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May is Oregon’s Wine Month

Willamette Valley Vineyards

Celebrate Oregon’s Wine Month beginning May 1. It’s not too early to start planning your visit!

To celebrate, a special sweepstakes has been planned, the 2018 Oregon Wine Month Sweepstakes. “One lucky winner and guest will spend 4 days and 3 nights in the vineyards, the kitchens and the company of some of Oregon’s most acclaimed winemakers, chefs and craftspeople for an immersive celebration of Oregon’s wine and food bounty. Three runners up will win a two-month, two-bottle membership to Cellar 503, the premier wine club for anyone wheo wants to explore Oregon’s small-batch wineries.”

Vineyards at Abacela

Many of the Oregon wineries are events offering special events during May. Visit the Oregon Wine website or the websites of the individual wineries for details.

Quick Facts about Oregon’s Wine Industry

  • Oregon is the third largest grape producer
  • Oregon is home to 18 AVAs.
  • Oregon has 720 wineries
  • Number of grape varieties: 72
  • Top 12 grape varieties: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Viognier, Gewürztraminer, Tempranillo, Pinot Blanc and Cabernet Franc.
  • Oldest continually operating winery is Honeywood Winery in Salem.

Youngberg Hill Vineyards and Inn

Oregon has several wine growing regions including: Central Oregon, Columbia Gorge, Portland’s Urban Wineries, Southern Oregon, Walla Walla Valley and Willamette Valley. Some of these regions include smaller wine regions. For example, Willamette Valley includes Chehalem Mountains and Ribbon Ridge, Dundee Hills, Cascade Foothills, Eola-Amity Hills, Heart of Willamette, McMinnville, North Willamette, South Willamette and Yahmill-Carlton. Another one of our favorite wine regions in Oregon is Southern Oregon where wine enthusiasts will find wineries in Applegate Valley and Umpqua Valley.

If you are planning to visit Oregon during your summer vacation, order the 2018 Oregon Wine Tour Guide.

Wine Trail Traveler has visited many of Oregon’s wineries over several years. Read the articles about each winery we have visited, the information and photos may spark your interest in visiting a particular winery or wine region.


Simonsig Wine Tasting through Youtube

Simonsig Estate in South Africa
photo credit: Simonsig

Today Simonsig is producing a wide variety of wines including: a single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, red blends, white wines and sparkling wines. The winemaker is Debbie Thompson.

Redhill 2015
photo credit: Simonsig

For an April tasting using Youtube, my favorite was the Redhill Pinotage 2015 that was 14.1% alcohol. Upon pulling the cork and before pouring the wine into the stemware, there was an immediate intense aroma. This dark ruby to black color wine had a ruby rim. The aroma included notes of black fruit, vanilla with a hint of violets. The tasted included black raspberry, plum, vanilla, violet and cloves. The Redhill Pinotage was a full-bodied wine and had medium tannins. The finish was fruity yielding to baking spices on the long aftertaste.

Simonsig was named for its views of the Simonsberg Mountains. Simonsig has been producing wines under its own brand for 50 years. The Malan family has been living in South Africa since 1688. Today it is the second and third generation family members Francois, Johan and Francois-Jacques who are carrying on the legacy of Frans Malan who established Simonsig in 1968. Frans is also renowned for producing the first South African Méthode Cap Classique, a sparkling wine. Frans also co-founded the Stellenbosch Wine Route. 

The winery also has a restaurant, Cuvée, that is opened for limited days and hours for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When planning your visit, check the hours on the Simonsig website.


Cellar tours: Monday thru Saturday
Wine tastings: Every day

Eventually, we hope to travel to South Africa and visit and write more about Simonsig and other wineries.


Wine Garden of England

Seven English wineries, located in Kent County, have formed a group known as the Wine Garden of England. The seven wineries are: Biddenden Vineyards, Chapel Down, Domaine Evremond, Gusbourne, Hush Heath Estate, Simpsons Wine Estate and Squerryes.

The Wine Garden of England website offers suggestions for visiting the area’s wineries and vineyards.

