The History Behind Bubbly Part 1: Technicalities and Tradition

For our first foray into the world of Champagne, I present to you a few facts. The famous sparkling beverage is often made with a centuries-old process called méthode traditionnelle. This method consists of many intricate steps, including disgorgement and second fermentation. In order to be called “Champagne” (as opposed to sparkling wine), the beverage must be made in the correct region of France, using the aforementioned méthode traditionnelle. The blend of grapes for Champagne is comprised of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. “Brut,” meaning very dry, is a common descriptor of sparkling wines, and is one of the seven terms that are used to describe sweetness. Supposedly, the French monk Dom Perginon of the Hautevilliers monastery was the first to discover our favorite bubbly French wine.

Legend has it that upon accidentally tasting the first sip of Champagne ever sipped he proclaimed to his fellow monks, “Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!” However, astounding as it is, someone else discovered Champagne. Who could it possibly be? Prepare to be astounded and fascinated in part two, my champagne loving friends. Until then, Adieu!

Wishing you all a sunny early Summer and “Prost!” from Courting Hill,


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on The History Behind Bubbly Part 1: Technicalities and Tradition

PROLOGUE: The History Behind R. Stuart & Courting Hill’s Sparkling Media Sensation, Bubbly!


Image Credit:

Sound the trumpets, ring the gong, and bring the Champagne! Courting Hill Vineyard finally has a sparkling wine of its own and a dash of publicity to go with it! The wine in question is R. Stuart and Co.’s Bubbly: a sparkling Blanc de Blanc Brut wine made exclusively from our Chardonnay grapes. To add to the excitement, Bubbly was recently prominently featured in an article by Emily Grosvenor in The Zester Daily: “A Sparkling Romance In Oregon’s Vineyards.” The article describes the blossoming sparkling wine industry in the Willamette Valley.

Speaking of which, to celebrate to this momentous occasion, I’d like to enlighten all you oenophiles with a three part series. Hopefully, It will give you a peek into the facts and particulars of this world-renowned celebratory beverage and its history. There are many incredibly fascinating details to come, so pour yourself a glass of Bubbly, cup of tea, or your drink of choice, read the excellent Zester Daily article, and stay tuned to Courting Hill for Part One!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on PROLOGUE: The History Behind R. Stuart & Courting Hill’s Sparkling Media Sensation, Bubbly!

Oregon Wine and Cheese Pairings!

Hello and Happy New Year, Grape pickers and Wine Aficionados! There is always good food and wine to be had, each and every year—and what food and wine combination goes together better than cheese and wine? That said, there are so many varieties of both cheese and wine, that it is positively mystifying to tell which go together best. For the first post of the new year, I thought I’d share a little Courting Hill wisdom about which cheeses to pair with our three wine varietals: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir. Whether you are a novice preparing your first appetizer cheese tray or a seasoned epicurean who needs a reminder about which of our white wines go with Brie (Hint: they both do!), this cheese tour should give you a few helpful tips!

First of all, we will begin our tour with Chardonnay. Chardonnay from the Willamette Valley is said to be a crisp, complex wine that has a medium body, mixed citrus and stone fruit flavors with mineral and wood flavors. This wine is an extremely agreeable pairing to many cheeses. Several kinds of cow’s milk cheeses are excellent companions to Chardonnay. The first type we will explore is bloomy rind cheese such as the favorite creamy, soft, velvety textured French Brie and Camembert pair well with a buttery textured Chardonnay without apparent oaken qualities. The second type is an alpine cheeses which include the smooth, creamy textured and balanced flavored Beaufort and Comté from France, the firm, dense but smooth textured and sweet, concentrated flavored Gruyère from Switzerland—all of which pair well with a creamy Chardonnay. The mellow and balanced flavors of Wisconsin Pleasant Ridge Reserve, on the other hand, pair well with a dry unoaked Chardonnay. The creamy, silky textured French Brillat-Savarin represents our third type triple crème cheese pairs well with a lush Chardonnay that echoes its creamy texture. The fourth type is aged cheeses which comprise the Italian sweet and acidity balance flavored Piave and Montasio with similar textures to Parmesan pair well with a creamy, rich Chardonnay without obvious oak and the versatile Californian St. George and Dry Monterey Jack pair well with many wines including Chardonnay. Our final type, washed rind cheese consists of salty, savory, trace of sweetness flavored, supple textured, and earthy scented French Pont-L’évêque and Italian Fontina pair well with a velvety, rich Chardonnay. A few goat’s cheeses like the Californian bloomy rind soft, oozy, delicate tasting Camellia pairs with a full-bodied, dry Chardonnay and aged buttery and smooth textured Spanish Garrotxa pair to full-bodied, textured Chardonnay. Sheep’s milk cheese is represented by a hard age cheese: the firm, buttery, mellow and balanced Vermont Shepard pairs well with a dry Chardonnay has a little flavor intensity and body. The triple crème Hudson Valley Camembert is a tart and nutty flavored cow and sheep’s mixture which pairs well with creamy malolactic Chardonnay.

