Why we feature Oregon wine
Experience Park Tours takes pride in visiting the finest destinations in each region that we explore to showcase the places that make it special. Often, we find some of the best places we visit have unique stories and backgrounds behind them. We interviewed Laura and Bryan Laing, who own Hazelfern Wines in the Willamette Valley outside of Newberg, Oregon to hear their story and to find more information about what fine wine looks like.
The couple started crafting wine in 2006 by making five gallons at a time in thier Portland, Oregon basement on the former (circa 1895) site of Hazel Fern Farms. In 2014, they both had a quarter-life crisis and packed up their basket press, two daughters, and a ping pong table to begin life on a wine farm in the Willamette Valley outside of Newberg, Oregon.
“Our family focuses on making high-quality and delicious small lot wines from Oregon. Hazelfern wines are best paired with special occasions, loud music, good people, great stories, romantic getaways, and Tuesday night farm dinners.” said Laura. “We’ve learned by loving, by doing, and we’ve honed our craft through hustle, hard work, and hours of sharing with friends.”
Although the “perfect glass of wine” may be different for everyone, the couple focuses on wines that are delicious, food friendly, and easy to drink! For that reason, Hazelfern focuses on growing and making Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah. Because all three varieties are extremely versatile with food that is locally grown in the region, they are also the wines that the couple tends to drink the most with their family.
We value giving the best options to our guests, and wanted to do more digging with these experts to find out what makes Oregon’s iconic fine wine so special. By chatting with the couple, we found that the answer is in the process.
“Great wines are made starting in the vineyard.” said Bryan, head winemaker.
In general, high quality vineyards are hand managed by farmers. Caring for the vineyard, pruning the vineyard, and picking in the vineyard is done gently by hand. Grape yields in high quality vineyards are managed at lower levels to concentrate ripening and flavor development. Hand managing vineyards and maintaining lower crop yields develops high quality fruit.
Once the grapes are delivered to the winery, “fine” wines tend to be made in smaller quantities by hand with a focus on complexity. Fine wines tend to be aged in small lots and barrels. “Cheap” wines are more likely to be made in very large quantities in modern production facilities with large laboratories. Secondary flavors are sometimes added using oak chips and chemicals instead of expensive barrels. These factory production methods allow for wines to be produced at scale and at a lower cost. The comparison is very similar to craft beer made in small batch breweries versus large production beers made in factories.
Experiencing Oregon’s fine wine
Fine wines tend to be well balanced, complex, and have strong flavor intensity that reflects the vineyard’s “terroir.” (Terroir is how a region or vineyard’s climate, soils and weather affect the taste of the wine). Fine wines taste rich because the flavors are very integrated and balanced.
Cheap wines can certainly also taste delicious, but the flavors aren’t quite as complex and nuanced, and sometimes the wines don’t taste as balanced on the palate. In some cases, “cheap” wines might also taste slightly sweet as a touch of sugar is left in the wine to make it appeal more to the masses.
A guide to Oregon wine tasting
“First and foremost, there are no rules!”
The family reminds us that wine is a food/beverage and you should drink what you like! If you’re new to wine tasting, start by trying as many different types of wines as you can get your hands on, and check out our blog post on how to properly taste wine.
- Do you tend to like the taste of white wines or red wines?
- Do you like bolder red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, or more delicate red wines like Pinot Noir?
- How do the wines taste with the foods you like to eat?
- Think about wine the same way you think about food – what are the different wine flavors you taste?
- How does the wine feel in your mouth – is it smooth or is it prickly and sour?
- By exploring the flavors you get from many different types of wine, you’ll start to narrow down your preferences.
“Remember, wine is fun! It’s meant to be shared with friends, enhance the flavors of food, be paired with great music, and is a fun activity to be enjoyed and shared! “ said the couple.
As a luxury tour operator, Experience Park Tours chooses only the most iconic and unique destinations to visit with our guests. Check out our Mountains and Merlot tour to learn more about Oregon wine destinations that we visit and how we can make your next wine tour unforgettable.