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Northwest Wines: Small family winery produces big results in Oregon’s Dundee Hills

High in northern Oregon’s picturesque Dundee Hills is a special vineyard and winery run by a small but high-achieving family.

Winter’s Hill Estate was established in 1990, when Peter and Emily Gladhart put their first vines in the ground at the 150-acre family farm that was established nearly 30 years earlier. They crafted their first wines in 1998, producing just a few hundred cases that vintage.

In 2004, their son Russell and his wife, Burgundy native Delphine, joined the company, with Delphine becoming the head winemaker. Russell took over the winemaking job a year ago.

Today, Winter’s Hill estate vineyard has 35 acres of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. It has been certified Salmon-Safe and LIVE (Low Input Viticulture & Enology) since 1999. Surrounding the tranquil vineyard are Oregon white oak and Douglas fir trees, which provide habitats for a variety of wildlife species.

Also in the neighborhood are many of Oregon’s oldest and most important wineries and vineyards. The Dundee Hills is the heart of the northern Willamette Valley, where Pinot Noir was first planted a half-century ago. The Gladharts continue the long tradition of producing superb wines from the red soils found in the Dundee Hills.

Here are a few Winter’s Hill wines we’ve tasted recently. They can be found at wine merchants with excellent choices of Oregon wines, or contact the winery directly at 503-864-4592.

Winter’s Hill Estate 2013 Pinot Gris, Dundee Hills, $17: The 2013 harvest was a major challenge throughout much of Oregon because of the torrential rains in the second half of September, and the Gladharts chose to wait until Oct. 9 before picking the Pinot Gris off their Dundee Hills estate. Knowledge is exemplified in this crisp and floral example of Oregon Pinot Gris, which starts with a nose of yellow grapefruit, starfruit, lemon and lemongrass. The palate yields flavors of Asian pear, starfruit, honeydew melon and apricot, backed by spritzy lemon/lime acidity and a food-friendly farewell of apricot pit.

Winter’s Hill Estate 2012 Reserve Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $65: This small-production Pinot Noir from estate grapes exemplifies Delphine Gladhart’s winemaking prowess. It is a powerfully elegant wine with aromas of watermelon, ripe strawberry, clove, cinnamon powder and cocoa powder. The luscious pour produces flavors of supple fresh strawberry and Rainier cherry, which are backed by mild tannins, moist earthiness and a cherry pie finish. This wine earned a double gold at the 2015 Great Northwest Wine Competition, and it’s not about to slow down.

Winter’s Hill Estate 2013 Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $39: The nose is beautiful with fresh Bing cherry and black currant, joined by barrel notes of roasted marshmallow and cocoa powder. It’s a fruit-driven drink leading with black cherry and more black currant, backed by mild tannins and raspberry acidity that leads to a lengthy finish of chocolate-covered pomegranate and violets.

Winter’s Hill Estate 2014 Pinot Noir Dry Rosé, Dundee Hills, $19: This beautiful rosé’s lighter color suggests a Provence approach, and the fermentation with three-year-old French oak barrels leads to aromas of fresh Van cherry, raspberry reduction, charcuterie and sage. On the palate, it’s dominated by black currant and black cherry flavors, which carries a touch of tannin and weight on the midpalate before a cleansing burst of tangerine. Suggested pairings include crab cakes, deviled eggs or a hummus platter.

Winter’s Hill Estate 2014 Pinot Blanc, Dundee Hills, $17: Last year’s Sept. 22 harvest of Pinot Blanc, two weeks earlier than recent vintages, leads to aromas of baked apple pie, Honey Nut Cheerios and Bremner Crackers, followed by crisp flavors of Bosc pear, kiwi and fresh-squeezed lemon. It’s backed by citrus pith that will play out deliciously with shellfish.

Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine. Learn more about wine at greatnorthwestwine.com.

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