This is ski week for students in the Los Altos Elementary School District. Since my wife teaches in the Palo Alto Unified School District, she doesn’t get the week off. I’m officially on full time dad status. I usually take the kids on a road trip to either Yosemite or up north to the Portland area to visit my brother and his family. This year its 11 hours by car to Portland. Besides visiting with family and letting the cousins play, I enjoy visiting the Willamette Valley for a little wine tasting.
The Willamette Valley, which is just south and slightly west of Portland, is world famous for its high quality Pinot Noir wines. Prior to the trip, I try to pick out a few wineries to visit by going to the Willamette Valley Wineries Association web site. We stopped in Corvallis at the Belle Valee Cellars, a medium sized winery specializing in Pinot Noir wines.
Belle Valee is co-owned by Steve Allen, Mike Magee and Joe Wright. Joe is also the head winemaker. An interesting fact about Belle Valee is Mike Magee’s wife is a Mountain View High School graduate. Although I did not know her, Claire (Hamak) Magee grew up in Waverly Park and later moved to Corvallis and helps her husband at the winery. Note: the fused glass labels for Belle Valee wines where created by Claire at her studio, Hamak Designs Inc.
When we arrived we were given a short tour of the facility and I got to taste the 2006 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. After the tasting, Joe Wright showed us how foil caps are put on bottles. I was fortunate to be able to spend about 1/2 hour chatting with Claire Magee and Mike Helberg about grapes, production processes and the vineyard sites that they contract their grapes from. I thought it interesting as Mike explained about the different types of soils and other “technical” wine growing stuff about the grapes they use. All-in-all, I had a great time. I learned a little and got to taste some pretty good wine that didn’t break the bank. I would definitely recommend it as a fun little side trip for anyone driving to Portland.