Subsequently, we come to Pinot Gris. The Oregon varietal of this crisp white wine is characteristically medium-bodied; it tends to be pale gold to copper in color and is a mixture of dry earthiness and fruity flavors. Due to these favorable traits, it pairs well with a variety of cheese types. Quite a few of these pairings are similar to Chardonnay. However, there is still a great number of pairings that are unique to Pinot Gris. In the bovine milk, we start with bloomy rind cheeses embodied by creamy Brie paired with a lightly textured and oaked Pinot Gris. A single blue cheese: the creamy and buttery tasting Californian Original Blue pairs with a Pinot Gris with body and acidity. A fair number of Alpine cheeses such as smooth textured, fruity sweet French Abondance and Swiss Appenzeller pair with a Pinot Gris with body intensity in flavor and aromatically. Creamy Beaufort and smooth, creamy and balanced Comté call for a rich, spicy Pinot Gris with viscosity. The dense, silky, buttery Swiss duo L’étivaz and Gruyère pair well with intense and aromatic Pinot Gris. Once again Pleasant Ridge Reserve’s mellow and balanced flavors pair well with our varietals, namely a dry Pinot Gris. The firm, mild flavored, forest earthen scented French Tomme de Savoie pairs well with a dry Pinot Gris with body and aromatic intensity. We come to the hard aged cheeses with French distinctly tangy yet balanced Cantal and waxy, salty Minolette—both of which pair with a rich Pinot Gris with intensity. Our final bovine type, washed rind, features the French soft, almost molten trio Époisses, Fromage, Munster-Géromé or Munster; all of which pair with a dry, aromatically intense Pinot Gris perhaps with some viscosity. The nutty scented, smooth textured, and faintly sweet French Fontina and Swiss Vacherin Fribourgeois both pair nicely with a fragrant, rich Pinot Gris with full body.Although both French Morbier and Italian Taleggio have semi firm textures, meaty and earthy scents they pair with different qualities of Pinot Gris: a little viscosity to echo its texture for Morbier and spicy and dry for Taleggio. The similar goat cheeses soft, oozy Camellia and buttery Garrotxa pair nicely with full-bodied, textured Pinot Gris. Two wind friendly sheep’s cheeses pair with Pinot Gris: French Ossau-Iraty pairs texturally and mellow and balanced Vermont Shepherd to Pinot Gris similarly as it does Chardonnay.

Last of all, but certainly not least is Pinot Noir, our singular red grape at Courting Hill. In regards to pairing, Point Noir has a more narrow range of cheeses that are compatible. For Goat cheeses, the bloomy rind Camellia pairs with a light bodied Pinot Noir. Fresh aged cheeses like dense and silky, herbaceous scented Spanish Monte Enebro and Californian Humboldt Fog pair nicely with medium bodied Pinot Noir. The Local Oregonian Tumalo Tomme is semi firm, dense, and smooth with a mild taste that pairs well with medium bodied Pinot Noir. A few Cow cheeses like the alpine representatives: tangy yet balanced Cantal and smooth textured Gruyère pair with earthy, rich Pinot Noir. For hard aged cheeses, we once again have the versatile Dry Monterey Jack. In the wash rind category, we have a French trio: Pinot Noir complements oozey L’édel de Cléron’s mushroom aromas and soft Fromage and Pont-L’évêque pair well with medium bodied Pinot Noir.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, concludes our tour of Courting Hill Vineyard’s Wine and cheese pairings, which I hope will be very helpful and instructive. I would like to say a big thank you to Janet Fletcher the author of the wonderful Cheese & Wine and also to the immeasurably marvelous Powell’s Books in Portland, where I serendipitously came across this beautiful book while browsing. (If you’re a book lover, as I am, and have not been there you should definitely consider visiting!) I would like to conclude by saying that even though these recommended pairings are an expert’s opinion, they certainly are not the only pairings. Everyone has different tastes and opinions and if you think that Munster and Chardonnay pair well together, then by all means pair them together. Part of the fun of cheese and wine pairing is exploring different combinations. Over the course of this New Year, I hope you all get a chance to try you hand a bit of cheese and wine pairing!

Wishing you all a happy new year from all of us at Courting Hill Vineyard,

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Oregon Wine and Cheese Pairings!