  • With a Day to Explore –This one day excursion includes visits to Chapel Down with a stop at The Swan for lunch  and Gusbourne Winery.
  • Escape for the Weekend – For day one stop at Squerryes and spend the evening at Hotel Du Vin & Bistro. On day two the first stop is the Hush Heath Winery, enjoy lunch at Goudhurst Inn and finally a stop at Biddenden Vineyard.
  • Luxury Four Day Wine Tour – This is a chauffeur driven tour. Winery stops include Squerryes, Simpsons Winery, Gusbourne Winery, Chapel Down, Biddenden Vineyard and Hush Heath Winery.  Other stops and lodging include: Chilston Park Hotel, The Fordwich Arms, Eastwell Manor, The Swan at Chapel Down, The Milk House, Sissinghurst Castle Farmhouse, The Goudhurst Inn and Hever Castle.

Wine Garden of England Wineries

Biddenden Vineyards

The first commercial vineyard was planted in 1969. Today the Biddenden Vineyards are comprised of 23 acres. Today the winery is proudcing 80,000 bottles that include white, rosé, red and sparkling wines. Cider lovers will be happy to know that the winery is also producing Biddenden cider.

Visiting: The winery is open to visitors and currently admission and tastings are free. Tours are available during the summer months for a small fee.

Chapel Down 

Chapel Down was founded in 2001. In addition to red, white and sparkling wines (made in the traditional method), Chapel Down produces cider and beer. In addition to owning their own vineyards in Kent, the winery also sources grapes from other growers.

Visiting: Open daily to the public, the winery offers wine tours of the vineyards and winery. Tours can be booked online.

Domaine Evremond

Renowned Domaine Taittinger of France and Hatch Mansfield Ltd purchased 69 hectares of farm land in Kent in 2015. Watch for more details emerging as the vineyards are planted and English sparkling wines are produced. 

Gusbourne Winery

It was in 2004 that Andrew Weeber took over the estate with the goal of creating sparkling wines. The vineyards were started  in that same year.

Visiting: The winery tasting room is open throughout the year. Enjoy a self-guided vineyard tour, or book a Vineyard Tour or Discovery Tour. Private tours are also available.

Hush Heath Estate

Hush Heath Estate, a 400-acre estate,  is a large vineyard and winery producing estate grown sparkling wines, still wines and ciders. 

Visiting:  The winery offers a self-guided tour, Winter Winery Tour and Tasting and Full Estate Winery & Tutored Tasting.

 Simpsons Wine Estate

Prior to producing wine in England, the owners had been producing wines in France at Domaine de Sainte Rose. In 2012,  they established Simpson Wine Estate in Kent county. In 2014 they planted 10 hectares (24.7 acres) including Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay in their Roman Road Vineyard. The vinyard was so named because it is believed that in 43 AD invading Romans carried the first grapevines with them. More grapevines were planted in the Railway Hill Vineyard in 2016 and 2017. Watch for special events.

Squerryes Winery

     Squerryes Winery is on a large estate that has been in the family for eight generations. The first grapevines were planted in 2006. The winery focuses on producing quality sparkling wines. The winery offers several wine experiences for wine enthusiasts.

Visiting: The wine shop is open four days a week.

Discover and experience English wines when traveling in this region of England.


Save the Date: May 12 for Vintage Ohio South Festival

Valley Vineyards Winery

On May 12, 15 Ohio wineries will participate in the 1st Annual Vintage Ohio South festival. This fun-filled festival takes place in Springfield, Ohio at the Clark County Fairgrounds. In addition to these wineries that will offer wine samples, the wineries will also have wine available for visitors to purchase and enjoy at home. From 1pm ’til 8pm enjoy wine, music, food, as well as craft and gourmet food vendors.

Participating wineries include:

  • AR Winery
  • Brandeberry Winery
  • Caesar Creek Vineyard
  • Debonne Vineyards
  • Hanover Winery
  • Heineman’s Winery
  • It’s Your Winery
  • Maize Valley Winery & Craft Brewery
  • Meier’s Wine Cellars
  • Meranda-Nixon Winery
  • O’Bannon Creek Vineyard
  • Old Mason Winery & Vineyards
  • Olde Schoolhouse Vineyards
  • The Winery at Versailles
  • Valley Vineyards

    The Winery at Versailles

Numerous crafts and gourmet foods will be available to browse throughout the day. Look for hand painted dominoes made into assorted items including pendants, magnets and keychains. Other items available will include: wreaths and centerpieces, homemade gemstone jewelry, carved wood signs, wine bags, special seasoning blends, sea salts, sausage mixes, makeup, clothing, maple syrup, microwavable body warmers, jewelry, and much, much more.

