Thank you for your continued support of Willamette Valley Vineyards throughout 2023. Your steadfast commitment to Willamette allows us to tell the Oregon story through sustainably grown and crafted wine.
Exciting growth, strides in sustainability and a plentiful harvest filled the winery's 2023 calendar. Please read more about some of the year's highlights below.
We wish you and yours a joyful 2024.
Cascade Raptor Center (one of our partners in sustainability) rescued an injured red-tailed hawk from Interstate 5 on Christmas Day 2022 and released her at the Estate in the Salem Hills after her rehabilitation. The hawk is named “Jory” after the red Jory soil at the vineyard and the hawk's tail color. Club Members have since spotted her flying past the Willamette Room.
As a part of our ongoing partnership with the Oregon Truffle Festival, we hosted a Truffles & Bubbles Sparkling Dinner at Domaine Willamette. Attendees enjoyed the state's best truffles with our award-winning sparkling wines. In 2024, wine enthusiasts will enjoy a truffle dinner on Saturday, February 24th or Sunday, February 25th at the Estate in the Salem Hills.
To celebrate Women's History Month and the contributions of Elton Vineyard Founder Betty O'Brien, we hosted multiple Women in Wine pairing dinners in her honor. Guests enjoyed a Cookies & Wine Pairings Guide in March as a nod to Betty's former work as Executive Director of the Santiam Girl Scouts. Betty celebrated her 80th birthday and Elton celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2023.
Our 2022 Domaine Willamette Méthode Traditionnelle Brut went into tirage, a critical step in making sparkling wine. Tirage is a secondary fermentation where the base wine is combined in the bottle with sweet dosage and yeast and sealed with a crown cap to create pressure and bubbles. After aging for 30 months on their lees, the bottles are disgorged and enclosed with their traditional corks and wire cages.
In honor of Oregon Wine Month, we recognized the Oregon Wine Pioneers who have helped make Willamette what it is today. This included Founder and CEO Jim Bernau, Elton Vineyard Founders Dick and Betty O'Brien and Tualatin Estate Vineyard Founder Bill Fuller. We also honored Traute Moore (pictured), a founder of Quail Run Vineyards who passed away this year. The fruit for our Griffin Creek wines is grown at Quail Run Vineyards in Southern Oregon's Rogue Valley. Now, Traute's son Michael manages the vineyard.
Our vineyard team planted the new Jory Claim Vineyard with Pinot Noir vines this year. The vineyard is located near the Estate in the Salem Hills and is visible from the tasting room. The vineyard will be LIVE (Low Input Viticulture & Enology) and Salmon-Safe certified like the rest of our estate vineyards.
The site was part of the Jory Family's original homestead, pioneered in 1848 after the family came west on the Oregon Trail. Jory is also the name of Oregon's State Soil, known for providing the exceptional drainage that helps grow high-quality Pinot Noir grapes and produce lush wines of bright red fruit and subtle minerality.
Willamette stockholders celebrated the winery's 40th Anniversary during our annual Owners Weekend and Shareholder Meeting. The festivities included pairing dinners, tours and a historic group photo of our wonderful Owners at Domaine Willamette.
The biodynamic clock at Domaine Willamette is a working clock that reflects favorable agricultural activity based on the phases of the moon. The clock – located in the Wine Shop at Domaine Willamette – serves as an interpretive element for the biodynamically-farmed Bernau Estate Vineyard. This year, Bernau Estate Vineyard officially earned the Demeter Biodynamic Certification.
Portland Business Journal honored Domaine Willamette with its Landmark Award and recognized the uniqueness of the winery’s design and its contribution to its community. Wine Enthusiast Magazine also honored Domaine Willamette, listing the sparkling winery as one of eight must-visit wineries in the Willamette Valley AVA.
The Vancouver Tasting Room & Restaurant opened a Red Blending Experience featuring five bold Walla Walla varietals. Using a unique system invented for Willamette Wineworks in Folsom, California, and modified by Research & Development Manager David Markel, the Blending Systems can be found at Willamette Wineworks, the Estate in the Salem Hills and on the Vancouver Waterfront.
Established in 1973 by Bill Fuller and his business partner Bill Malkmus, Tualatin Estate Vineyard is one of Oregon’s oldest and most respected vineyard sites. In 2023, Bill Fuller celebrated the 50th anniversary of Tualatin Estate Vineyard, the release of his Vintage 48 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and his 86th birthday.
Willamette's summer stock offering was oversubscribed, surpassing its funding goal ahead of schedule. Initially aiming to raise $3.53 million by the end of the year, the winery exceeded expectations, receiving applications for around $4.34 million before October 1st.
Founder and CEO Jim Bernau celebrated the 2023 harvest with a virtual toast with our vineyard and winemaking team, Owners and Club Members. Harvest started at Bernau Estate Vineyard with picks of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay that will be used in our sparkling wines. The first picks of Pinot Noir for still wines started a week later. The Bernau Estate Vineyard in the Dundee Hills is ideal for growing grapes for sparkling wine due to the fruit developing aroma and flavor at earlier levels of maturity. This allows for high levels of flavor and low levels of ripeness in the grapes, which is the perfect combination for sparkling wine.
