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Jason DeRusha's Summer Wine Pick

Jason DeRusha's Summer Wine Pick

Posted on Jul 2nd 2024

Written by
Jason DeRusha

I had a wonderful opportunity to get out to the Willamette Valley in Oregon last year for a quick getaway with Alyssa. Among the many great wineries we were able to visit was Soter Vineyards. Many thanks again to local distributors The Libation Project for getting us an appointment, since you need one in advance to do their guided tasting. When I was asked to pick a wine for Surdyk’s Summer Sale, a wine from them was an easy choice. Some of their bottles are hard to get, so I went with the Pinot Noir from their Planet Oregon line, which sources sustainably farmed grapes and also donates 1% of sales to the Oregon Environmental Council.


Tony Soter made his name in Napa Valley, first by founding Etude Wines in the 1980s and then as a consulting winemaker for icons like Araujo (now Eisle Vineyards), Spottswoode and Dalla Valle. After selling Etude, he and wife Michelle moved to Oregon and found a property in the Yamhill-Carlton subregion that became the foundation for Soter Vineyards. Here, they could do things with Pinot Noir and sustainability that just weren’t in style in Napa at the time. Michelle’s passion for environmentalism, organics and holistic living informed many of their decisions and in 2013 they realized a goal of converting the 240-acre property to biodynamic farming. Sadly, she passed away in 2019 after a long and courageous battle with cancer, but her work and legacy lives on at the vineyard she helped shape, and Tony continues to guide the estate on her beliefs.


Mineral Springs Ranch, the name of the winery estate, is an icon of the valley. Not only is it beautiful and boasts great views from the main building and private tasting huts, but the commitment to quality has become local legend. Their sparkling rosé is lovingly referred to as “Soter Pop” and sells out quickly; a few cases make it to Minnesota each year, though! The Pinot Noirs and their Chardonnay reminded me of some wines from Burgundy, just really nice and elegant. Exceptional stuff but also small production, so we managed to bring a few bottles back with us.


The Planet Oregon Pinot Noir is a treat, though, and much easier to find. We tasted several great Pinots while we were in the valley, of course, but it’s hard to beat this one for quality for the price. The same winemaker for the elite estate wines makes this one. It’s all sour cherries and red plums with some dried herbs on the finish. They’re pouring it next door at Sidebar and it was great with the burger, not too big but not too light.

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