Monthly Archives: April 2018

L Mawby Vineyards Review

4519 Elm Valley Rd, Suttons Bay, MI 49682
Phone: (231) 271-3522

The quality of L Mawby Vineyards is no secret to the residents of Michigan and Northern Ohio, who flock to the Leelanau Peninsula and Traverse City by the thousands every Summer.  This deceptively humble vineyard is making the finest Sparkling Wine in the United States, and doing so without the spotlight of the rest of the wine world.

With irreverent names like Fizz and Sex, you might expect this to be a fun place to relax with friends and eat delicious whitefish pate and you’d be right.  Don’t miss fifteen different sparkling wines made across the L Mawby and M Lawrence brands, from the refined classic Champagne Method to the simple Prosecco-style fun bubbles.  The wines also run entire spectrum from aged and dry to very sweet with all stops in-between.

There is always a wine for tasting free of charge; and paid tasting flights of 2 sparkling wines with small bites of food, costing $9; and wines by the glass for $6 or $9.   The hours fluctuate based on the season with summer hours being much more expansive.

Group tastings and elaborate dinners or weddings in the vineyards are frequent, but that requires a little advance planning.  There is also a wine club for locals where you can attend a BUBBLYbbq and BUBBLYbrunch.

Some of my favorite wines are.

L Mawby Blanc de Blancs.  $23.00 This is bone-dry Champagne Method sparkling wine with lean crisp purity.  The wine that you wish cheap Champagne was, but never is.

37. Mawby Talismon.  $37.00 A blend of vignoles, pinot noir, pinot gris, and chardonnay grapes that are hand picked and carefully whole – cluster pressed.   Then aged solera for quite a long time for the extremely yeasty thick flavors inherent in old Champagne. Not for everyone, but incredibly distinctive.

Donkey & Goat Winery & Tasting Room

1340 5th Street, Berkeley California 94710
Friday – Sunday 1-6pm

On a quiet street in the ‘warehouse district’ of Berkeley, you find the unassuming entrance to Donkey and Goat.  This urban winery feels like something new and fresh, but they’ve been making wine here since 2006. You definitely feel the solid metal structure in the living room, but the wines are organic.  Mostly biodynamic naturally, with all of the complexity and vibrancy of acid that is pregnant in that title.

The staff is warm and knowledgeable as you belly up the bar.  There isn’t a lot of room here, but you get the feeling that this place is a secret of sommeliers and geeky wine folk.  If that is you, you’ll have a home at Donkey and Goat.

The wines are sourced from throughout California with a serious emphasis on a coolest vineyards (calorically, not popularity.)  You’ll see a lot of regions that you likely won’t recognize. The wines are low alcohol, as a rule, with funky aromatics, and lots of acid and complexity.  

Donkey and Goat produces wines that have more in common with the European wines of Kermit Lynch (a few streets over in Berkeley) than the richness fruit of Napa Valley (only 1 hour away.)


Winding up to Ridge Monte Bello

After making your way up a winding road in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Ridge Vineyard’s Monte Bello location feels a world away even as you look over expansive views of Silicon Valley just bellow. The wooden tasting room structure looks and feels a lot like an elegant mountain cabin with warm vibes that make you want to relax with your wine(s).

That said, this is a very popular spot and it gets pretty busy. If you’re planning on going on a weekend, it’s definitely a good idea to aim to get there early as parking fills up fast and the mountain road sometimes funnels into one lane. It can also get chilly and windy up there–it’s 2,300 feet up–so do bring a jacket. The wines and the views are completely worth it though! Both are gorgeous.

Ridge refers to its winemaking style as “pre-industrial” and aims to be as non-intrusive as possible during the winemaking process, while still making use of modern technology. They use all native yeasts for their fermentations and use minimal SO2. Their estate vineyards (they do also source fruit) are farmed sustainably and will soon be certified organic. They use primarily American oak to mature their wines, however, it is kept very much in balance. If you’ve ever wondered about what goes into your wine, Ridge happily helps you out by listing it all on the label. Their labels are amongst the most detailed I’ve ever seen.

