Jun 10, 2014

Posted by in Articles, Featured | 2 Comments

Tales From a Tent: Vineyard Camping

For years, I’ve often wondered what it would be like to set up camp in a vineyard.  Well this past weekend, I did just that, and it was everything I expected and more.

First, let’s go back to how I ended up camping in a vineyard.  A couple months ago, two wine industry friends of mine, Denise Rossetti of Wine Events Oregon and Lorrie Normann of Domaine Meriwether Winery contacted me to meet up with them about an upcoming summer event they had put together called Wine Camp (check out winecamping.com).  Imagine, as an avid camper, my excitement to learn more about something I have often dreamed about doing. 

VC vines with boys

My boys running through the vines of Oracle Vineyard

I met up with Denise and Lorrie to learn about all the details, and I wrote about Domaine Meriwether’s Wine Camp in my weekly Wine Down Eugene column on Eugene Daily News:

With summer along the horizon, two of my favorite down-time activities of all-time will take place, as they do year in and year out: camping and visiting the wineries. We’ve already got our beach side camping reservations set and in place for the summer, and like we do each year, we’ll pack up the camper and head for the Coast.  Along the way, we’ll visit wineries and stock up on some of our favorite Oregon wines that will be sipped and savored next to a bonfire on the beach while watching the sun set out over the Pacific Ocean.

The perfect spot for our tent with a view at Oracle Vineyard

The perfect spot for our tent with a view at Oracle Vineyard

Many times, as we’ve pulled into wineries and vineyards with our camper in tow on our way to the Coast, I’ve thought to myself, “If we could just set up camp right here, right now, life would be grand.”  My visions of camping among the vines and taking the time to fully enjoy everything a winery and vineyard property has to offer have been plenty.  Thoughts of long walks through the rows of vines while sipping and savoring a stellar Pinot Gris, Chardonnay or Pinot Noir have crossed my mind often.  The star-filled skies at night in Oregon wine country are simply breathtaking – camping under them, and among the vines, would be nothing short of incredible.  (Read the entire article, including all of the details on Wine Camp here.)

A gorgeous 2007 Westrey Pinot Noir - a perfect pairing with grilled salmon

A gorgeous 2007 Westrey Pinot Noir – a perfect pairing with grilled salmon

So, once the Wine Down Eugene was published and shared through my many social media outlets, Amy Wesselman (Executive Director of IPNC and co-founder of Westrey Wine Company) got wind of my long-time passion for setting up camp in a vineyard, and she graciously invited me to join her family and friends for their annual Vineyard Camp Out that takes place at Oracle Vineyard, Westrey’s Estate property located in Oregon’s gorgeous Dundee Hills.  She also realized I have a great love for the outdoors and introduced me to Juniper Ridge, a Wilderness Fragrance Distillery, read about their incredible products in my article, Outdoor Enthusiasts: Meet Juniper Ridge.

With an unbelievably gorgeous forecast for the first week of June, we received word from Amy that the Camp Out was on for Saturday, June 7.  Instructions were to bring the whole family (kids too), a tent, a cooler with ice, meat for the grill and a side dish – they were providing the wine, lots of cheese, and of course the vineyard with a breathtakingly beautiful backdrop.  We found the perfect spot for our tent, with a view to the west, where we could watch the sun set out beyond the Coastal Range – it was gorgeous.

The totally rad Cowboy Cauldron

The totally rad Cowboy Cauldron

We gathered with the others who joined in on the festivities, some who had opted to camp and some who just came for the company, food, wine, view and good times.  There were lots of kids, including two sets of identical twins – one of which were Amy and David’s kids.  And a little fact about Westrey I learned on this trip is that the name came from combining the last names of Amy and David: Amy Wesselman and David Autrey = Westrey.  

When it came time to fire up the grill, I was in awe over a BBQ/Dutch Oven/Fire Pit contraption – one I had never seen the likes of.  It’s a “Cowboy Cauldron,” I was told.  Created by a man who is certainly dedicated to the ultimate grilling and fire-pit experiences – read his story on his website, CowboyCauldron.com.  It not only kept us all warm as the sun set off in the distance, but it grilled up some mighty delicious chicken, steaks, salmon, asparagus and hot dogs.  Oh yes, I want a Cowboy Cauldron now.

A truly beautiful sunset!

A truly beautiful sunset!

Oracle Vineyard is not only beautiful but has a really interesting history:

“In the autumn of 2000, Amy and David, with partners Tito Autrey and Nadja Lilly, purchased the property, believing it was unplanted land, albeit a proven plot for excellent grapes.  The following spring, as they prepared the soil for planting, Amy and David noticed rows of bushes emerging where the old plantings had been.  The root structures of the vines had survived, and after several vintages of careful pruning and training, the original vineyard is back in production. Amy and David have planted an additional 15 acres to Pinot Noir and a bit of Pinot Gris, bringing the total planted acreage to 22.  The 50 acre parcel of land is primarily Jory soil, with a strip of Nekia running through the middle.  The vineyard faces due south and sits at an average of about 650 feet.  The new plantings are closely spaced, single cane pruned vines and produce wines of intense depth and opulence.  The original planting benefits from their massive 40-year-old root structure and yield grapes of truly exceptional balance and length.”

If you know me well, You'll know why this photo is so significant!

If you know me well, you’ll know why this photo is so significant!

In Oregon, the vines at Oracle are truly considered old vines, and it’s amazing that they have not been affected by Phylloxera, a root pest that attacks the roots of Vitis vinifera grape vines, so these unaffected vines create exceptional characteristics in the wines being produced from them.  We tired the vibrant, 2013 Westrey Pinot Noir Rosé with strawberry and watermelon aromas highlighted by spices and zesty lemon-lime acidity; as well as, an absolutely gorgeous earthy, berry-filled 2007 Pinot Noir that offered fall spices and pepper with natural mouthwatering acidity which rounded out the red fruits to perfection – an impeccable match to our grilled salmon.  We also got a nice bonus sample of a really lovely 2011 Bourgogne Blanc from Dominique Lafon in Meursault – a complex beauty filled with alluring, delicate floral aromas and ripe yellow apples highlighted by delicate ground spices and herbs with a long, lush finish.  

Once the sun set out over the Coastal Range, the stars came out just as I had always imagined they would while camping out in a vineyard.  They were crystal clear, some planets were visible and I felt like I could reach out and touch the moon.  While I lay in our tent with a roof made of see through  netting, staring at the stars, I could hear coyotes off in the distance singing back and forth to each other.  Awesome. 

Now this is waking up to true beauty!

Now this is waking up to true beauty!

Check out Westrey Wine Company at westrey.squarespace.com

*Thank you, Amy and David, for inviting my whole family to join in on your annual vineyard camp out, we had a blast!