Purity, sophistication at play on Youngberg Hill in McMinnville

By on March 6, 2019
The view from Youngberg Hill Inn provides delicious views of the Willamette Valley near McMinnville, Ore. (Photo by Ellen Landis/EllenOnWine.com)

McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Seeking out fine wines and a first-class getaway in Oregon’s Willamette Valley? You’ll feel enriched and spoiled after a visit to the idyllic McMinnville estate that is Youngberg Hill.

Wayne Bailey, who grew up on a farm in Iowa, and his wife, Nicolette, have transformed the site into a sustainably farmed wine estate and elegant hospitality destination throughout their nine guest suites.

The organic, biodynamic vineyards gracing their 50-acre hillside estate are meticulous. That’s just the first hint of the focus and purity that characterizes their wines. The Bailey family – Wayne, Nicolette, and their three daughters Natasha, Jordan and Aspen – commits wholeheartedly to caring for the land and the vines to ensure they remains healthy and vital into the next century and beyond. No doubt this would please founding farmers of the property, the Youngberg family, who established the farm in the mid 1800s and cared for it for 130 years.

The Bailey’s first vintage goes back to 2003, with the release of their 2003 Estate Pinot Noir. Today at Youngberg Hill, 20 acres of vines are planted to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, and they produce 2,800 cases of wine annually. Their certifications include LIVE and Salmon-Safe. In 2010, they gained “sustainable” certification by the Oregon Wine Board.

Perched among the bucolic vineyards, the Baileys have also created an extraordinary setting at their classy nine-room boutique inn. Artfully appointed with gorgeous views from the surrounding decks, it envelopes you with peacefulness and serenity. Luxurious linens and amenities give way to the simple beauty of the landscape, and the clean, fresh air of the countryside. And as though that isn’t enough, the gourmet breakfast served each morning is divine.

Music is also in the family genes. Musically talented middle daughter Jordan recently produced her first album, regularly performs at Youngberg Hill among other venues and aspires to be a singer/songwriter.

Heading into their inviting tasting room presents further opportunity to be charmed. Wayne’s philosophy about winemaking is one of minimal intervention, a hands-off approach. As he often says, “it all starts in the vineyard, and responsible, sustainable farming is of paramount importance here.”

Wayne Bailey pays tribute to his family within the lineup of wines at Youngberg Hill. (Photo by Ellen Landis/EllenOnWine.com)

Highlighting the impact of this philosophy, Wine Industry Network named Wayne among “Wine’s Most Inspiring People” in 2018. Wayne wants each wine to express what the respective vineyard is all about, and from my perspective, the purity is evident:

2016 Aspen Chardonnay ($40): Compelling floral and tree fruit aromas make way for crisp pear, honeysuckle nectar, minerally elements, lemon verbena, a touch of toffee, and well-integrated oak (from 50 percent one-year seasoned and 50 percent neutral French oak barrel aging) energizing the palate. Beautifully textured, balanced, mouthfilling and pure, and the dream-like finish is persistent.

2015 Cuvée Pinot Noir ($35): This elegant Pinot Noir (Dijon clones 777, 115 and 667) opens with forest berries and fragrant spice on the nose. Unfolding seamlessly onto the palate are layers of raspberry, cherry-cola, licorice and underlying oak spice (aged in 32% new French oak barrels). Silky smooth tannins and a fine level of acidity carry the wine to a long and vibrant finish.

2015 Bailey Pinot Noir ($50): This vineyard site sits upon volcanic rock on a shelf of shale 18 inches below the surface of the well-drained soil. Displaying both power and grace, this impressive Pinot Noir offers up an intense black cherry and berry aromatic that begs you into the glass. Concentrated black cherry and black raspberry fruit hold firm on the palate, interlacing with anise, well-managed oak, a solid thread of minerality and brisk acidity, and the wine finishes long with pleasing savory notes.

2015 Natasha Pinot Noir ($50): On this southwest facing block sits the oldest vines on the hill. Natasha’s block sports sandy, clay Willakenzie sedimentary soil that helps achieve ideally ripened fruit. This wine, a clonal blend of Pommard (60%) and Wadenswil, struts forth with purity and confidence. Flavors of juicy Bing cherries, loganberries, olive tapenade, toasted oak spice, and white pepper meld in harmony on the palate. With its firm tannins, deep fruit and precise balancing acidity, it’s approachable now, and promises years ahead.

2015 Jordan Pinot Noir ($50): The expressive, spicy aroma gets the juices flowing with this gem, from a relatively cooler, higher altitude vineyard with well-drained, rocky volcanic soil. The naturally stressed vines concentrate the flavors; the depth is remarkable. Black cherry, forest floor, piquant spice, floral accents, raspberry compote and multi-colored peppercorns create a vibrant burst of flavors in the mouth. Refined tannins and a smooth texture carry the wine to a lengthy, truffle-scented finale.

Additional treats available in their tasting room include organic honey produced from hives on the property, and the Youngberg Hill Cookbook, which includes recipes from several favorite breakfast delights they serve to their overnight guests.

Visit their website at www.youngberghill.com for further details and more enticing discoveries.

About Ellen Landis

Ellen Landis is a certified sommelier, wine writer, wine educator, wine event moderator and frequent judge at prominent regional, national and international wine competitions. Ellen and her husband, chef Ken Landis, sold Landis Shores Oceanfront Inn, a boutique resort on Miramar Beach, Calif., in 2015 and relocated to the Pacific Northwest.

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