Mom-and-pop operation doubles down

When you think of wines made in the Willamette Valley, labels such as Eola Hills, Willamette Valley Vineyards and Duck Pond come to mind.

But as in Southern Oregon, the region abounds with smaller wineries, many of them mom-and-pop operations. Two such labels are Luminous Hills and Seven of Hearts, both owned by Byron and Dana Dooley of the Yamhill-Carlton area. They produce some superior wines.

Why two labels?

"They each have a different focus," says Byron Dooley. The Luminous Hills label is for wines produced from the 12-acre Luminous Hills Vineyard he planted. In contrast, Seven of Hearts is about exploring different vineyards, areas and grape varieties. He buys most of the fruit for those wines from others.

Dooley makes pinot noir under both labels, as you might expect, but also makes chardonnay and some notable white and red blends.

My favorite among several I sampled is Seven of Hearts 2009 Chatte D'Avignon Viognier & Roussanne Columbia Valley ($20). It's 54 percent viognier, the rest roussanne; the result is a smooth, creamy, most interesting mix of sweet and dry. Fruit came from a vineyard along the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge.

Fruit from the Washington side of the gorge went into a red blend, Seven of Hearts 2009 Chatte D'Avignon Grenache & Syrah Columbia Valley ($25). It's light, tangy and flavorful.

Dooley has released two 2009 Estate Grown Pinot Noirs under the Luminous Hills label. The "silver label" wine ($28) is classy with a hint of spice. His "gold label" pinot, subtitled Lux ($35), needs time to breathe. It starts out with an overly strong berry flavor then gradually achieves better balance.

Seven of Hearts 2008 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley ($20) blends fruit from two vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills area in addition to Dooley's own vineyard. It's light and fruity.

Finally, there's Seven of Hearts 2008 Chardonnay ($24), made with fruit from a vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton area. It comes across as creamy and flavorful with light oak.

The Dooleys worked in the Silicon Valley technology industry for a number of years before deciding to pursue their "passions" — winemaking for him, a chocolate business for her. After Byron Dooley earned a viticulture and winemaking degree from Napa Valley College, the couple decided to move to Oregon and bought their property in the Yamhill-Carlton area in 2004.

Their wine-tasting room and chocolate business share space in Carlton at 217 W. Main St., where hours are noon to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Tasting fees range from $1 to $7, including both wine and chocolate.

Carlton, near McMinnville, appears to be a wine fancier's paradise, with about 20 tasting rooms within walking distance of each other. Among other wineries represented nearby are Troon of the Applegate and Folin Cellars and Cliff Creek of Sams Valley.

Some Seven of Hearts and Luminous Hills wines may be found at Harry & David, The Jacksonville Inn wine shop or Ashland Wine Cellars. Or check

MOST LOCAL WINE TASTINGS feature products the taster can buy on the spot. But RoxyAnn Winery of Medford offered something different during the November Roam the Rogue event — a wine you could buy today but receive a year from now. Guests were invited to taste RoxyAnn's 2009 Tempranillo from the barrel. The wine will be released in the fall of 2011, but people could buy it that day for $30 a bottle, with discounts for six- or 12-bottle purchases. Even with a year to go, the wine already had a deep, rich flavor.

Another interesting wine at Roam the Rogue was Daisy Creek's Bonne Fete Rouge ($17), a blend of 2004 and 2005 Merlots. The 2005 crop was influenced by wildfire, so they blended it with the 2004 with happy results.

I wasn't able to make all the stops on the tour but enjoyed Agate Ridge's 2007 Petite Sirah ($27) and 2008 Grenache ($23), Daisy Creek's Triple Play white blend ($18), Madrone Mountain's 2009 Starthistle Cuvee ($24) and two other RoxyAnn red blends: 2008 Sky Hill ($35) and 2007 Reserve Claret ($45).

Sky Hill is a notable blend that's primarily syrah with smaller amounts of malbec, cabernet franc and grenache.

Cleve Twitchell is a retired Mail Tribune editor and columnist. E-mail him at

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