They’re well known for their Zinfandels and their Monte Bello Cab is a cult classic, but you’ll find also find a selection of other varieties, particularly from Rhône grapes, as well as Chardonnay and Merlot. In my experience, their wines tend to be beautifully balanced, displaying ripe California fruit in an elegant style. Despite being really well known with high quality standards, many bottles are quite reasonably priced.

Click here for one recipe and pairing:

(Please note that my tasting fee was comped as a member of the wine industry. I received no other compensation and all opinions are my own.)

The Basics

Hours: Saturdays and Sundays: 11:00 am – 4:00 pm, and Weekdays by Reservation.

Experiences and Prices:

Tasting Room: Ridge offers three tasting flights, each with a different focus and at different price points: “Single-Vineyard” ($10), “Estate Single-Vineyard” ($15), and “Estate Single-Vineyard + Monte Bello” ($25, and includes our flagship Monte Bello). No reservation required for groups of 8 or less on weekends. Contact the winery for reservations M-F.

Estate Tastings: Semi-private tastings of their single vineyard Estate offerings, including the current release of the Monte Bello.  This includes a short vineyard walk (weather permitting) and a tour through the Old Winery barn. At $35 a person, this experience is definitely worth it, particularly if it’s your first time. Altogether, this last about 90 minutes and reservations required 7 days a week, with 2 appointment slots available each day, and all guests must 21+ years old. (You can make reservations online.)

Private Tastings: also available by appointment.  

Extra Details:

They do have a picnic area and it’s available to customers on the weekends on a first-come, first-serve basis. It’s also available M-F to guests with reservations. (Check their site for full picnicking policies.) Dogs are not allowed due to the presence of rattlesnakes in the area.

Member Benefits:

Ridge has three different membership programs, however, each gets access to special bottlings that are often hard to find. Wine Club Members also receive Estate and Single-Vineyard tastings complimentary for up to 4 guests, among other perks.

Sipping Through the Wines at Ridge Vineyards

Ridge’s wines probably need no introduction at this point. They’ve long been established in California and are extremely well-regarded. Their Monte Bello Cab is a sought after cult classic and they’re very well known for their elegant Zinfandels.

I’ve been a fan for many years­. It’s been over ten years since my husband and I made our first trip to their Lytton Springs location, but only recently had the chance to visit their Monte Bello location for the first time. These wines were tasted during that visit.

(Please note that my tasting fee was comped as a member of the wine industry. I received no other compensation and all opinions are my own.)

Ridge refers to its winemaking style as “pre-industrial” and aims to be as non-intrusive as possible during the winemaking process, so they’re a good winery to search out if you feel particular about what goes into your wines.

Ridge Montebello

Ridge Monte Bello Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains 2014

Tasting Notes: On the nose it is ripe with tropical fruit notes, golden apples, and notes of vanilla. It is bright on the palate with a juicy quality. Similar fruit and spice notes as on the nose, but with a little stony underpinning and hints of savory herbs. The oak acts as spice, but it is in balance. This would be a great pairing for buttery seafood (lobster and crab please!) and roasted chicken. American oak, 18 month in barrel, 28%-30% new. This wine is not made every year. 14.2% abv.

Ridge Geyserville, Alexander Valley, 2015 – 50th Anniversary Edition

Blend: 70% Zinfandel, 15% Carignane, 12% Petite Sirah, 3% Alicante Bouschet.

Geyserville is an old field blend style, but is always predominantly Zinfandel.

On the nose it has orange peel a hint of tea, blackberry, raspberry, and a little white pepper. It’s ripe on the palate, however, it is not overly heavy. It remains elegant with sweet berries, light herbs, white pepper, and a stony core. 14.5% abv. This is delicious with game birds and pork chops. Click here for a pairing recipe:

Ridge Lytton Springs, Dry Creek Valley 2015

Blend: 74% Zinfandel,16% Petite Sirah, 8% Carignane, 2% Mataro (Mourvedre).

Ripe, warm berry sauce on the nose with hints of red flowers. On the palate, fruit is ripe but leaner than expected, very fresh, with a hint of meatiness on the palate. I think this will flesh out with time. 14.5% abv.

Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains 2014

Blend: 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc

Eucalyptus on the nose with hints of cocoa, and sweet dark fruits laced with herbs and mint. Light pepper and cassis join in on the palate, with sweet-tart black cherries, dark raspberries, blackberries. Has a tart finish with well-integrated tannins, even now when it’s young. 13.7% abv.

Ridge Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains, 2014

Blend: 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot

Plush, slightly brooding nose, with bramble light herbs, pepper, and floral notes. Tobacco comes in on the palate, with very pretty fruit of cassis and red and black cheeries, and hints of graphite pencil lead. Tannins are hefty and this definitely needs some time to fully integrate. Got more velvety with air. 13.5%.

Ridge Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains, 2006

Blend: 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc

Dark berries and cassis on the nose, with a little charcoal, a little dark chocolate, espresso in the background. Silky up front with dusty tannins on the finish. Everything was very well integrated and just starting to show tertiary notes. Notes of pepper and a little menthol both on nose and on the palate. This was showing really well but could also definitely go longer as acid was still kicking. 13.5% abv.

Yorkville Cellars Review

Every time I drive by Yorkville Cellars on my way to visit Anderson Valley in Mendocino County, this adorable winery puts a smile on my face. It is such a welcome after the hour-long drive from Sonoma County to the back roads of Anderson Valley.

The winery is in the perfect place as it’s one of the first wineries you’ll hit on your drive to Anderson Valley. Although, this winery is a part of the Yorkville Highlands AVA, it’s adorableness will make you want to stop in. And, if the picturesque winery doesn’t make you stop, the signs out front saying, “Pouring Bubbles Today” or “Serving Orange Wine” today just might.

It’s also the only winery in the area that grows and produces all 8 Bordeaux Varietals!

I’d driven by this winery many times, but never stopped until recently, and it left quite the impression on me. As you pull in and walk into the winery be sure to keep an eye out for their winery cat, Slate, who is very open to pets and love as you visit.

Let’s break it down for you as to why this winery is a GREAT place to visit by looking at: Atmosphere, The Wine, Price & Availability, and the Experiences!

1) Atmosphere

This winery gets you from the minute you first lay eyes on it, its picturesque winery that looks like a house out in the country surrounded by vineyards is very appealing to the eye. As you walk up the stairs to the tasting room you’ll look back out through the vineyards and take in the scenic views. It’s quite the site, and changes seasonally.

Once inside, you’ll walk up to the tasting bar to enjoy your tasting or enjoy your wine outdoors with a picnic. It’s a great stopping point on your drive to Anderson Valley or the Mendocino Coast.

2) The Wine

The winery is the only one in the area that grows and produces all 8 grape varietals of Bordeaux, and they have an extensive list of wines available.

They’re also not afraid to try new things. A few wines that caught me by surprise were a Sparkling Malbec Brut Rose, Semillon, a Rose made from Petit Verdot, and their Amber Folly, a white wine produced just like a Red Wine. Yep, this White Wine is fermented 10 days with its skins on giving it an orange color to the wine. Also, don’t forget to try their Sweet Malbec, it goes down like juice, with only half the sugar as a typical Late Harvest wine! Their twist on trying new things was refreshing to see!

3) Price & Availability

Their wines are only available at the winery, but it is truly worth a visit. Bottles range anywhere from $20 dollars to $46 dollars a bottle! Very affordable!