Vineyard stewards, staff and Owner volunteers gathered at Domaine Willamette to bury a cache of cow horns filled with manure as a part of the biodynamic farming practices followed at Bernau Estate Vineyard. Come spring, the manure will be a rich, dark, earthy matter used in sprays to deliver nutrients to the ground under the vines.
Vineyard Manager Efren Loeza was honored at the ¡Salud! Auction for his many years of work with the organization. Efren has become an advocate for ¡Salud!, connecting vineyard workers to vital services and caring for the next generation of vineyard steward leaders.
Stephen Paisley, Willamette’s “Bee Guy,” and Facilities Coordinator Randy Hillyer removed nearly 11,000 cocoons during the annual mason bee box cleaning. These bees play a crucial role in encouraging biodiversity and maintaining a healthy bee population since they are some of the most efficient pollinators. Mason bees are easy for our crew to handle since they don't produce honey.
The 2019 Domaine Willamette Méthode Traditionnelle Brut and the 2019 Griffin Creek Cabernet Franc won gold at the Global Fine Wine Challenge. The contest includes wines from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States.
Mo’s Seafood & Chowder Festival is making a triumphant return to Willamette Valley Vineyards this January.
Willamette hasn’t hosted the classic event since 2020, and wine enthusiasts and crab lovers alike have felt its absence.
“With the three-year hiatus, we’ve missed out on people visiting from out of town who would come annually,” Estate General Manager Spence Fogarty said. “For many local Club Members, this has been one of the most sought-after events we host. It's a staple in January.”
Fresh crab pairs perfectly with Willamette's Pinot Gris.
The festival returns to our Estate in the Salem Hills on January 26th-28th. Seafood and wine will take center stage as attendees delight in delicious chowder bowls and other fresh seafood paired with our classic Oregon wines, including the 2022 Pinot Gris.
Tickets are available for purchase online. Admission is $40 per person or $30 for Club Members and Owners. Tickets include a glass of wine, a $15 wine credit, a Riedel glass to take home, live music and access to the event. A variety of Mo’s seafood and sides will be available for purchase.
“We created this event many years ago as a partnership with another local Oregon brand,” Spence said. “The event brings the amazing offerings of the coast to the Willamette Valley for us to share that story with our customers and guests.”
Mo’s North Coast Regional Manager Billie Jo Edmonds said her heart was filled with joy when she learned the event was coming back in 2024.
“My favorite part is the interaction we get with everyone,” Billie Jo said. “We bring in such a diverse group of individuals who make the event so fun.”
The Seafood and Chowder Festival is Mo's biggest event of the year.
What to expect
This year’s festival is the 24th iteration of the event. As usual, Louie, the giant inflatable crab, will tower over the Estate and be a great photo-op for attendees. This family-friendly event has something for everyone.
“If you’ve never been, you don’t know what you're missing,” Billie Jo said.
Mo’s will prepare food for purchase like shrimp skewers, clam chowder, oyster shooters and a crab dinner. Guests who purchase a case of wine will receive a whole crab to enjoy at the festival too.
With the Oregon crab season opening just last week, the seafood should be particularly tasty this year.
“It looks like it's going to be a really good season,” Billie Jo said. “I’m expecting big, fat, juicy crabs this year.”
Louie the inflatable crab is a great place for kids and adults alike to take photos.
The festival is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the bounty that Oregon provides from both the ocean and the land as it highlights wonderful seafood and wine pairings. While Pinot Gris is at the forefront, many of our wines — both white and red — can complement fresh seafood.
Although the pandemic put a hold on the popular event, Spence said it’s expected to return with a full crowd.
“We look forward to celebrating this event for many years to come,” he said.
Give back to your community this holiday season when you join Willamette Valley Vineyards in collecting items for local food banks through the annual Willamette Cares Food Share program. In return, you’ll earn a card for a two-for-one seasonal wine tasting to gift to a friend.
Willamette Cares Food Share is part of a region-wide effort to combat hunger. Support our neighbors in need by donating non-perishable food items at the Estate in the Salem Hills, Tualatin Estate Vineyard, McMinnville Tasting Room, or our Vancouver, Lake Oswego and Happy Valley Tasting Room & Restaurant locations. Donations can also be made at Willamette Wineworks in Folsom, California.
Look for the collection barrels at participating tasting rooms through December 31st. Donations will be distributed to local food banks to help support families in need after the holidays.
The Turner Fire District will also have two metal barrels in our Estate Tasting Room for their toy drive.
“The Willamette Cares Food Share started in 2014 as a way for the wine industry to come together on a philanthropic project,” said Emily Nelson, Associate Director for the Willamette Valley Wineries Association. “We knew that many wineries were already engaged in supporting their local food banks, so we wanted to unify the efforts and help promote at the regional level.”
What to donate
This year, guests who donate six or more items will receive a two-for-one-tasting flight certificate to gift to a friend.
Examples of most-needed items include:
Supporting charitable organizations not only allows us to support the community but also gives our guests and Owners a chance to make a difference too, Estate General Manager Spence Fogarty said.
“We find that we have a lot of members and guests who want to help out,” he said, adding that guests often feel a sense of pride knowing they can help those in need through their favorite winery.
“Supporting the community has always been a defining element in the Willamette Valley wine region,” Emily said.
To find out more about the program click here.
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