I moved to Portland Oregon in 1978 and discovered a new world. Born and raised in West Virginia and deeply connected to the land and the culture, I’d come to such a dead-end in my personal and professional life, that the only way forward I could see was to make a drastic move in hopes of renewal. In Portland, it didn’t matter that I hadn’t been born in the West, wore funny suits and probably still had an accent, I was home. That’s a long story made short, for now.
My weekends were often spent climbing mountains or backpacking, but sometimes I made the rounds of the, then small number of wineries in the Yamhill and Willamette Valleys, learning about wine, and enjoying the camaraderie of a small but growing group of winemakers with big dreams. I admired that energy and optimism, enjoyed their company, and their brash new wines. Now the wineries number in the hundreds and are sometimes bigger and less personal than I remember. But there is new blood, a new generation of small wineries and wine growers, with new ideas, and newly bold and creative wines.
One such winery is Emerson, near Monmouth, Oregon, not far from Salem. They are on the Harvest Hosts program, and we parked with spectacular views of their 25 acres of grapes and beautiful mature oak forest. We were also treated to a tasting like I remember from so many years ago, attentive and informative, friendly, with no pressure to buy. Tom Johns treated us to a barrel tasting of Brother Red, a big mouthy but complex red, slated for a fall release. It is so good in the barrel that we plan on stopping again on our way southbound to see how it is doing in the bottle, and who knows, maybe tow a trailer full back to Tucson. Hmmm. I wonder if they’d sell us a barrel? Here’s a link to Emerson Vineyards.
Sunset from Turtle at the Emerson Winery. We slept peacefully and took a long bike ride the next morning before bidding our host goodbye.