A Little Bit of Harvest History

Greetings, everyone! I’m Kimmy, Jimmy Leyden’s granddaughter and I am excited to announce that I’ll be taking the helm of the Courting Hill vineyard blog. For my first blog post, I thought I might enlighten everyone with a little bit of history about the Courting Hill Vineyard. First, though, I’ll give you a little background on the history of wine in general. Winemaking is an ancient art. So ancient, that it dates back around 7,000 years to the time of ancient Greeks and their festivals in honor of Dionysus complete with the stomping of the grapes. Around the world since then millions of pairs of feet have continued this jolly, juicy celebration. The grape harvest has been captured in art over the centuries. One famous example is this panel of the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry by early Dutch renaissance painters the Limbourg brothers.
640px-Les_Très_Riches_Heures_du_duc_de_Berry_septembreHow is this relevant to Courting Hill vineyard, you ask? To address this question we will full speed ahead in time and cross the seas to California in 1889 when the University of California Davis established an experimental vineyard in California’s Lake County known as the Jackson Hill Vineyard. Planted in this vineyard there were grape clones acquired from all over will Europe. However initial interest for this project dwindled and so the University abandoned the vineyard in 1903. Fortunately about 50 years later, it was revisited by Dr. Gosheen of the University and the interest in the Jackson vineyard’s European clones was renewed. This leads us to the moment you’ve all been waiting for: — Drum Roll! — The start of Courting Hill Vineyard in 1981!
When my grandparents Jimmy and Helen Leyden moved to Banks, Oregon with ambitions to start a vineyard, they acquired 40 acres on a south slope with a view of Mount Hood to the east. A local building contractor pointed out as he gave then his home construction bid, “you folks are building on my old courtin’ hill.” It seems that back in olden days of yesteryear courting couples would come up this hill for the beautiful view and a little “privacy.”
Fast-forward again to early 2000, when details about three Jackson Pinot Noir clones available from the UC Davis plant material department were published. The spirit of adventure took hold in the plants were ordered, shipped, and planted upon arrival at courting Hill, which gives the vineyard a deep sense of history and connects it all the way back to the vineyards of Europe. Later, the whole story of the Jackson Vineyard appear in the UC Davis Grape Program Newsletter and by that time Courting Hill’s Jackson plants were coming into full production.
For many years now we’ve offered the You Pick experience, where home winemakers, choosing from the many Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay clones that cover hillside can pick and help with the crushing, meet with fellow winemakers and enjoy the goodies on the harvest table.
I hope you all enjoyed this brief look into Courting Hill Vineyard’s history!
The Courting Hill awaits your presence. A Votre Sante!
Warm late autumn wishes,

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Little Bit of Harvest History

Harvest is over, and the leaves are down

Thanks to everyone who made this one of our busiest You-Pick harvests yet.
Feel free to stop by and let us know how the wine is doing!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Harvest is over, and the leaves are down

It’s been too long…

…but we won’t have to wait much longer for the 2012 harvest. The grapes look fantastic and will likely be ripe for the picking sometime around October 13th. Check back for information on how each blocks are doing, and be sure to put in orders if you plan to stop by!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Duke Loves The ‘Bows

Lucky Dog

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Budbreak! It’s about time!

It seems that spring has finally come to Courting Hill Vineyard. At long last we have budbreak! Hallelujah, praise the wine gods! The vines have awoken and the first tiny leaves have begun to emerge. These shoots will become the fruiting canes that will produce the grapes for our Fall 2011 harvest. The photo below shows primary and secondary buds on one of our many 30-year-old Pinot plants. Most of the secondary buds will be rubbed off by hand, leaving only the primary buds to receive the plant’s nutrient resources as they develop into the fruiting canes.

For the sake of the berries and for the sake of our outdoor summertime fun, let’s hope for a nice, toasty growing season!

Warm wishes,

Our favorite sign of spring.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

To Our Wonderful You-Pickers!

We thought it might be a good time to get in touch with all of you folks who’ve made our U-Pick Grape harvest such a memorable time over these past years.

Luscious Courting Hill Pinot!

Right now, after a late start but with 90 degrees showing on the thermometer I think that we’ll have the harvest coming the 2nd, maybe 3rd week of October. But, as with any prediction, the weather can be full of surprises. That said, let’s talk about the grapes…. somewhat smaller bunches (set) but no problems with mites, mildew or other disease.. and if the weather decides to beat up on us we’ll be ready to fend off any potential ravages.

In a somewhat different harvest arrangement we intend to give you the option of choosing from the several clones of PN, PG and CHAR when picking your supply. (Look here for the map of the vineyard and the different blocks)

For instance, we have;

  • PN-Jackson on C5 – Blk 3
  • Pommard, own rooted, hi trellis – 1981 Blk 4
  • Pommard, own rooted, upright – Blk 5
  • PN 114 on Riesling – Blk 6
  • PN 115, on Riesling – Blk
  • PN 115, on Symphony – Blk 7A
  • PN 113, on Char 108 – Blk 8
  • PN 115, on Char 108 – Blk 9
  • PG, own rooted, hi trellis – (Blk 11 as noted)
  • PG on 3309 – Blk 11
  • PN-Jackson on Cabernet – Blk 12
  • PN-Jackson on 5BB/ Carmine – BlK 12
  • CH 96 on 101-14 – Blk 1
  • CH 76 on 101-14 – Blk 1A

Some of our U-Pickers' end products.

Perhaps a different location/clone would be of interest? All the wines you brought last year were well made and this option is not to suggest that you should make a change, but, if you’re of the “experimenting wine-buff” type, we have options! Of course, over the years some tasty wines have been produced from all the different blocks.

Your friends at Courting Hill,
Jimmy, Jenna and Adam!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment