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Willamette Valley Vineyards

Mason Bees Return to Willamette Valley Vineyards

When the vineyard wakes up with new growth and buds on the vines, we know it’s time to welcome back our mason bees. 

In March, Stephen Paisley, Willamette’s “Bee Guy,” and Randy Hillyer, the winery’s Facilities Coordinator, put thousands of mason bee cocoons back into bee houses at Elton Vineyard, Tualatin Estate Vineyard, Bernau Estate Vineyard and the Estate in the Salem Hills.

It was time to reintroduce the bees to the environment because mason bees begin to wake up and emerge from their cocoons when temperatures consistently reach 55 degrees Fahrenheit and above. 

Mason bees do incredibly well at Elton Vineyard due to the surrounding garden.

In November, Stephen and Randy cleaned the bee cocoons, which were then stored in a refrigerator. Cleaning the cocoons and bee box trays is an important part of maintaining mason bee populations because it removes pests, mold, pollen, wasps, and other materials from the trays and provides the bees with a clean and safe place to live and lay eggs. 

Now that the cocoons are back in the bee houses, the bees will start to wake up. Thankfully, a little wet weather won’t prevent these efficient pollinators from doing what they do best.

“They’re true Oregonians,” Stephen said. “Unlike honey bees, they work in the rain.”

Sustainable Stewardship

Stephen Paisley displays a mason bee cocoon.

Managing mason bees is one way Willamette encourages stewardship of the land. Our vines are self-pollinating, so the bees don’t directly impact our crop. However, mason bees are extremely efficient pollinators, making them crucial to farms and gardens everywhere.

Guests who want to see the mason bees in action will have the perfect opportunity this month at our Estate in the Salem Hills or at Domaine Willamette in the Dundee Hills. 

Celebrate Earth Day with Stephen at the Estate on Saturday, April 20th or Sunday, April 21st for a Mason Bee Tour & Tasting that includes a tasting of select wines and a honey-themed cheese plate.

The Oregon Bee Project will lead a Mason Bees in the Garden Tour & Tasting through our biodynamic garden at Domaine Willamette on Saturday, April 27th. You’ll enjoy a flight of four wines paired with small bites.


Time Posted: Apr 8, 2024 at 9:00 AM Permalink to Mason Bees Return to Willamette Valley Vineyards Permalink
Willamette Valley Vineyards

Willamette Valley Vineyards Releases Three New Alsatian Wines

It’s a full-circle moment for Terry Culton, Willamette’s Director of Winemaking & Vineyards.

When Terry was our Cellar Master in 1998, we made a small lot of Dry Riesling from Tualatin Estate Vineyard. Terry said that at the time, some Portland restaurateurs raved about how much the wine tasted like that of the Alsatian region in Europe.

When Terry returned to Willamette in 2022, he knew he wanted to resurrect the wine and bring the past into the present. 

“We’re excited about it. It’s really fun to make it again,” Terry said. “When Jim asked me to come back, I asked if I could make the Dry Riesling.”

The 2022 Dry Riesling was hand-picked from Riesling vines that date back to Tualatin Estate Founder Bill Fuller’s 1973 planting. It is one of three Alsatian wines Willamette is releasing as a three-pack this April. The other two featured wines are the 2022 Dry Gewürztraminer and 2022 Auxerrois.

Enjoy Willamette's Alsatian Trio, featuring our Dry Riesling, Dry Gewürztraminer and Auxerrois.

The Alsace region borders France and Germany and features a cooler climate. This region is known for cold, aromatic whites like the German varietals Riesling and French varietals Gewürztraminer, Auxerrois and Pinot Blanc. 

“One of the prettiest white wines I’ve ever had was an Alsatian wine,” Terry said. “I like the dryer style and you get a little bit more weight and richer mouthfeel. I love that region.”

Bill Fuller’s Gewürztraminer 

In 1973, Bill Fuller planted Gewürztraminer grape vines which produced highly-rated wines. Willamette’s 2022 Dry Gewürztraminer is a celebration of Bill’s dedication to the Tualatin Estate Vineyard and the Oregon wine industry.

To make the 2022 Dry Gewürztraminer, we used Bill’s traditional method that he pioneered over the years. We destemmed 50% of the grapes and let them soak on their skins before combining these with the other 50% which was left whole cluster.

This wine pairs well with spicy and aromatic cuisines like Asian and Thai and dishes like barbecue wings and grilled pork chops.


Wine enthusiasts can try one more traditional Alsatian varietal from Willamette this spring. The Auxerrois is a style of wine fully related to Chardonnay and often blended with Pinot Blanc. Traditionally, it is a rich and complex wine, with lush fruit and crisp acidity. Willamette has never made an Auxerrois.

Bill Fuller, Founder of Tualatin Estate Vineyard and Consulting Winemaker

Terry Culton, Willamette's Director of Winemaking & Vineyards

Usually blended into other wines, Terry wanted to highlight this Alsatian varietal as a stand-alone wine. 

“I liked it so much on its own that I really pushed to have it done as its own varietal,” Terry said. “I got a lot of pushback from everyone.”

After tasting the wine, Terry said everyone changed their minds.

The grapes were hand-picked from Tualatin Estate Vineyard vines planted in 2006 and were whole-cluster pressed to neutral French Oak barrels.

“I’m excited about releasing the wines in a 3-pack so everyone can try all of them and see the similarities and differences and what makes them all unique in their own character,” Terry said. “They’re all food-friendly wines, crisp and fresh.”

The Dry Riesling was included in February’s Founders’ Wine Club, a club exclusive to Willamette’s shareholders. The Dry Guwürztraminer and Dry Auxerrois are exclusive for Club Members to purchase and will be available in April.

Wine critic Owen Bargreen rated all three Alsatian wines 91 points.

Next week, all three wines will be released to the general public in limited quantities and for a limited time. Please check your Willamette emails for the release.

Time Posted: Apr 1, 2024 at 9:00 AM Permalink to Willamette Valley Vineyards Releases Three New Alsatian Wines Permalink
Founded in 1983 by Oregon native Jim Bernau with the dream of creating world-class Pinot Noir,
Willamette Valley Vineyards has grown from a bold idea into one of the region’s leading wineries, earning the title “One of America’s Great Pinot Noir Producers” from Wine Enthusiast Magazine


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