Restaurants will also be attending the festival. Look for yummy foods such as hamburgers, hot dogs, sloppy joes, sausages, pretzel bites, hand-cut potato chips, pastries, grilled cheese sandwiches and homemade ice cream.

Festival Tickets

Online pre-sale tickets are $25; tickets purchased at the door will be $30. The tickets will entitle wine lovers to a wine glass, 12 wine sampling tickets and a six-bottle carrier tote. Designated driver tickets are also available for $10. Designated drivers will receive four complimentary waters or pops.

Drivers will be happy to know that parking is free.

Wine Trail Traveler has visited and written about many of Ohios wineries including several of the wineries participating in the festival. Read the online reviews here.


Tasting of Wines from Ribera del Duero and Rueda Regions

Wine tasting

In a recent blog about the Ribera and Rueda DOs in Spain, I noted that the Ribera del Duero D.O. region is known for tempranillo wines. It’s also good to know the different styles that Ribera winemakers are producing.

Wine Styles in Ribera del Duero D.O. 

        • Crianza – refers to wines aged in barrels for 1+ years
        • Reserva – wines are aged in barrel for 1+ years and then 2+ years in the bottle
        • Gran Reserva – wines age in barrel for 2+ years, followed by 3+ years in the bottle.
        • Cosecha – these wines are not defined by aging specifications. It should be noted that these wines frequently meet or exceed requirements.

Rueda D.O.

The wineries in the Rueda D.O. region concentrate on producing Verdejo wines. Below is a list of the wine styles to be discovered.

Wine Styles of Rueda D.O.

    • Rueda – wine must be produced with a minimum of 50% Verdejo
    • Rueda Verdejo – wines are at least 85% Verdejo
    • Sauvignon Blanc – wines must be a minimum  of 85% Sauvignon Blanc
    • Rueda Dorado – these wines must be barrel aged for a minimum of two years
    • Rueda Espumoso – these sparkling wines are produced in the traditional method, aged on lees and are in bottle for 9 months


Wine Tasting Notes

Bodegas Protos (This wine company has a winery in both Ribera del Duero and Rueda.)

Protos 2016, Rueda D.O. was a light straw color. The wine had a tropical fruit aroma. The taste was dry with citrus and tropical fruit. The finish was dry and crisp. The wine retails for $14.

The Bodegas Protos Tinto Fino 2016, Ribera del Duero D.O. retails for $20. This wine was a red/purple color. The wine was dry and fruity, with a faint hint of sweetness. The finish was dry and offered tannins that grew bold as the wine lingered. 

Bodega Alvides

Bodega Reina De Castilla Sauvignon Blanc 2017 was a very pale yellow. The wine offered a wonderful aroma. The wine was crisp with notes of grapefruit and tropical fruit including pineapple.

Bodega y Viñedos Martin Berdugo

Martin Berdugo Verdejo 2016 was a light to medium straw color. The wine was aromatic with tropical fruit notes. The taste include citrus, tropical fruit and mineral. The finish was dry. The aftertaste was long. The retail price is a reasonable $10.99

Martin Berdugo Rosado 207 was produced with Tempranillo. The wine was a pretty, pink color. The wine offered an aroma of strawberries and raspberries. The taste was slightly sweet but overall crisp. The finish offered a sense of effervescence. This is a wine I would use as a 3P wine, perfect for the porch, patio or pool. This wine also retails for $10.99.

Cyatho Verdejo

Bodegas Cyatho

The Cyatho Verdejo 2017 offered an intense aroma. The mouthfeel was smooth. The finish was crisp. This wine retails for $12.00.

Bodegas Pago de Carraovejas

The Pago de Carraovejas Cosecha 2015 was a blend of Tinto Fino (Tempranillo), Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine was a beautiful opaque purple color. The wine offered intense notes of earthiness and blackberry. The wine was dry with bold tannins. The retail price is $50.

Marqués de Cáceres

The Marqués de Cáceres Verdejo 2016 was a pale yellow color. The wine offered an aroma of citrus especially lemon and mineral. The taste was also reminiscent of citrus and lemon. The finish was dry and the aftertaste was long. This wine is the flagship wine for the winery. The wine retails for $13. As I tasted the wine, I learned that the family-owned wine was started in the 1970s. Originally, the family was from Spain and moved to Bordeaux. Upon returning to Spain, they decided to start a winery.

