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Airlie Winery

This is a very unpretentious and amiable wine country winery set amongst the foothills of Monmouth, Oregon, twenty miles northwest of Corvallis at the coastal edge of the southern Willamette Valley. The indoor and outdoor modest tasting room is rustic, casual and quintessential Oregon in character, patrolled by two friendly dogs eager to greet arrivals. The hosts when I visited, Mary Olson the owner (pictured below), and Kim Swicker, were easygoing and personable, much like the praiseworthy wines Airlie produces.

The estate vineyard, now consisting of 30 acres and named Dunn Forest Vineyard, was originally planted by the previous owners beginning in 1983. They founded Airlie Winery, named after the town name of Airlie that dated to the early 1800s. Mary Olson, who had little experience in wine, but had a passionate interest in it, bought the estate vineyard and winery in 1997. She had worked as a general manager for Northwestern Bell for two years in Oregon and was determined to buy a winery in Oregon. She has since transformed the property into a first class vineyard and winery.

Dunn Forest Vineyard is planted to eight grape varieties and varietal wines are made from each. Airlie also is the exclusive recipient of grapes form the 12-acre BeckenRidge Vineyard in nearby Dallas owned by Denny and Kathy Needham. 65% of the grapes used in Airlie vines come from Dunn Forest vineyard and 45% from BeckenRidge Vineyard. The vineyards are certified sustainable by L.I.V.E. and certified Salmon Safe.

Winemaker Elizabeth Clark’s odyssey turned out to be fortuitous for Mary. Elizabeth was a math major with a minor in Russian at Goucher College in Maryland. In 1999, she hitched a ride to Oregon with a friend, knowing that her cousin was living in Portland. She had little interest in wine but spent the summer exploring Oregon. Her interest in wine and its affinity with food blossomed while working for a caterer in McMinnville, leading her to land a job at Amity Vineyards in Amity, Oregon, where she stayed for five years and rose to the position of assistant winemaker. While at Amity Vineyards, Elizabeth attended a wedding at Airlie Winery, fell in love with the people and place, and became the winemaker in 2005.

Seven white wines are produced along with Pinot Noir from both Dunn Forest and BeckenRidge vineyards, a Pinot Noir Rosé as well as a Marechal Foch hybrid red wine. The style of wine is similar to Amity Vineyards of the past, with low alcohol levels, high acidity, and welcome food affinities. The wines are very reasonably priced considering the quality and I highly recommend you try them as well as make the effort to visit the winery. The tasting room is open Thursday through Monday from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. March through November, or by appointment. Visit

2015 Airllie Willamette Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir

13.3% alc., pH 3.47, TA 0.61, RS 0.1g/L, $20. Sourced from Dunn Forest and BeckenRidge vineyards. Harvest Bris 22.1º. A blend of two styles of rosé production. One lot was de-stemmed and sat on skins for 3 days, then transferred to neutral oak barrels for fermentation. The second lot was de-stemmed directly into the press and the juice pressed to tank. A slow, cool ferment followed in stainless steel. The wines were blended, cold stabilized and bottled in February 2016. · Both savory herbs and yellow peach, dark cherry and blood orange fruits are combined in a gleaming, dry and refreshing style that has some finishing generosity. Score: 89

2015 Airlie Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc

12.6% alc., pH 3.48, TA 0.60, RS 0.2g/L, 216 cases, $20. Grapes from Dunn Forest Vineyard and BeckenRidge Vineyard. Harvest Brix 21.2º. Grapes were de-stemmed, immediately pressed, settled, racked of lees and inoculated. Cool fermentation in stainless steel for four weeks. · Bright, crisp and refreshing, with aromas and flavors of pear and citrus leading to a dry, thirst quenching finish. Score: 90

2015 Airlie Willamette Valley Pinot Gris

12.3% alc., pH 3.35, TA 0.60, RS 0.2g/L, 915 cases, $18. 60% Dunn Forest Vineyard and 40% BeckenRidge Vineyard. Harvest Brix 21.4º. Grapes de-stemmed, fermented in stainless steel after inoculation with a blend of yeasts. · Discreetly concentrated, with flavors of citrus and white stone fruits, backed by juicy acidity. A lovely food wine. Score: 89

2014 Airlie Seven Willamette Valley White Blend

11.9% alc., pH 3.19, TA 0.67, RS 1.3g/L, 231 cases, $16. A blend of seven grapes in order of most to least: Müller Thurgau, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Muscat Ottonel. Grapes from Dunn Forest Vineyard. Each grape was fermented separately and then blended. · Reminds me somewhat of Caymus Conundrum. Highly enjoyable, with a pleasing palate of pear, peach, citrus and spice flavors exhibiting the slightest sweetness on the finish. Score: 90

2013 Airlie Willamette Valley Chardonnay

$18. Clone 108 grafted over to Dijon 76 in 1991 at Dunn Forest Vineyard. Barrel fermented in mostly neutral French oak barrels and malolactic fermentation. · A charming blend of lemon, tropical fruit, honey and butterscotch aromas and flavors. The wine displays admirable balance and a generous finish that is fueled by good acidity. Score: 91

2013 Airlie Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

12.2% alc., pH 3.44, TA 0.65, 1,046 cases, $28. Sourced from Dunn Forest and BeckenRidge vineyards. Harvest Brix 21.5º. Clones are Pommard, 115, 667 and 777. Grapes 100% de-stemmed, high whole berry content in 1.5-ton fermenters. 3-4 day cold soak, inoculation with variety of yeasts, press and free run wines kept separate. Inoculated for malolactic fermentation and aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 17% new. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry and spice lead to a lightly weighted but flavorful wine featuring tastes of red cherry, cranberry and strawberry. Noticeable but not intrusive tannins add structure, and a lively acid backbone stokes vibrancy. Quintessential Oregon in character, and reflective of this vintage. Score: 92

2012 Airlie BeckinRidge Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.2% alc., $40. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Engaging aromas of cherry and spice persist in the glass. Noticeable purpose of attack and finish, featuring lip-smacking flavors of black cherry, black raspberry and spice framed by dry, slightly astringent tannins. Score: 92

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