Brandborg Vineyard and Winery: Great Pinot Noir and other wines from Oregon's Umpqua Valley

We recently enjoyed great dinner and wine pairings with Sue Brandborg, one of the duo behind the amazing Brandborg Vineyard and Winery in Oregon's Umpqua Valley, and Sonja Eberly, Wine Director at Northside Social in Arlington, VA. Sonja recently headlined Arlington Magazine's Innovative Arlington Area Restaurants, and we really appreciate her bringing us together with Sue and the fantastic wine she and her husband, Terry, are making.

We briefly profiled the Umpqua Valley as one of four places whose great wine hasn't been on your list (until now). You'll find Umpqua Valley about three hours southwest of Portland, OR, south of the Willamette Valley. It's less well known than its northern neighbor, but produces beautiful and food friendly cool climate wine that is just as good.

Sue shared with us the story of how Terry began making wine years ago in his basement in Fairfax, CA, sourcing juice from all over California. Together this self-taught wine making couple have built their Brandborg Vineyard and Winery in the tiny town of Elkton, OR, specializing in Pinot Noir and a lineup of other stunners whose food pairings we've shared along with our notes below. We were fascinated by the incredible wine coming out of such a relatively small vineyard: they have five acres planted out of sixty that are growable.


Pinot Gris (2014)

This dry style Pinot Gris has a nose of honey suckle and vanilla wafer cookie. The slight tartness of the palate was balanced by a touch of honeycomb (and we mean honeycomb). This was the best food pairing of the night with a goat cheese crostini, clementine, and castelvetrano olives. Many compliments to Chef Emer O Rourke! The goat cheese and greens helped to bring out the tartness, balanced out with the clementine.

Bench Lands Pinot Noir (2012)

At 4000 cases, Brandborg produces more Bench Lands than any of the other wine. Our chef paired this with tea smoked duck breast, cauliflower puree, kumquats, and hazelnuts. The tea smoked qualities worked exceedingly well with this super-smooth-with-food wine. The nose reminded us of balsam wood, black tea, and a hint of fig while the palate continued the tea notion alongside some big cherry. Drink the 2012 Bench Lands anytime now (early 2016) to 2021.

Ferris Wheel Pinot Noir (2009)

From 900-foot south slopes bathed in a pleasant maritime climate comes the accordingly cool feeling Ferris Wheel Pinot Noir, named for a rather touching moment in our winemakers' past. Our first whiff reminded us of that warming, homey chimney smell of winter, giving way to a soothing combination of pipe smoke and beach plum. We'd characterize the palate as having "crossed the cranberry line", a quality we find in some cooler climate Pinots whose dominant cherry character gives way to cranberry notes. The food pairing was a bold beef and venison tartare. Nice acidity will help Ferris Wheel age nicely and hold up, making in drinkable now through 2023 or so.

Gewurztraminer (2013)

We finished an amazing meal with the Gewurztraminer matched to poached pear, spiced pecans, and la tur cheese. The Gewurtz was pretty classic, showing a nose of crystallized sugar and crunchy honeycomb. Orange blossom came out in the palate, with some apple juice in the back of the mouth and citrus pecan pancake in the finish.

Westbrook Vineyard Pinot Noir (2013)

More of a bonus here, as we did not taste but do have two bottles in our cellar. Westbrook is a bit of a flagship wine for Brandborg. Sonja (who has tasted it), describes the 2013 as "still being a baby", handicapping its aging potential as "ten years, easy". We'll see!