Mentors Blog Post: LaVelle Vineyards

Excellent wines in the heart of Oregon's wine country


LaVelle Vineyards is not only known for its excellent Willamette Valley and Columbia Valley wines, which are served in both the tasting room at the vineyards in Elmira, Oregon and in the Tasting Room at 5th Street Market in downtown Eugene, Oregon, but also for this really unique deck built at the top of the vineyards, accessible by a quick ride on their All Terrain Vehicle aptly named Coupe LaVelle. The deck at the top of the vineyard hill boasts an unparalleled 360 degree view of the vineyards, the valley, the surrounding mountain ranges and nearby Fern Ridge Reservoir.

As a gift, I recently received a Winemaker Tasting and Vineyard Tour at LaVelle Vineyards for me and three of my guests. Reservations required, I called in advance to schedule a tasting and tour with some girlfriends on a day when one of our best friends from high school would be in town visiting from Illinois. Although it was scheduled in early June and the weather in the Willamette Valley is very unpredictable this time of year, my friends and I arrived at LaVelle Vineyards for our tasting and tour on a gorgeous, blue skied and unusually warmer than average day. We were greeted by winemaker and owner Matthew LaVelle.

Matthew LaVelle and his father, Doug LaVelle, own and operate LaVelle Vineyards, which is the oldest bonded winery in the southern Willamette Valley, bonded in 1972. Vines on the property range in age from 40-years-old to just recently planted. When Matthew LaVelle introduced himself to us and led us over to the outdoor bar where we would be tasting some of the LaVelle wines, he glowed with pride as he talked about his family owned and run business.

With a view of the vineyards in front of us, Matthew first poured us a sample of his un-oaked, stainless-steel fermented 2011 Willamette Valley Pinot Gris. Aromas of juicy apples, pears and pineapple led to similar succulent flavors with vibrant acidity and a crisp, refreshing finish. The wine was extremely well-rounded and each one of us commented on how much we loved the flavors and the bright, crisp finish.

The next wine we sampled was the newly released 2011 Willamette Valley Riesling. Almost completely clear in color with beautiful aromas of apples, lemons and a hint of orange blossom, followed by fruit-forward flavors that were perfectly balanced by lively, peppy acidity. Not too sweet and not too dry, this is one of those Rieslings that would make a great gift – I can’t imagine there would be too many people out there that wouldn’t immensely enjoy this delicious German-style, off dry Riesling.
The third wine we tried was one I’ve enjoyed many times before: LaVelle’s 2009 Whybra Vineyard Pinot Noir – one of my favorite Willamette Valley Pinots. I just recently wrote about this Pinot Noir after I enjoyed it while watching the sun set out over the Pacific Ocean – keeping warm next to a bonfire on the beach. Willamette Valley fruit is prominently displayed in this delicious Pinot Noir. Garnet in color with aromas of cherry and hints of vanilla. Fruit-forward flavors of cranberry and earth with a touch of pie spice on the well balanced finish.

The tasting was crucial in making a decision on which wine to purchase to take up to the deck at the top of the vineyard. With the exceptionally warm and sunny weather, we all agreed that the Pinot Gris would be perfect. Matthew brought out a picnic bag complete with insulated wine bottle holders with our Pinot Gris securely in place and a compartment packed with unwrapped cheeses, crackers, sliced prosciutto and freshly-picked strawberries from the strawberry patch at LaVelle Vineyards.

With our packed picnic bag, we loaded into the Coupe LaVelle and headed up through the vineyard. Matthew pointed out the blocks of vines and drove us through an area where to our right, the vines were 40-years-old and to our left, the vines were just 1-year-old. With a little history on the vineyard as we traveled through the rows of vines, we ended up at the wooden deck next to a single tree, perfect for providing some shade. We could clearly see the Three Sisters mountain formation of the Cascade Range and the sailboats on Fern Ridge Reservoir below, it was a gorgeous day at the top of the vineyards.

Matthew left us with our picnic bag full of goodies, wine glasses and bottles of Pinot Gris along with a two-way radio, which came in handy when we needed to order more wine. We’d radio in an order and Matthew would head up on the Coupe LaVelle with a chilled bottle in hand. It was perfect in every way and we enjoyed every minute of our time spent at LaVelle. The Winemaker Tasting and Vineyard Tour was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.

The Tasting and Touring package I received was just one of several packages offered at LaVelle Vineyards. Ours was the $100 Winemakers Tasting & Vineyard Tour Package, but there are six other packages to choose from ranging in prices from $5 for a single person wine tasting to $100 for the package we had. Check out all the great tasting and touring packages here.

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