Several years ago, we made our first visit to Willamette Valley Vineyards. We have not been back since, but recently we met the senior winery ambassador, Wende Bennette and decided to give it another try. Willamette Valley Vineyards is probably the most visible vineyard in the Willamette Valley, with its entry gate and estate looming over I-5 near Salem, between Eugene and Portland. You truly can’t miss it! The Vineyard hosts many events and fly a banner describing what’s upcoming. Events include everything for grape crushing to a Thanksgiving Open House.
The last time we visited the vineyard and tasting room, they had not yet completed their new Welcome Center. What a difference! The Club Room, where club members can taste in a more intimate setting, is where the entire tasting room was previously. Now, there is a grand tasting bar, a gorgeous place to enjoy a glass of wine with a delicious food pairing from the food menu and a beautiful piano that is connected in some newfangled way to play in sync with concerts and performances.
When we entered the winery tasting room we were greeted warmly by staff when we entered, but were overwhelmed with the greeting we got from Wende, like old friends reconnecting after years of separation. Wende is a high energy, customer-service-first, kinda girl. She doesn’t spend a lot of time in the tasting room but when she’s there, she is like a Whirling Dervish, greeting people, pouring wine, clearing tables, talking, laughing, brightening every inch of the space as she swirls through it. We were energized simply by being in her sphere.
Wende took us on a tour of the winery. We met a wonderful young man, Grant Broeker who, like us, made the pilgrimage from Florida for Oregon wine. Grant is part of the wine making team and is learning from the best including JoeIbrahim and Gaby Prefontaine, the winemaker and assistant winemaker. Forrest Klaffke is fondly remembered as the founding winemaker at WVV and is honored with a plaque in the barrel room where his daughter continues to work today.
We saw the full array of equipment, barrels, tanks, test tubes and people it takes to create the wide range of wines that come out of WVV. It was a wonderful opportunity to go behind the scenes of one of Oregon’s fastest growing wineries.
The day was glorious, the wine was terrific, the food pairings were excellent and the service was exemplary. We measure our days by the good feelings that remain when they are over, this was such a special day that we joined their wine club so that we can return as special guests again and again.