Stunning Vistas and Amazing Wines Await You at Elk Cove Vineyards

| October 17, 2010 | 0 Comments

I vividly remember the first time we went to visit Elk Cove Vineyards a few years ago. Nobody had warned us that there was a bicycle race going on through the back roads of Gaston. 

There were no signs to warn us. We were merrily weaving our way on a winding road that followed a hilltop ridge when bam!, we ran into a cluster of bicyclers. It seems like it took forever to get by the bicyclers but finally, when we turned on to Olson Road and left the pack behind, we were breathing a sigh of relief and could finally enjoy the scenery. Every now and then, an open patch in the woods would afford us an unobstructed view of the lush green Willamette Valley beyond flanked by hills of vineyards. 

The hills surrounding Elk Cove are covered with vineyards.

We proceeded down a narrow winding driveway to the tasting room, our views first obstructed by trees and brush, and then were nearly stopped by the magnificent view that unfolded before us. The first thing that caught our eye was a small lake in the valley. Then we noticed the lake was surrounded by grapevines. And the hills around it were also covered by grapevines. Our gaze was drawn to the tasting room nestled on the top of the hill, ringed by a beautiful garden. We had to remind ourselves to pay attention to the road, lest we end up in the lake. 

It had taken us some time to work our way up the wine-tasting trail this far north in the Willamette Valley because there are so many wineries closer to us in Salem, but this visit turned out to be well worth our while and we’ve been back more than once, bringing friends along each time. 

Besides being stunningly beautiful, Elk Cove is one of the oldest and most respected wine producers in Oregon. 

They were founded in 1974 by Pat and Joe Campbell and their focus is on producing hand-crafted, estate-grown wines. Their wines have graced the tables of White House state dinners on more than one occasion. 

The vineyards cover about 220 acres of steep, south-facing slopes of Willakenzie and Laurelwood soil, which creates the depth of flavor that you’ll experience in their wines. 

Adam Godlee Campbell, Pat and Joe’s son, is the winemaker and he uses gravity flow and gentle handling to protect the juice of the estate-grown fruit in the wine-making process. 

What you’ll find at Elk Cove is a primary focus on Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. But they also make excellent Viognier and Riesling. 

When it comes to Pinot Noir, Elk Cove’s single-vineyard Pinot Noirs (Windhill, La Bohème, Roosevelt, Mount Richmond and Five Mountain Vineyard) each reflect the unique terroir of their vineyard site and are produced in limited quantities. 

Elk Cove’s most noteworthy Pinot Noir, the La Bohème, has been served twice at the White House twice for state dinners. You can see the dinner menu for yourself when you visit the tasting room. It’s framed and hung on a wall facing the the bloc of vines that’s used to produce La Bohème. This wine received a 91 rating from Wine Spectator

The atmosphere of the tasting room is casual and friendly and you’ll likely be hosted by Kari Murphy, the tasting room’s friendly coordinator. She is knowledgeable and can fill you in on the history of the winery and tell you what’s unique about each wine. She’s also a foodie, so if you have pairing questions, she’s great to get ideas from. 

Elk Cove also makes a nice Pinot Noir rosé and it seems like every time we visit, we keep bringing home a bottle. OK, I’ll admit to being a rosé lover. It’s wonderfully crisp and dry, very much in the style of French rosé. 

And if you’re a dessert wine fan, you’ll have to make sure you try Elk Cove’s Ultima. It’s like sipping pear, apricot and honey nectar from the gods. This wine received a 93-point rating from Wine & Spirits Magazine. Taste it and you’ll see why. 

When you visit Elk Cove, make sure you pack a picnic lunch, bring your friends, share a bottle after your tasting and enjoy your picnic at one of their tables on their outdoor deck and enjoy the magnificent views. 

Address: 27751 NW Olson Road
Gaston OR 97119 

Phone: (503) 985-7760 

Hours: Open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Closed some holidays) 

Tasting Fee: $5 for a selection of at least five wines. 

Email: [email protected] 


PS, when you visit, make sure you tell them that you read about them on The Taste of Oregon and that Victor and Charles sent you! 

— Vic 

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Category: Wine/Wineries

About the Author (Author Profile)

Victor Panichkul is a journalist and writer by training; a cook, wine lover and photographer by passion; and a lover of the outdoors since moving to Oregon more than 10 years ago. He is a native of Bangkok, Thailand.

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