Think of a sommelier as your wine tasting equivalent of a good travel agent, guiding you through Oregon wine country bottle by bottle. A bottle of wine is typically uncorked years after the vintner has put their final touch on the vintage. Matching that long-developed magic with a guest’s dining selection and taste is the art of the sommelier. At Yamhill Valley restaurants, the sommeliers know well the nuances of wine made in the region and the distinctions that each AVA can bring to the varieties.
Donald Hopkins, the sommelier at Joel Palmer House in Dayton, said that most of his clients are particularly interested in wine pairing and how the right bottle can elevate a meal to an unexpected level. “The goal of wine pairing is one plus one equals three, not one plus one equals two,” said Hopkins.
Hopkins said that most restaurant goers are still drinking plenty of Oregon pinot noir, but recently there has been a trend toward Oregon chardonnay, riesling and sparkling wine. He credits that to the winemakers gaining world-class recognition for those wines.
At The Barberry and 1882 Grille, owner and wine purchaser Dustin Wyant agrees. “Oregon chardonnay is starting to grow substantially,” said Wyant. “It’s starting to get some of the similar recognition that Oregon pinot noir did ten to fifteen years ago.”
Wyant has been in the Oregon wine industry for more than twenty-five years. “There’s always a little bit of an ebb and a flow,” said Wyant. Currently, there’s a lot of interest in the small, independent producers that are new to the region. “For us these days,” said Wyant, “the interest is in these super micro producers.”
People traveling to Oregon’s wine country want to come away having made a personal connection with the region’s winemakers. Yamhill Valley’s wine community takes those connections to heart, and is one of the few regions where world-renowned wine and its creators are still accessible.