• Rating: 96 out of 100
  • Tasting Fee: $50 for the Cristom Experience, $15 for Traditional Tasting
  • Accepts Reservations: Yes
  • Reservation Required: Yes for the Cristom Experience, No for Traditional Tastings


6905 Spring Valley Rd NW
Salem, OR 97304


This is actually my second time visiting Cristom. The first made such an impression on me, I signed up for a membership and will try to visit once a year. Looking back at my first post on the winery, I noticed that my pictures and wine reviews were lacking. So if you want to read up on the background of Cristom, read my previous post at HERE. In this post, you’ll find new pictures of the estate (they’ve expanded it a bit thanks to their continuing success) and my reviews of the latest vintage.

My suggestion, get to Cristom sooner rather than later. If you look between the two posts, you’ll notice that that 2016 vintage is more expensive than the 2015 vintage. And if you look on their website at their newly posted 2017 vintages, you’ll notice the prices have gone up again. Everyone is catching on to the fact that their wines are of great quality and are starting to buy more and more. Don’t miss your chance to pick up bottles before the bottles hit $100+ in 5-10 years.

The winery hasn’t changed much in the last year on the surface. The weather was certainly a bit more brooding than the last time I was here. Still, I was very happy to be here to taste the new vintage.

Like the sign says, you could do the 5 wine walk-in tasting for $15, or you could do the Cristom Experience for $50 and taste 8-10 wines, including the 4 ladies. Of course, I had to do the latter since those 4 were the mostly likely bottles I was going home with.

I thought we would have the tasting room to ourselves on a Friday morning, but I guess not. Plenty of room to do a walk-in tasting at the standing bar. Or, you could sit outside on the new patio. I definitely recommend that and you’ll see a picture of the view later below.

The view into the vineyard. Not nearly as busy as the last time we were here when they were using chainsaws on their vines to re-graft new clones/varietals on the rootstocks. Beautiful and well maincured.

I get a little nausea looking at this picture. Nothing beats walking through a vineyard except walking through a vineyard with a glass of wine in your hand. I wish it wasn’t as cloudy, but that is what Willamette Valley is like.

The view from their newly completed patio. It’s not as good as staring into the vineyards, but the view will do. Very easy imagining just spending a day with a couple of bottles on those two seats with someone special. It’s the wine version of the shot from seats on a beach looking at the ocean.

Once we got to tasting, the mood got serious. Lots of wine glasses, lots of tasting, lots of revisiting, lots of second-guessing ourselves as to our favorites and which ones we were going to buy. I think I did pretty well in my selections, but everyone thinks they are a genius…

A view of their vineyards. My favorite are the Pinot Noirs from Jessie, but the Syrahs are a potential QPR darling, even at $40-$50. After that, it’s between the Eileen and Marjorie for me, but they are starting to replant in Marjorie so Eileen are the safe bet for now.

  • 2017 Estate Pinot Gris ($20)
    • MLF and lees aging add some roundness and also flavor complexity. The acid was still medium(+) and the flavors dwell in the yellow and green fruit range. The integration has just started, so I would wait a couple years before partaking, but it’s already an interesting wine that is unlike others in the region. Complex and yet refreshing.
  • 2017 Mt. Jefferson Cuvee Pinot Noir ($35)
    • Their most distributed Pinot Noir that has won awards for the best Pinot Noir in restaurants. On both the nose and the palate, there’s cranberry, tart strawberry/cherry, and some green from the whole cluster fermentation. Blended with grapes from 21 vineyards, 60% of which is estate grown. Fresh, complex, and an unripe style of Pinot that is meant to emphasize the acidity and it’s ability to pair easily with many types of food.
  • 2014 Estate Pinot Noir ($50)
    • Blend of the four ladies (the Paul vineyard did not make it in yet). Riper than the Mt. Jefferson on the nose. Medium brightness of candied cranberry, strawberry, and some ripe tomato. Medium(+) acid, medium body, and very smooth on the palate. The fruit is a bit subdued compared to the nose and there is some green and depth thanks to the whole cluster fermentation with some white spice. This is the wine that I would serve to my friends for a smooth, easy drinking experience that would leave them wanting more.
  • 2015 Symbion ($55)
    • Using grapes from the winemaker’s personal estate (Steve Dorner). The name is a play off of “symbiosis” - what Steve tries to embody in his winemaking. The nose is a bit riper and more brooding than the Estate Pinot. There is more grippy tannin and weight to this wine than the estate, meaning I would probably lay this wine down for a couple years more or pair with meat when drinking. Similar style and flavors as the Estate Pinot, but with a touch more ripeness. Also a very nice, easy drinking wine to share with friends.
  • 2017 Dundee Hills AVA
    • The nose is richer and a tad brighter than the other two above, but the flavor tends more towards candied cranberry, light cherry, and some baking spices. The body is a tad lighter and the integrated medium(+) acidity leaves your mouth watering. The tannin is powdery, almost medium(+) that makes me think this could age quite a bit. The winery owner’s favorite AVA bottle produced by Cristom (they do a few each year by buying grapes from elsewhere). Done in low quantity, so you won’t find it on their website anymore.
  • 2016 Eileen ($65)
    • Gets the most influence of the wind at the top of the hill, which creates really nice aromatics and complexity that customers seem to love. Bright, ripe cranberry, strawberry, and potent aromatics. On the palate, very integrated medium(+) acid and medium tannin that structure the wine as well as integrated red fruit and alcohol that goes down very smooth. There is certainly a lot of complexity, but the wine is so seductive in its grace and balance that you prefer not to think about it.
  • 2016 Jessie ($65)
    • The steep hill the grapes grow on reminds me of Burgundy and is the most expensive for them to farm because of the incline. This wine is for the serious drinker. Riper red fruit (approaching cherries), flavors from the whole-cluster fermentation, medium(+) tannin that approach high, medium(+) acid, and this mouthwatering minerality that is integrated with the acid. Medium(+) finish and nice length on the palate. I could just drink this wine all day long by myself and not tire of it.
  • 2016 Louise ($65)
    • Fruit-forward taste because of its flatter angle, lower elevation and its warmer location in the sun. There is an added ripeness and depth on the nose as well. The alcohol is a bit more noticeable, but the winemaker has integrated it well. This is definitely the most fruit-driven of the ladies and would be what I served someone that is used to Russian River Valley Pinot. For me, it feels a little too “juicy” in taste for my preference. One of the reasons I prefer the Jessie is that it will have ripeness, but balance that and the alcohol with acid.
  • 2015 Majorie ($70)
    • The 2016 has not been released to the public yet (still aging in bottle). 3 rows of original vines are left - there is a lot of replanting going on right now. The depth and aromatics here are due to the older vines, rather than the terroir, like the Louise. The tannin is a bit unintegrated and the body is lighter, almost medium(-), than the rest. There is probably some younger fruit used in these wines that produces this effect. The tart red fruit flavors are very seductive though and make this a wine you could drink alongside the Jessie in a competition.

Again, make sure to try Cristom in your local restaurants or at their vineyards when you can. The whole cluster fermentation produces flavors that remind me of Burgundy with a bit more ripeness and a cheaper price. That last part won’t be true for long though… Cheers!!

Rating: 96 out of 100