Also, their tastings are complimentary, no tasting fee at all, unless you’re looking to do a reserved wine tasting then you’ll pay a nominal fee to try more of their specialized wines.

4) Experiences

They are very open to accommodating your tasting needs. No reservations are needed for Complimentary tastings.

However, they have some focused and Private Tasting Experiences available with reservations:

Organic Vineyard Tour & Tasting: 25 Dollars Per Person

Founder/owner Edward or Deborah will lead you through their vineyards planted to eight varietals originating in Bordeaux.

Then sit down under ancient oaks trees or on antique love seats indoors. Enjoy a reserve tasting including ten or more of their current release wines accompanied by charcuterie and cheese selection. All are acclaimed artisan wines, hand crafted in small lots and difficult to find outside their tasting room. Learn the story of each wine within sight of the vines that they are made from.

Progressive Picnic in Our Vineyards: $35 Dollars Per Person

With a founder/owner, Edward or Deborah Wallo, take a tour through their organic vineyards planted to eight varietals originating in Bordeaux. At various stops you will be served an appetizer paired with wine from vines you are looking at.

After the tour, you will head back to the tasting room to enjoy a tasting of 10 wines indoors or outdoors with your choosing!

Organic Vineyard Tour and Play, “Name that Varietal.” $45 Dollars Per Person

Tour the ranch with an owner/founder, Edward or Deborah Wallo, and learn about organic farming as you pass through the vineyards planted to eight Bordeaux varietals. Winter visitors may be accompanied on their stroll by a flock of sheep or in the summer you might be invited to release ladybugs or measure grape sugars.

Your private tasting will start with several of their white wines. Next, to discover the unique differences among the Noble Reds, you’ll be able taste their current releases Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and the lesser-cultivated Petit Verdot and Carménère. All varietals are grown side by side in the same vineyard, making this a unique experience. Throughout your tasting you will be served a variety of tasty small bites to pair with the wines.

If you like, select a “blind” tasting called “Name That Varietal.” We introduce them in an enjoyable board game. On the table in front of you are glasses with a red wine in each. Now, which wine is which varietal? The tasting can be quite a challenge indeed! But this is the best and most fun way to learn about wine. Once you’ve decided which varietals you prefer, we’ll dip into our wine library covering over 20 vintages and let you sample a few aged wines.

The grand finale is of their Richard the Lion-Heart, a meritage wine blend that has all 6 Noble Reds which is the result of their numerous blending trial sessions.

5) Perks of Joining Their Wine Club

Four times each year – shipped in the first week of: March, May, September and November, you will receive a sample pack of three different new wines before they become available to the public in their tasting room.

Their normal maximum discount is 10% on a case of 12 bottles. Hi-Rollrs receive a minimum discount of 20% on the retail bottled price on all sample shipments and any orders of current release wines, even if the order is less than a case. There are two other club level options which earn higher discounts.

They are reserving some of their outstanding vintages and when they have reached full maturity, they will be re-released to their wine club members. Exclusively available to their wine club members are larger sized bottles (3 liter) of our premium wines.

Have you been to Yorkville Cellars? Has it left an impression on you like it did for me?

Merryvale Vineyards Review

A sign of a good winery is always the impression it leaves on you after a visit! This was the exact case after visiting Merryvale Vineyards in Napa Valley recently (St. Helena, to be exact!)
Truthfully, I’ve driven by Merryvale Vineyards numerous times the past few years, however, never stopped. From the outside, the winery looks very normal and ordinary, nothing stood out, but surprisingly, this was not the case from the moment you walked inside.

Lets break down the winery by the four characteristics below: Atmosphere, The Wine, Price & Availability, and Experiences offered at the Winery.

1) Atmosphere

From your first arrival, attendants behind the tasting room may greet you, this was the exact case for us, Manny, our tasting room host greeted us upon arrival and introduced us to our first glass of wine, their 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, he welcomed us and encouraged us to walk around the tasting room to enjoy the sites, and mentioned their event room to explore and any photo ops were truly encouraged.

