Wine connoisseurs, get excited! Easy Bistro &Bar chef Erik Neil is having a wine tasting tonight featuring Oregon wines from Argyle Winery. Guests will enjoy hors d’oeuvres and taste six of Argyle’s best wines, led by Bill Matthes of Distinguished Vineyards.

The Argyle wine tasting will be held tonight, Friday, Nov. 15, at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $35 and can be purchasedhereor by calling the restaurant at 423-266-1121. Doors will open at 6 p.m.

In the spirit of this dinner, I thought it would be the perfect time to discuss Oregon wines and Argyle Winery.

The wines

-2009 Argyle brut, Willamette Valley

-2009 Argyle brut rose, Dundee Hills (100 percent Knudsen Vineyard)

-2010 Argyle riesling, Eola-Amity Hills (100 percent Lone Star Vineyard)

-2010 Argyle Nuthouse chardonnay, Willamette Valley

-2011 Argyle Nuthouse chardonnay, Willamette Valley

-2012 Argyle pinot noir, Willamette Valley

Oregon wines have become more and more popular over the past couple of years. They have especially gained recognition for pinot noir and chardonnay. Some might even say that their wines rival Burgundy, France.

According to the Guild of Sommeliers, “Today, the valley’s pinot noir wines are a steppingstone between California and the Côte d’Or: lighter in style and earthier than the former, riper and more forward than the latter. The mild, temperate, rainy climate of the valley invites further comparisons to Burgundy, and vintages are more variable than in Sonoma or Santa Barbara.”

Vintages are important for wine in general, although vintages are especially important for Oregon because of the variable climate. Recently, I have tasted numerous 2010 vintage wines from Oregon, and I couldn’t be more pleased. The 2010 vintage was an incredible year for winemaking all over the world, so you should buy it! The 2009 vintage for Oregon produced more “fleshy” wines with more robust flavor, whereas the 2010 wines are more rustic, delicate and lighter in style.

The main wine region within Oregon is Willamette Valley. Willamette Valley is nearly 150 miles long and runs southward from the Columbia River to Portland. The region is broken into six sub-AVAs in order to help distinguish the subtle differences: Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, Ribbon Ridge, McMinnville, Yamhill-Carlton District and Chehalem Mountains.

Argyle Winery produces wine within Willamette Valley and is known for its méthode champenoise sparkling wine, chardonnay and pinot noir. Argyle was named Oregon’s Premier Wineryby Wine Spectator in 2000.

Within Willamette Valley, Argyle has three specific vineyards: Knudsen Vineyard, Stoller Vineyard and Lone Star Vineyard.

Riesling, produced at Lone Star, is one of the most majestic grapes in the world. Unfortunately, riesling has received a bad reputation in the past couple of years for being very sweet. However, riesling has the capability to range from being bone-dry to very sweet. Also, Lone Star produces Nuthouse pinot noir and Nuthouse chardonnay. Yes, I did just say “Nuthouse.”

I was curious about the name myself when I first heard of it. Rollin Soles, Argyle’s winemaker, says that Nuthouse wines are “in homage to our squirrel-friendly heritage.”

The term “Nuthouse” originated from the winery’s history as a hazelnut processing plant. Another fact I learned was that Oregon is responsible for more than 99 percent of the hazelnuts grown in the United States. Nuthouse wines are single-vineyard wines that are produced in limited quantities from Lone Star Vineyard.

Sparkling wines are also becoming increasingly popular in Oregon. Argyle sparkling wines are vintage-dated, which is not as common. Vintage-dated sparkling wine grapes have to all be from the year that is printed on the bottle. In making sparkling wine, a lot of producers will blend their wines from different years. This is called a nonvintage sparkling wine. The two grape varieties that are used in Argyle’s sparkling wine are chardonnay and pinot noir.

Learning about wine regions that you may not be familiar with is a journey. To have the opportunity to learn from someone who knows everything about a specific winery is a real treat. The tasting at Easy Bistro & Bar will be nothing less than that: a real treat.


Michelle Richards is a certified sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers. Along with hosting wine tastings for local organizations, she serves up wine goodness at St. John’s Restaurant. You can contact her byemail. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not or its employees.