The winemakers and farmers at Scenic Valley Farms, north of Keizer, looked around their many acres of crops and said, “Why not?” They decided to add some of the hops they grow to the chardonnay they bottle. And viola! Hop Chardonnay.
Upon tasting their regular Chardonnay, Brian Zielinski remembers thinking, “This tastes pretty good.” He went on to say he and the winemaker, Gabe Jagle, decided they wanted to create a product that has a story. “That story was the clashing of products on the farm,” Zielinski said.
Scenic Valley Farms grows the wine grapes and the hops. The barrels in which wine ferments are made from white oak trees found on the farm. Zielinski is quick to say that no oak trees are cut down; the barrels are made from the trees that fall naturally.
After a search on the internet, Zielinski discovered that a winery in Vermont had experimented with a hop chardonnay of its own. That’s as much as he knows about the east coast vintage.
Details of making Scenic Valley Hop Chardonnay are proprietary, though Zielinski said no other winery can do what they are doing. “They can make the same product,” he added, “but they won’t have the story.”
The overwhelming reaction from first time tasters, Zielinski said, is: “Interesting.” He said hop chardonnay can be enjoyed by itself or pared with fish or sushi. Some experts have compared the taste of the wine to chenin blanc.
Zielinski and Jagle work hand in hand to create all the Scenic Valley wines, including pinot noir, pinot gris, Oregon Chardonnay and they are adding a sparkling Rosé this year. The two are always thinking of other types of wines they can produce from products found on the farm.
“He’s the winemaker,” Zielinski said of Gabe, “and I do the farming. When it comes to an argument, everyone is heard.” There is an obvious respect for each other’s skills.
Jagle got into winemaking due to Trader Joe’s Two Buck Chuck. “Sometimes I would splurge on a bottle of wine. I thought, ‘Man, I really need to know more about this stuff if I’m going to be spending $8 on a bottle of wine,’” Jagle said.
Once he arrived in Oregon, Jagle took chemistry and winemaking classes, after which he was officially a winemaker. In time, Brian’s father, Bob Zielsinki, approached Jagle, saying he wanted to start a winery and wanted him to be his winemaker.
Scenic Valley Farms made its first wine in 2014, six barrels of pinot noir, along with pinot gris.
There is a limited vintage of Scenic Valley Hop Chardonnay, less than 50 cases; it will not appear on local retailer shelves, but it is available for purchase at the winery’s tasting room at 12423 River Road N. Hours are noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, or by appointment by calling 503-393-6227.