Oregon is home to many excellent wineries. Some would say that the area is a little slice of heaven. To prove the point, about thirty miles southwest of Portland is a small winery which sports the hopeful name of Utopia. In this case, Utopia is craft winery along Ribbon Ridge Road – the aforementioned road to Utopia – in the Chehalem Mountains outside of Newberg. Most of the operations in Ribbon Ridge are small, like much of the Oregon wine industry. Oregon is responsible for no more than two percent of US wine production (close to two million cases), though the quality is high and often award-winning.
The land and climate along Ribbon Ridge is considered unique, thus qualifying as a specific region known as an American Viticulture Area (AVA). The Ribbon Ridge AVA, which is wholly within Oregon’s Willamette Valley AVA, consists of a natural geological formation; a distinct ridge approximately three and one-half miles long and one and three-quarters miles across, covering approximately 5.25 square miles and 3,350 acres. Ribbon Ridge creates a rain and wind shadow that allows the region to be a little warmer, drier and less foggy than some surrounding areas. In turn, this leads to bigger Pinot Noir and enables the vineyards to grow Syrah and other heat-loving varietals. Twenty vineyards and five wineries including Utopia are currently located on Ribbon Ridge, with around 400 acres currently planted. Like Utopia, many of these wineries produce small amounts and most sell their wines through their tasting rooms and wine clubs.
The Ribbon Ridge AVA produces some excellent Pinot Noir. Ribbon Ridge Vineyard produced a 2008 Pinot Noir which scored an excellent 93 points according to Wine Spectator Magazine. At the northern end of the AVA is Colene Clemens vineyards. Their 2009 Reserve Pinot Noir garnered 93 points from Wine Advocate. In addition, the facility and views from Colene Clemens are nothing short of superb.
Nearby is Adelsheim Vineyard, one of the larger operations in Oregon. Though only several miles away, Adelsheim is part of the Chehalem Mountains AVA. Whereas many wineries are open for tastings only on weekends – and some are by appointment only – Adelsheim offers daily tastings. What’s more, the operation may be a bit larger but there’s no loss of quality. Wine Spectator describes the 2009 Adelsheim Pinot Noir as: “Polished and open-textured, with an airy feel to the red cherry, tobacco and spice flavors, floating easily over refined tannins and lingering on the finish” and awarded the vintage 90 points.
Travel south on highway 99W from Portland to Newberg to reach the Ribbon Ridge and Chehalem Mountain AVA wineries. At the western end of Newberg, turn right on Highway 240 (Main Street) towards Yamhill/Carlton. Follow Highway 240 for 1.5 miles and turn right on Tangen Road. After 1 mile you will reach a stop sign. Turn left onto North Valley Road. Adelsheim is about 2.5 miles ahead. An additional two miles will bring you to Ribbon Ridge Road. Turn right to Utopia. A couple of miles beyond Utopia will bring you to an intersection with Dopp Road. Turn right and you will soon see a sign for Colene Clemens. Many other fine wineries are also in the area as shown on this map.