Some wineries in the Ribera and Rueda regions are exporting their wines to the United States; other wineries are looking for importers for these well-made wines. Total Wine on the East Coast of the US offers several wines from these regions. Check your favorite wine shop and ask about Ribera del Duero and Rueda wines.


Malbec World Day, April 17

St. Francis Winery & Vineyards grow Malbec

Malbec World Day, April 17th, celebrates the Malbec wine that originated in France. However, after many of the Malbec vineyards of France were decimated by phylloxera, the Malbec grape made its way to Argentina where it is heralded as a most wonderful grape. However Malbec is also grown in other areas of the world including California.

St. Francis Winery & Vineyards in Sonoma Valley grows Malbec in their large vineyards. The winery also emphasizes the culinary aspect of wine. In addition to wine tastings, visitors to the winery can choose to participate in wine and food pairings. They also suggest pairing wine with their recipes.

For example, with the recipe for Garlic and Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb, the pairing suggestion is the 2006 Malbec. Curry Braised Lamb Shanks is paired with the 2012 Malbec, Sonoma Valley.

The pairing suggestion for the  Seared Filet of Beef with Red Wine and Mustard Sauce is the 2011 Malbec, Sonoma Valley. The recipe for this recipe, created by St. Francis Executive Chef David Bush, is below.

Seared Filet of Beef with Red Wine and Mustard
Paired with 2011 Malbec, Sonoma Valley


4 beef filet steaks, about 5 ounces each
1 large shallot, minced
4 sprigs whole fresh thyme
1 c beef stock
1/2 red wine
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and black pepper to taste


  1. Preheat an oven to 450º F.
  2. Season the steaks on both sides with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  3. Heat a heavy bottomed sauté pan over high heat, add the olive oil. When the oil begins to smoke add the steaks. Sear the steaks for about two minutes or unitl dark brown and caramelized. Flip the steaks and sear an additional minute, leave the steaks in the hot pan and place in the preheated oven for about two minutes for medium rare (longer depending on thickness of steaks) or until desired doneness.
  4. Remove the steaks from the oven and place on a platter to rest.
  5. Place the sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the shallots and thyme, sauté for 20 seconds. Deglaze the pan with the red wine and reduce until almost dry. Add the beef stock and mustard and reduce to sauce consistency about 1 – 2 minutes. Whisking the butter, discard the thyme and spoon the sauce over the steaks, serve immediately.

Serves 4

Permission  provided by St. Francis Winery & Vineyards.

Ribera Del Duero and Rueda Wines

In April, we attended a wine tasting in Washington, DC that focused on two wine regions in northern Spain’s Castilla y León plains area. The wine regions are Ribera del Duero D.O. and Rueda D.O. The wine tasting took place at the delightful Barcelona Wine Bar.

Ribera del Duero D.O. is close to the Douro River that makes its way to the Atlantic Ocean past Porto, Portugal. The region became a D.O. in 1982. The climate in this region of Spain is unseasonable with very hot summers and very cold winters. The soil consists of sand, clay, marl, and limestone. This is where the well known Tempranillo grape grows so well and makes up 95% of the vineyards in Ribera del Duero. Many of the grapevines in this region are more than 50 years old with a few being more than 100 years old. It should be said that locally the Tempranillo is known as Tinto Fino. In the wineries, the Tempranillo wines are aged in American, French and Eastern European oak. The Tempranillo wine colors are dark red to purple colors. Aroma and taste notes include vanilla, spice and fruit. Many of the wines tend to be full bodied. Food pairing suggestions include: grilled foods including pizza, aged cheese, roast pork and lamb.

Rueda D.O. southwest of the Ribera del Duero, D.O., is also near the Douro River. It is interesting to discover that in Castilla y León Rueda was the first D.O. approved, two years before Ribera del Duero became a D.O. Today the Ruedo D.O. region has 70 wineries. The soil in this region is rocky with minerals. The diurnal temperature swings are 50º. Rueda D.O. is becoming known for the Verdejo grape wines. The temperature variation allows for the Verdejo grapes to attain a balance of acidity and sugar. Typically, harvest takes place at night. The Verdejo wines are variations of a straw color. Aroma and taste notes include peach and citrus. The Verdejo wines are refreshing and there is no need to wonder why this is one of Spain’s favorite white wines. Food pairing suggestions include spicy foods, fresh cheese, seafood and salads.

