Cherry Hill is positioned on 150 beautiful acres of rolling hills with amazing views of Oregon's Coast Range. According to Mike Sweeney, it’s also located smack dab on the 45th parallel. As you drive up the winding road leading to the facility and tasting room, you’ll travel a road with a posted speed limit of 14 miles per hour. More on that later.
Pinot Noir is the only grape planted in the 90 acres of vineyards that surrounds Cherry Hill Winery. The predominant clone here is Pommard, but they also have Dijon clones 115, 777 and 113 as well. The core of the vineyard, a 55 acre plot, was planted in 1998-99 with the first vintage in 2003. In addition to the beautiful vineyard layout, owners Mike & Jan have built a half dozen cottages on the property as a way to house visiting friends and colleagues. At the end of that long and winding road lies the tasting room and barrel house.
When we arrived at the tasting room we were greeted by the winemaker, Chris Luby. He started us off with a glass of their Poverty Road Pinot Gris, which is not from their estate vineyard. This wine is sourced from other nearby vineyards and produces a light, bright Pinot Gris that was a good way to start our flight. The Vanda Pinot Rose followed, a wine that the folks at Cherry Hill are making for our "lady friends." This dry rose is a definite strike against the evils of white zinfandel.
What they do best at Cherry Hill is Pinot Noir. They have three different Pinots to offer. The aforementioned Papillon Pinot you can often find under $20. The Papillion is a blend of Dijon clones 115 and 113 and Cherry Hill describes this wine as their most masculine.
The Cherry Hill Estate Pinot Noir is beautiful; this elegant wine is 100% Pommard clone. It’s delicate, a light Pinot, with the excellent acidity that is a signature of the Eola-Amity Hills. Last, but not least, we moved to the Reserve Pinot, the Sweeney Estate. Again 100% Pommard, this wine is selected from the best blocks in the vineyard. The owner, Mike Sweeney, then does a barrel selection. After all, it is his name on the label. What we’re left with is an excellent wine; they were selling two vintages of the Sweeney Reserve wines in the tasting room. They were clearing out the last two bottles of the 2003 at a ridiculously reasonable price, so we took those off their hands.
As we were wrapping up our visit outside the tasting room, checking out some of the coolest looking spiders I've ever seen, owner Mike Sweeney paid us a visit. Mike talked about how he and his wife Jan came upon this particular parcel of land and the kinds of wines they feel like the Eola Amity Hills AVA is capable of making. Mike also explained the speed limit, the 14 mph: Mike's ATV is only capable of a maximum speed of 14 mph, he owns the joint, he doesn't want anyone going faster than him. Fair enough.
We left Cherry Hill with a handful of bottles of their wine and a good sense of the beauty and elegance that was coming out of the wines from the Eola Amity AVA. If you're down that way, Cherry Hill should be on your list for a visit.