobbled together a list of all the wineries we wanted to see and taste wines from. There ended up being so many on our list, we decided we'd have to pick a couple and leave the rest up to chance. Serendipity is my favorite word, so I figured it would all be fine regardless. We'd never get to all of them in 1 day. In fact, it’s unlikely we’d get it handled in an entire week!
We arrived at the first winery on our list of "must sees" while in this amazing Pinot Noir region. The wine was spectacular. The folks working in the tasting room were charming and helpful. What a refreshing first stop. We discussed our plans, and the person helping us said, "have you ever been to White Rose?"
COS: I've been to so many wineries here, but never White Rose. So, you think we should skip these (I point to my chicken scratch list on, yes you guessed it, yellow post-it notes) and the answer was...
"Wow, all of those are great choices. You guys must know your wines. But, I'd say, whatever you have to do to make it to White Rose, I'd recommend you'd do that."
COS: That’s a pretty solid recommendation. We'll take your advice! Thanks so much.
As we arrived at the next winery on our list, we basically had a repeat conversation of the first one. So, bottom line, at this point, we're going to White Rose. When literally every person we talk to suggests it, there must be something her worth paying attention to.
We arrived at this beautiful place and just walking up to the door felt charming and warm and a little mysterious. It looked different than many of the other spots we'd seen along our drive. It was inviting, and fit right in to the Oregon wine country. The heavy, dark wood contrasted with the greens and fall colors to make a simply gorgeous view.
Once inside, I knew why everyone said we should see this place. It was a perfect combination of warm wood, oak barrels, open heavy timber construction, fantastic lighting, and meticulous attention to detail. I started shooting photos before we even made it to the tasting bar. This place was just cool. Even if the wine wasn't great, I was going to be pretty darn happy with stopping by anyway.
The staff was cheerful, and was obviously really enjoying being there. We tasted our first Pinot Noir. That’s when I realized how amazing this place really was. I'm in heaven. Seriously. It was fantastic. We all looked at each other and without saying a word, knew we'd found a hell of a spot to hang out and taste what is arguably some of the best wine I've ever had. I wanted to shoot a few photos and asked if I could lean around the counter and snap a few shots. As I was shooting a photo of a photo (sounds weird, I know, but it's the one above in the post) a voice from over my right shoulder said: "if you like that, I can send you a print". Oh shit. The photographer of this photo just busted me. I turned around and introduced myself and asked if he was the photographer. He replied with a handshake and a smile. "No, I own the place, I just love that photo and happen to have a few extra prints I'd be happy to share with you. I'm Greg, welcome to White Rose. This is our winemaker, Jesus Guillian. Let us know if you have any questions. Have fun!"
Ok. I was impressed when I walked in. At this point, I was truly blown away. My mind was having a conversation with itself: "everyone was so humble, thoughtful, and present. The wine is epic, to say the least. There is an air of passion for wine and people that resonates throughout the whole property." I mentioned this to Greg and asked if I could shoot a few more photos for my blog and project. He said "sure, and I'll have one of these guys show you around the place so you can check it all out."
COS: So, this is why serendipity is my favorite word. We didn't plan this. White Rose wasn't on our list. And, it ended up being my favorite place on this trip! Let's go see the rest of the place.
The Weary Travelers: "Agreed. This is nothing short of epic."
One of the staff showed us around the winery. The attention to detail was not only present in the tasting room, but every aspect of this place. From the grounds to the barrel room, it was spectacular. After our tour, we went back to the tasting room and tried a couple more Pinot Noirs, then proceeded to purchase as much wine as we could carry back home with us on the plane. I will be coming back here. Regularly.
I have to say, if you get the chance to see this place don't pass it up. If you get the chance to pick up a bottle or two of Pinot from White Rose, feel free to call me to help you drink it. I'd likely be on the next flight to join ya.
Here's the Willamette Valley waypoint I'd recommend to add to your list. White Rose Estate