LaVelle Vineyards is not only known for its excellent Willamette Valley and Columbia Valley wines, which are served in both the tasting room at the vineyards in Elmira, Oregon and in the Tasting Room at 5th Street Market in downtown Eugene, Oregon, but also for this really unique deck built at the top of the vineyards, accessible by a quick ride on their All Terrain Vehicle aptly named Coupe LaVelle. The deck at the top of the vineyard hill boasts an unparalleled 360 degree view of the vineyards, the valley, the surrounding mountain ranges and nearby Fern Ridge Reservoir.

As a gift, I recently received a Winemaker Tasting and Vineyard Tour at LaVelle Vineyards for me and three of my guests. Reservations required, I called in advance to schedule a tasting and tour with some girlfriends on a day when one of our best friends from high school would be in town visiting from Illinois. Although it was scheduled in early June and the weather in the Willamette Valley is very unpredictable this time of year, my friends and I arrived at LaVelle Vineyards for our tasting and tour on a gorgeous, blue skied and unusually warmer than average day. We were greeted by winemaker and owner Matthew LaVelle.

Matthew LaVelle and his father, Doug LaVelle, own and operate LaVelle Vineyards, which is the oldest bonded winery in the southern Willamette Valley, bonded in 1972. Vines on the property range in age from 40-years-old to just recently planted. When Matthew LaVelle introduced himself to us and led us over to the outdoor bar where we would be tasting some of the LaVelle wines, he glowed with pride as he talked about his family owned and run business.

With a view of the vineyards in front of us, Matthew first poured us a sample of his un-oaked, stainless-steel fermented 2011 Willamette Valley Pinot Gris. Aromas of juicy apples, pears and pineapple led to similar succulent flavors with vibrant acidity and a crisp, refreshing finish. The wine was extremely well-rounded and each one of us commented on how much we loved the flavors and the bright, crisp finish.

The next wine we sampled was the newly released 2011 Willamette Valley Riesling. Almost completely clear in color with beautiful aromas of apples, lemons and a hint of orange blossom, followed by fruit-forward flavors that were perfectly balanced by lively, peppy acidity. Not too sweet and not too dry, this is one of those Rieslings that would make a great gift – I can’t imagine there would be too many people out there that wouldn’t immensely enjoy this delicious German-style, off dry Riesling.