Watch for a future blog about wines we tasted from Ribera del Duero and Rueda.


Day 13: Our Last Day of the Portugal Wine Tour

Although our last day in Portugal was jam-packed full of activities; we enjoyed every minute of it. After another terrific breakfast at The Yeatman hotel, we met with Beatriz Machado, wine director and Richard Bowden, marketing director for the hotel.



View of Porto from The Yeatman

The Yeatman hotel

Spa at The Yeatman








This very enjoyable meeting was followed with a visit to the IVDP (Instituto Do Vinho Do Porto) where we had an extended visit to the pristine laboratories where the IVDP wines are tested to be sure they meet the strict regulations of IVDP.












Our next stops were two port houses; Porto Cruz and Ferreira. Wine enthusiasts will want to consider visiting both of these port houses while in Portugal. Porto Cruz uses “The Woman in Black” as part of their marketing program.


Porto Cruz’s elegant “The Woman in Black”

Porto Cruz tasting room

Porto Cruz Ports








Next we enjoyed our wine tasting at Ferreira. This company was founded in 1751. This was before the Douro Valley was demarcated. Enjoy viewing the vintage wine equipment and blue tiles, and tasting ports during your visit.


Ferreira Port House

Portuguese Blue Tiles

Vintage Wine Equipment








Back at The Yeatman hotel, we enjoyed a wine tasting that showcased a few of the many wines that The Yeatman hotel offers.








Too soon it seemed,  we had to return to our hotel room, to prepare for our journey home.


Day 12: Portugal Wine Tour

We extended our winery tour of Portugal’s wine region for a couple extra days. On the twelfth day of our our visit to Portugal, we visited three port lodges across the Douro River from Porto.

Our  first visit was to the Offley port house in Vila Nova de Gaia across the Douro River. Offley was started by William Offley in 1737. His nephew, Joseph James Forrester gained fame for his extensive survey of the Douro and the vineyards.


Offley port house

Have you tried Offley’s White Port yet?

Offley’s port tasting









Our next visit was to Taylor Fladgate. The port lodge, established in 1692, is one of Portugal’s oldest port lodges. Visitors to the Taylor Fladgate port house can enjoy a long, self-guided tour and a tasting port. Over the many years, four families have been involved with the port house including: Bearsley, Taylor, Fladgate and Yeatman. 

Taylor Fladgate is a large production port house

Taylor Fladgate’s enjoyable tasting room

Vintage port barrel at Taylor Fladgate in









Our final visit of the day was to Ramos Pinto port lodge that is close to the Douro River. The port lodge was established by Adriano Ramos Pinto in 1880. In 1902 he purchased the current building. Ramos Pinto was one of the first to use bottles for exporting its wines. For many years wines were exported to Brazil. Adriano Roams Pinto was a connosieur of art, wine and beauty. The port lodge also has a museum which offers visitors a look at an array of vintage items used during the early 20th century.

Ramos Pinto Port Lodge

Barco rabelo, model

Tasting room at Ramos Pinto port lodge









Our stay in Portugal was coming to a close much too soon!



Day 11: Portugal Wine Tour

On our final day with e-Spain and Washington State University Viticulture and Enology wine tour to Portugal, we visited the Council of Vinho Verde located in Porto. The Council provided a presentation and a wine tasting of Vinho Verde wines. Before the wine presentation, we were taken on a tour of the landscaped garden overlooking the Douro River. 

View of Douro River from Council of Vinho Verde

Fountain behind the Council of Vinho Verde

Landscaped Garden









The presentation was informative and friendly. Colorful slides helped to provide information about the terroir, grape varieties and the characteristics of the wine.


Vinho Verde wine tasting

Casa da Senra, Vinho Verde D.O.C.









After the presentation, we enjoyed a delightful private concert of Fado music by one of Portugal’s famed musicians Rita Ruivo.

Rita Ruivo, presents the emotional Fado music









Returning to The Yeatman hotel, we had a farewell lunch beginning with a port cocktail.

Elegant dining at The Yeatman

Presentation was lovely!








We knew we would miss our many new friends who participated in the Portugal wine tour, and hope to meet up with them again in future wine travels.

We stayed an extra two days in  Porto so we could visit more of the many Port lodges in the city.


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