As a long-time connoisseur of French Burgundy, Dr. Donald Olson set out on a journey to create world-class wine in his beloved state of Oregon. In 1993, he founded Torii Mor as a tribute to his late son Leif. With its roots in the forefront of Oregon's wine industry, Olson Estate Vineyard, planted in 1972, is one of the oldest vineyards in Oregon. Sitting high in the Dundee Hills Appellation at 800 feet on just under fifteen acres of Pinot Noir, the fruit of Olson Estate was the main focus of Torii Mor's first vintage. From its modest beginnings in 1993 of no more than 1,000 cases, Torii Mor has matured into an ultra-premium producer of Pinot Noir with an annual production of 15,000 cases.
Since its beginnings in Burgundy, Pinot Noir has long been considered one of the most "terroir" expressive varieties of grape. This strong tie to the earth was something Dr. Olson wanted to convey when he decided on a name for his new venture. Borrowing from the Japanese, "Torii" refers to the ornate gates often seen at the entrances of gardens. "Mor," meaning earth, was then chosen as homage to Dr. Olson's Scandinavian heritage. By joining these two distinct languages, the name Torii Mor and a romantic image of a beautiful gate to the earth was created.
Late in 2004, Jacques Tardy joined Torii Mor as head winemaker. With his Burgundian heritage and five generations of winemakers in his family history, Jacques brought the experience and style for which Torii Mor is now recognized. With a keen focus on structure and balance, the elegance of Jacques' wines has branded Torii Mor as one of the top-ranked producers of Pinot Noir in the United States.
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Like many other states, Oregon itself is an AVA of note. An Oregon wine can simply state "Oregon" as its place of origin, which typically means the grapes came from multiple smaller AVAs within the state.
Beyond the main AVAs of Oregon, like Willamette Valley, Rogue and Umpqua, smaller regions are gaining ground. Some you may see on the label include:
Walla Walla Valley AVA
– these are most often associated with Washington State, but technically they run over the state lines into Oregon. Most wineries only use a small fraction of grapes from the Oregon side in order to maintain a Washington State wine, but you may see some Oregon producers sourcing grapes from those small overlapping AVAs.
Southern Oregon AVA
– encompassing the Rogue and Umpqua Valleys, this AVA is a large area where many producers are experimenting with Syrah.
Oregon has long been an agricultural state, producing everything from hazelnuts to cattle. The Willamette Valley in particular is a fertile basin for all sorts of produce. Not quite pegged as a wine state, in 1965, a UC Davis graduate named David Lett decided that the Willamette's climate mirrored that of Burgundy in France. With that in mind, he decided to plant some Pinot Noir clones to see how they did. And a good gamble it was. The Willamette is now one of the only regions in the world to focus solely on Pinot Noir as its red variety. Also known for Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. The southern part of Oregon has been slower in delving into the world wine market, but has been making excellent strides with their Rhone style varietals, like Syrah and Grenache. There are also coastal regions producing promising wines.
Most wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Crisp
Light to medium bodied wines that are high in acid and light to medium fruit. Typically no oak.
Fruity & Smooth
Light to medium bodied wines with lots of juicy fruit, typically medium acid and medium oak.
Rich & Creamy
Full bodied wines that have typically undergone malo-lactic fermentation and/or spent time in oak.