There were numerous seating areas throughout the tasting room for fun couches to take photos with, to tables and chairs where you could enjoy your tastings at, along with seating around the tasting bar.

The day we were there, it was quite quiet, perks of visiting during the off season, but the later in the day it gets, the busier the winery gets, as well especially during the weekends!

2) The Wine

The most important part, right? When in Napa, there are truly 3 wine varietals to look for: Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, however, keep your eyes on other varietals offered, as well.

At Merryvale, they offer the 3 Big Varietals mentioned above along with others: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Petite Sirah and their Dessert Wine: an Antigua Dessert Wine (Muscat de Frontignan) that has been aged in Oak Barrels for decades, averaging 35 years! They also have a Late Harvest Riesling that they do, as well.

All the wines were truly good, but their standouts were truly the BIG 3 varietals: Chardonnay from the Carneros Region, their Caberenet Sauvignon, and of course, their Merlot, which is such a steal at 50 dollars a bottle!

3) Price and Availability

For a winery in Napa Valley, the prices at Merryvale are actually quite reasonable. Wines range from as low as $30 dollars a bottle up to $115 dollars a bottle! 50 Dollars for a bottle of Napa Valley Merlot is a steal, along with their $65 dollar bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. Their Merryvale Chardonnay runs right around $35 dollars a bottle!

4) Experiences

Although reservations are not required for a tasting, they’re highly recommended when planning your Napa Valley getaway! A classic tasting inside the tasting room is 30 Dollars. They also have a Reserve Tasting available for 50 Dollars per person that will walk you through their more limited wines.

And for a special and one of a kind experience, they have 2 unique experiences: Their Wine And Cheese Pairing, which I highly recommend ( see photo below) where you are walked through their Merryvale Wines paired with locally crafted cheeses that pair nicely with the wines. This experience costs $55 Dollars per person.

Their Library Profile Tasting will walk you through a tasting of their Classic Merryvale Wines paired alongside with 3 of the library vintages. A $125 Dollars per person and recommended for luxury wine lovers and collectors.

5) Perks of Being a Wine Club Member

Everyone enjoys a good wine club, below are the listed benefits of joining Merryvale Vineyards Wine Club below:
Access to limited releases, library selections and exclusive offers.
Shipping fees included on all orders.
Customized Club Shipments
10% discount on current and Club releases.
20% discount on case purchases during Club shipment months.
Complimentary seated tasting in our Wine Club Lounge with artisanal cheese selections.
Invitations to special events such as Lobster Feeds, Harvest Dinners, Holiday Dinners, New Year’s Eve Parties, and more!

Nottingham Cellars Review

Nottingham Cellars and Vasco Urbano are run by the father and son team of Jeff and Collin. It all started out because Jeff, who was a partner in a boutique Napa Valley winery started to source some grapes from the Livermore Valley. He fell in love with the terroir of Livermore Valley and all it had to offer so he decided to create a winery himself, partnering with various vineyards from around Livermore Valley and his son joined him.


Like many Livermore Valley wineries, they focus on Bordeaux and Rhône varietals and blends. Nottingham Cellars describes their wines as a tribute to the rich history that precedes them and the future of world class wine making in the Livermore Valley. Their tasting room also houses their other label, Vasco Urbano.

The tasting room has a private barrel room, open tasting room and outdoor patio. The outdoor patio is both dog and kid friendly. They allow outside food but also have a small menu of bites including crackers, cheese and chocolate, the prices range from $2-$9. The tasting room is open 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Thursday through Sunday. I found the tasting room and patio to be a bit loud when I visited during Barrel Tasting weekend, but the barrel room was quiet.

