That particular Tuesday was an Adventure Day, which means I pack up a small bag of essentials (typewriter, book, pen, paper, sunscreen and sunglasses) and follow the call of my wanderlust muse, wherever she may lead me. On this particular summer day, I knew my destination would be wine country–the sunny, cloudless sky just begged for it. When most Salemites think of local ‘wine country’ we immediately imagine the West Salem hills, which are famous for their numerous small-batch wineries offering Oregon’s staple Pinot Noir.
But today…today I am introducing you to a little boutique winery (without the boutique price tag) in the South Salem hills by the name of “Cória Estates.” I will be reviewing and discussing their wines, their tasting room and amenities, their event options, and a few other notable tidbits I experienced during my visit.
I will state right off the bat that I give them a wonderful 4/5 rating, which I will explain in detail below. (In my rating system, I take every aspect into consideration, both professional and personal impressions made by the business as a whole. Note that an establishment with a 5/5 rating is considered to be a business that has all their ducks in a row, with little-to-no room for improvement from my personal perspective as a guest and an observer.)
The winery itself was founded by owners Luis and Janice Coria in 1988 with the initial purchase of their first 9-acre parcel. Their business grew with the planting of 200 acres of Christmas trees and the start of a forestry contracting company. Additional property was acquired in 1997, and the Corias planted their first Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris vines. Today, the Estate boasts over 80 acres of mature vineyard, in addition to their booming tree farm and forestry business. The entire family is committed to the management and production aspects of Cória Estates, and is involved in every step of the process. In fact, their youngest daughter, Aurora (or “Rory”), is the vintner, who works hard beside her family to build a memorable legacy for the viticulture community of Salem.
First impressions are everything in my opinion, and Cória certainly delivered a stellar First for me. Being that it was Adventure Day, which means my GPS is out of sight and well out of mind, I had very little trouble finding their tasting room after a quick glance at their website’s map. (Note: their physical address is on Redstone, but you will turn onto Quinalt which will eventually become Redstone–just follow the blue winery sign and you won’t be misled.)
Not a cloud to be seen in the pale blue sky, I parked in their modest gravel lot and followed the sign labeled “Tasting Room” around the left of the main building. I was instantly greeted by a gorgeous patio setup of bistro tables and chairs and large umbrellas, and even a covered area just outside the tasting room doors with comfy couches and padded chairs encircling a propane fire pit (obviously not turned on in summertime). All very attractive and promising to the eye, especially their view of the vines growing adjacent to the outdoor seating. I couldn’t wait to grab a glass of vino and get cozy on the couch outside in the safety of the shade. #gingerproblems
I opened the glass door to the tasting room and was welcomed in by Brandon Day, Cória Estates’ Marketing Specialist, who is also son-in-law to the winery owners. Brandon was more than courteous and informative (thank you for permitting me to pick your brain, Brandon, and offering a patient smile as I talked your ear off); he walked me through a bit of history about the Family and the Estates, and also explained the wines and general winemaking process as we worked our way through the line-up of wine.
First up was their 2013 Pinot Gris ($6 per glass, $20 per bottle), which I found to be refreshingly crisp and on the dry side, hinting at citrus and tropical flavors; a nice take on the classic Oregon Pinot Gris. Cória’s website recommends pairing the Pinot Gris with ceviche, poultry, and light pasta dishes. (NOTE: Their 2014 Pinot Gris was just released in August, which is much more fruit-forward than its 2013 counterpart, and also delicious.)
Second in line was their 2014 Rosé of Pinot Noir ($6 per glass, $20 per bottle)…let me be very clear about something–I do NOT like Rosé. But I believe I may have found and fallen for my first Rosé love. This beautiful pink wine blew my hair back–it proposed the perfect blend of dry and sweet; dry enough to enjoy the complexity, but fruit-forward enough to provide a refreshing summer wine that is just straight-up fun to drink. Cória recommends a pairing with asparagus, grilled salmon, or pizza.
Third and last in line is their 2013 Estate Pinot Noir ($7 per glass, $25 per bottle). I’ve also been burnt out by Oregon Pinot over the years, so I timidly tried this vintage…and was pleasantly surprised. While still a young wine, it is very approachable to drink right now–promising dark, fruit-forward notes, which could pair well with food, but also stands alone on its fine legs. #winepunsfordays I look forward to seeing how this one develops over time.
I also appreciated that Cória Estates uses higher-end wine glasses, which resemble the Oregon Pinot glass (tulip-shaped) more so than the standard, shapeless wine glass. (Thank you. Because it absolutely matters what kind of glass you drink from when tasting wine!)
All in all, each wine was very agreeable and flavorful–a promising start for Salem’s newest winery, well done. Even with only three wines to offer, I think each varietal brings something wildly different to the table to please any palate. Worst-case scenario…they also offer beer to visitors who are not of the wine-persuasion. 😉 For me, I ended up purchasing a glass of the Rosé to enjoy in the summer heat (followed by a second) to help me begin this review on their lovely patio.
So yes! A solid 4/5 rating for Cória Estates! I was thoroughly impressed with their wine, their tasting room and patio, their weekly events schedule with live music on weekends, their family-oriented business, and their overall genuine business approach that is a refreshing new arrival to the Salem area. The only reason I docked one “star” from their rating is because they have room for improvement. What’s wonderful, though, is that they are well aware of what needs to change, and are in the process of making those changes happen as soon as possible.
- Problem: A larger tasting room and patio area for guest accommodations is needed, and sooner than expected as Cória’s popularity grows.
- Solution: The winery is already planning on building a newer tasting room facility on a nearby hill, and is considering the possibility of hosting weddings and other events at the vineyard, as well.
- Problem: There is a need for more wines to offer on the current line-up.
- Solution: This is a silly reason, but a reason nonetheless. It’s hard to draw attention when you have so few wines. But obviously, more wines will be added to the lineup in time, so this is really just hiccup. Winemaker and daughter, Rori, is constantly educating herself on ways to make excellent wine in this region, too, even traveling to other countries to learn their process in order to apply it here in Oregon. More wines won’t be a problem. 😉 It’s just a matter of time passing.
- Problem: Further involvement with the community is always necessary for positive growth as a business.
- Solution: Again, they’re on point, and are actively searching for ways to get involved in the Salem community, and how to bring the community together at Cória. With live music on weekends, painting classes in the vineyards, yoga sessions in the vines, a food cart on-site and so much more, they’re quickly becoming a favorite destination.
They get it. They really get it. And I’m excited to see how their new winery grows and expands and improves over time. It has been such a joy getting to know these amazing people, and I wish them nothing but the best. I look forward to many future visits with friends and family at their wonderful facility in South Salem.