My first sip of King Estate wine was back in 2004 living in Seattle. Since then, they’ve been on my ‘must visit wineries’ list. When this year’s Wine Bloggers Conference, to be held in Oregon, announced a pre-conference trip to Eugene with a King Estate Winery visit, I finally had my excuse to visit the King of Oregon wine.

As our bus came around the bend on a gorgeous unseasonably warm August day, you could see the winery sitting on top of the hill among the vineyards. The beauty, very reminiscent of Bordeaux vineyards and château, was complete as we arrived to scents of lavender and the late afternoon sun amplifying the green of the vines.

Founded in 1992 by Ed King Jr, King Estate Winery sits at the bottom of Oregon’s largest AVA, the Willamette Valley. The winery is 1,033 certified organic acres…470 is planted, 300 of that is Pinot Gris. The first vintage from their estate fruit was 1994. They are the largest winery in Oregon producing 250,000 cases per year under three labels.

  • Domaine: made exclusively with organically grown grapes from their estate vineyard
  • Signature: based on a core of organically grown estate fruit with additional fruit sourced from sustainably grown vineyards throughout the Willamette Valley
  • Acrobat: born to introduce even more people to the power and grace of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Grown responsibly in the gorgeous hills and valleys of Western Oregon.

To support this the large quantities, they also buy grapes from 40 other vineyards in the state. The other brand in their portfolio is NxNW which represents wines made from inland grape growing appellations of the Columbia River Basin of Oregon and Washington.

Our first stop at the winery, after we pulled ourselves away from the photogenic grounds, was the side patio of the Restaurant and Tasting Room for a glass of their 2011 Acrobat Pinot Gris and a yummy selection of local cheeses. The Pinot Gris came from the new ‘on tap’ keg system which “makes every pour taste like the first crack of the bottle.”

The tour, which is open to the public, took us through the 100,000-square-foot winery including the enormous underground barrel rooms. We even climbed the tower stairs for sweeping views of the vineyards. It’s hard to believe the little room at the base used to be the tasting room!

Back in the beautiful restaurant, opened in 2006, we were treated to a three-course dinner including Oregon Dungeness Crab Cakes, Mushroom and Goat Cheese Cannelloni, and French Meringue with locally harvested blackberries, lavender syrup and basil ice cream. Over dinner we had their 2009 Domaine Pinot Gris, 2009 NxNW Syrah and Vin Glacé 2011.

Saturday night at the Wine Blogger Awards in Portland, we enjoyed another dinner from King Estate with all the conference attendees. They brought their kitchen and restaurant crew north to create a dinner showcasing their local and sustainable farms and ranches focus in their restaurant. A great micro-site was created to support dinner giving us all the details of the recipes and ingredient sourcing. Pairings with each course included 2011 NxNw Horse Heaven Hills Riesling, 2011 King Estate Signature Pinot Gris, 2010 King Estate Signature Pinot Noir, 2009 NxNw Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and 2010 King Estate Riesling Vin Glacé.

My favorite wine of their ten tasted over the weekend…

2009 Domaine Pinot Gris

  • Variety: 100% Pinot Gris, blend of five different clones
  • Aroma: Tropical fruit and citrus
  • Taste: Pineapple, mango and honey
  • Price: $25
  • My thoughts: I’m a big fan of all King Estate Pinot Gris but you can tell this one is special…lots of depth and complexity. This wine was whole cluster pressed and stainless steel fermented.

Which leads me to what I think is one of the greatest things about King Estate…they make fabulous wines that are a great introduction to Oregon wine and it’s specialty, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Because of their size and impressive distribution, it is easy to find their wines in the U.S. and they are also international. With three King Estate labels, there is something for every price level.

Once people taste these great examples of Oregon wine, they realize this is a wine region with something special to offer the wine world. I speak from experience.

Cheers to King Estate Winery, the King of Oregon wine!