There is a standard tasting offered for $15 (free for wine club members and up to four guests) and an elevated tasting for $35 ($20 for wine club members). Both these tastings feature five pours; however the elevated tasting features an additional greeting pour of white wine and a sit down educational seminar through the pours in the barrel room. The elevated tasting requires reservations, but the regular tasting only requires reservations for parties of 6 or more. I’d still recommend making a reservation especially if you are visiting on a weekend. Tasting fees are waived with a two-bottle purchase.


Their wine club has an option of three, six or twelve bottles shipped or picked up quarterly for either Nottingham Cellars (Club Nottingham) or Vasco Urbano (Hub Club). Being a wine club member gets you discounts on all their wines and invites to special events throughout the year, like the quarterly wine club member parties. Nottingham Cellars bottles range from $24 – $85 and the Vasco Urbano bottles range from $18 to $48. Some wines, like their White Label series can be found in several local shops around the Livermore Valley, but their smaller lot production is only available at select restaurants and directly from them.




Murrieta’s Well Winery Review

Experience Livermore’s Unique Terroir at Murrieta’s Well

Murrieta’s Well Estate Vineyard is an additional label of the Wente Family Estates. Their winery and tasting room are open year round, and open seven days a week between Memorial Day and harvest. The outside patio is both kid and dog friendly, and upstairs there is an adults only tasting bar as well. Although outside food is not allowed, they have a rotating seasonal menu of food you can order from. The menu changes are synced up to their quarterly wine club releases. Currently their menu features a Market Fresh Board, Charcuterie & Cheese Board, Housemade Barrel Bites, Roasted Turkey Broodje, Pork Belly w/ Crispy White Grits, Farro & Red Quinoa Salad, Mushroom & Pesto Flatbread, Smoked Chicken Flatbread and Cinnamon Churros. Prices for these items range from $9 to $18. Both the Market Fresh Board and the Barrel Bites are vegetarian.

Currently their $25 per person seated tasting includes pours of their 2016 The Whip (a white blend), 2017 Dry Rose, 2015 Merlot, 2015 Petit Verdot and 2015 The Spur (a red blend). Like their food menu, the offerings of their seated tasting rotates quarterly. The tasting fee is waived with a $50 purchase. If you sign up for text notifications, they will give you an extra pour. In addition to the wine we tasted we also ordered the Mushroom Pesto Flatbread, which was large enough for two and tasted just divine. The Whip, Dry Rose and The Spur can be found at local liquor shops, but the rest of their wines are estate only offerings. Reservations for their seated tasting are highly recommended. The general vibe of the patio where most tastings are done is casual but elegant, with an incredible focus on providing outstanding customer service to their visitors.

Even Murrieta’s Well varietal wines are still blends. The philosophy of their wine is helping people see the varietal in a unique light while showcasing Livermore’s terroir. To me, this was most clear with their Merlot which I enjoyed more than most Merlots because of its balance despite its young age. The blends are similar year to year, but do change slightly depending on how the varietals show year to year. A few years ago Robbie Meyer joined as the Director of Winemaking for Murrieta’s Well, as he states on his bio, “The wines we create inspire people to think about where the grapes are grown”. Their primary focus is Bordeaux and Spanish varietals.

Joining their Wine Club (quarterly shipments come as 4, 6 or 12 bottles) will get you 15-20% of their wine, complimentary seated tastings, and an invite to their quarterly release parties held at the winery. In addition to their seated wine tastings they have a seated Wine & Food Experience for $65 per person, Quarterly Winemakers Dinners for $125 per person, live music on weekends in the summer and participate in several Livermore Valley Wine Country Events like Livermore Valley Passport, Wine Wednesdays, Barrel Tasting Weekend, Wine & Wags, Taste Our Terroir, Harvest Wine Celebration, and more.

Cana’s Feast Winery Review

750 W. Lincoln Street, Carlton OR 97511

Cana’s Feast specializes in Italian and southern French varietals, many sourced from some of the best vineyards in eastern Washington, as well as Oregon-derived fruit. Tastings are $10 per person for 6 different wines, waived if you spend more than $25. Open Tuesday – Sunday 11 AM – 5 PM (Mondays by appointment).

