Common Connoisseurs on the Road

Carlton Food & Wine Reception 02.18.2017

We were privileged to join a VIP Food & Wine Reception in the charming wine country town of Carlton, Oregon co-hosted by the Visit Carlton Tourism Committee and the Northwest Food & Wine Festival.  Invitees were seven Carlton wineries and their VIP guests. The event started with a pre-opening sneak peek of the Wallow VR Gallery in town, a gallery devoted to local artists and new virtual reality technology that will be incorporated into their gallery exhibits. The gallery will soon provide exciting virtual reality winery and vineyard tours for guests at their wine bar, which will feature local wineries. Kramer Vineyards was featured at the gallery pre-opening, providing tastes of their sparkling wines. The event then moved to the Carlo & Julian Winery for a food and wine tasting along with live music. Located on the east side of Carlton, the winery tasting room is a comfortable space filled with barrels and spotted with settees on which to sit and enjoy your sips of wine. Wineries present were Carlo & Julian, Carlton Cellars, Carlton Winemakers Studio, Pike Road Wines, Stone Griffon and Troon Vineyard.


The little town of Carlton (pop. 2000+) sits in the Northwest corner of Willamette Valley and anchors the southern border of the Yamhill-Carlton American Viticultural Area (AVA).  This AVA is being recognized more and more frequently for its outstanding vineyards and wineries which produce award winning Pinot Noirs.  Pinot Noir wines from the Yamhill-Carlton AVA are known for characteristics of the terroir; aromas of dark fruits like blackberries, black cherries and raspberries, floral notes like violets, and complex flavors on the palate varying from spice to tobacco, expresso and chocolate.  The Pinot Noir tasted at this event exhibited typical characteristics for this AVA. The 2016 Pinot Noir barrel samples that we were fortunate to taste showed well even at this early age and were foretelling of an exceptional 2016 vintage. While the area is known for Pinot Noir, we tasted other varietals available at the Carlton tasting rooms. Reds included Zinfandel, Tempranillo, Syrah and GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre blends). White included Pinot Gris, Vermentino and Auxerrois.  Sparkling wines included a Brut made primarily from Chardonnay grapes, a Rosé of Pinot Noir and a Muller-Thurgau.  Some of these varietals are grown within the Yamhill-Carlton AVA and some fruit is sourced from other regions, providing wines for everyone’s palates and giving the wine enthusiast an opportunity to taste other varietals all within a few blocks.


While there are several large and well known wineries in this AVA, such as Ken Wright, Penner-Ash and Willakensie, there are many lesser known small producers making high quality and award winning wines. The question is, “How do wine enthusiasts find out about these smaller wine producers?” Enter the Carton Tourism Committee and the Northwest Food & Wine Festival.


Carlton’s tourism committee is actively promoting this small town that boasts 22 wine tasting rooms, claiming more per capita than any town in the U.S.  In addition to their preponderance of wineries, the town also has unique shops, specialty food stores, restaurants, charming B&B’s and guest houses in close proximity to make a weekend stay a thoroughly enjoyable experience without ever leaving town.  Winery tasting rooms occupy space in historic buildings and not a town to sit idly by, there are new owners of the old granary that have plans to convert the historic structure into shops, tasting rooms and restaurants. The wines from Carlton are excellent, the tasting rooms are friendly and a community spirit thrives in this little town making it an ideal destination.


The Northwest Food & Wine Festival, held each year in November at the Doubletree Lloyd Center in Portland, was the perfect venue last year to highlight some of these smaller production wineries and tasting rooms.  This annual wine event is in its 12th year and focuses on showcasing some of the Northwest’s best foods and wines.  Pairing restaurants and food suppliers with wineries and spirits, it is an outstanding event for both vendors and attendees. Last year’s attendance was over 1400 people, providing exposure for these small producers to get their names into the mainstream market and wine buyers’ cellars.  The 2017 festival plans are in the works and include new wineries, restaurants and possibly a virtual reality booth, providing fun for both the techies and non-techies who attend.


For more information on Carlton and the Northwest Food & Wine Event, go to the following sites.

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