It wasn’t so long ago Oregon was feeling winter, that feeling has passed. We are having the earliest spring we can remember. But, back to winter, we were recently invited to visit with David Polite, owner of Carlton Hill Vineyard a stunning 11.5 acre property outside of Carlton, Oregon. We had met David a few months earlier at a wine tasting event held in his beautifully restored barn. On the day of our return visit, it was a bit too cold to taste in the barn, so we sat around the island of his very cozy kitchen. Could there be a more intimate way to experience wine with its guardian?
David’s story is an interesting one, he is a corporate attorney who loves to fly fish. He graduated from Reed College but then left for a long time. He was drawn back to Oregon for its wine and found this amazing property in 2001. It was a done deal before the first visit was complete. The barn definitely needed some work, the house needed some as well. That work has been done and they are both gorgeous!
All of Carlton Hill’s wine is made from estate grown grapes. The winery sells 50-60% of its grapes and produces 300-500 cases per year of its own label with the help of Michael Lundine at Walnut City Wine Works. David has an interesting approach to his wine. The wine is handled identically each year. That way, a horizontal tasting of his wines will clearly demonstrate the impact of weather conditions. It was quite evident during our tasting.
Our visit began with a very warm greeting from Walker (named for Johnny Walker), the vineyard dog. Walker is a lively, friendly and a full of life dog who could not have been happier to see us. Walker escorted us to the porch where we were greeted with equal enthusiasm by our host, David. We joined him at the kitchen island and the rest of the afternoon was spent chatting, tasting, eating and enjoying every moment of our time together.
Now, onto the wine, oh this wine. We started with a 2013 Pinot Noir, grown during a crazy weather year that produced a Pinot with a unique tartness. The 2013 Reserve Pinot Noir spent 18 months in barrel. It was made from about whole cluster and new oak. This wine had a more peppery finish with more spice throughout. They produced about 75 cases of this wine.
We then went on to try a 2012 estate Pinot. According to David, it was “too good a year, a yawner.” The weather was perfect, no crises, no issues. The wine was simpler, but still lovely. The 2011 was earthy and spicy, it had a bit more tannin. It has taken until now for the fruit to finally come forward. Believe me when I tell you it was worth the wait.
The 2011 Reserve Pinot spent 18 months on 50% oak and is 50% whole cluster. This wine took double gold in an Oregon wine competition and is certainly worthy of its accolades. We then tasted through the 2010 estate and 2009 estate before returning to the 2013. The 2013 was really even better the second time around. David also sneaked in a 2016 Rose that spent five months on neutral oak. It was his first rose and has great potential.
The entire tasting experience was both exquisite and fun. The wines were accompanied by cheeses from Willamette Valley Cheese Company. Now, we can’t wait to go visit there for more of this amazing, creamy smoked Gouda.
Carlton Hill wines cannot be found in enough places, according to David. There are three bottle shops in Portland that carry his wine. He is hoping to expand to more locations, particularly restaurants, as the brand grows. The wine club has 45-50 members and each year they gather for their annual event that includes a croquet tournament.
David offers private tastings and will be happy to accommodate you, just give him a call or drop him an e-mail. We are so glad we had the opportunity to meet him and experience his wine in both his home and his barn and can’t wait for the next opportunity.