The setting of Cana’s Feast calls to mind a Tuscan villa, with classic gold stucco and green shutters. A pair of bocce courts stretch out to the west, flanked by two outside patios with expanded-metal tables for enjoying the Willamette Valley’s mild summers with a glass of something refreshing.

The solitary oak tree stands at the edge of a hillside overlooking the Oregon Coast Range.

Cana’s Feast is best known for bold, complex red wines from Italian and southern French varietals. Their stellar 2014 Sangiovese Grosso ($45) offers lush black cherry and orange zest aromas, and the fragrance of fresh rain on earth that is the hallmark of wines from Tuscany. The 2014 Joie de Vivre ($32) blends classic Rhône varietals (Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsaut, Counoise, and Grenache), producing a wine with hints of blueberry, redcurrant, earth, herbes de Provence, and citrus zest.

The pastoral, European setting of Cana’s Feast is ideal for their many events. “Italy in the Valley” is an annual summertime festival bringing dozens of local wineries specializing in Italian varietals. Their Wine Club offers three levels, from 2 bottles per quarter ranging from $60-$80 per shipment, to the top-line membership at 12 bottles per quarter at a price of $305-$385 per quarter (price dependent on wines selected). They also offer members a varying selection of exclusive club-only wines, such as their 2013 Slide Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, perfumed with blackcurrants, violets and semi-sweet chocolate.

Sunlight, shadows, and reflections on a glass of 2014 Joie de Vivre express the joy of a great glass of wine.

Club members typically pick up their quarterly shipments at the winery, where the festive air is augmented by food pairings specifically prepared to highlight the quarterly wine selection. Pick-up parties are held in the barrel room, which adds to the festive charm. Members also get a sliding discount on wine of up to 20% on full-case purchases (non-members can still enjoy 10% off a full case), and complimentary tastings for up to four.

Ken Wright Cellars Review

120 N. Pine Street, Carlton, OR

With an emphasis on single-vineyard bottlings, Ken Wright’s Pinot Noir selections emphasize the importance of place in the production of award-winning wines. Located in a renovated 1920s train station at the edge of Carlton, the tasting room is open Friday & Saturday 11 AM – 6 PM, Sunday through Thursday from 11 AM – 5 PM. Tasting fees are $20, refunded on a two-bottle purchase; current prices range from $24 for their bright 2015 Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc (fresh, with an herbal acidity redolent of fresh sorrel) to $62.50 for their 2014 Guadalupe Vineyard Pinot Noir (notes of blackcurrant and plum overlay the dusty earth aroma from the marine-sedimentary soil of this site).

On cool days, enjoy a seat around the firepit while you sip a glass of first-rate Pinot Noir.

The tasting room opens onto a charming covered patio and garden; on cool days, the firepit is a favorite spot. Visitors are welcome to bring a picnic and sit outside; wines by the glass are $8 for white wines, $10 for Syrah and Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, and $15 for single-vineyard Pinot Noir.

Wright’s Pinot Noirs combine great delicacy with fabulous structure. The combination of varied soils with vineyards of different elevations, different sun and wind exposures, and different clonal varieties of the Pinot Noir grape make a wide and appealing variation, even within the same vintage.

Club members get to talk with winemaker Ken Wright as he pours for them at a club pickup event.

One of the best ways to experience these subtleties is to join the wine club. Two levels are available: the Northwest Club at $175 includes a selection of white wines, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and club-exclusive bottlings. The Pinot Club, at $250, includes a selection of Pinot Noir, including exclusive bottlings.

Even more appealing, though, are the other club perks: special members-only pours at club pickup events, no-charge tastings for up to four people, and best of all, the Wine Club Picnic, a festive affair set in one of the Wright vineyards and catered by some of the Willamette Valley’s most sought-after producers of first-class food, such as Red Hills Market.