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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Named for the river that runs through the valley from Portland to Eugene, Willamette Valley is home to some of the best Pinot Noir vineyards in the Northwest. While along the same north/south line as Seattle, the Willamette Valley is protected from Pacific rains by the Coast Range on the western border and the Cascade Ranges to the east. Though sunshine is typically plentiful, rainfall can occasionally be tricky, and the wines here vary vintage to vintage. Within the Willamette Valley are are number of sub-regions, including McMinnville, Dundee and Yamhill.
The valley is known for its Pinots – Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. With a climate similar to Burgundy – in rainfall, sunlight hours and other climate factors – Pinot Noir has flourished here. Pinot Noir in Oregon produces wines that are fruit forward, yet complex, some with good agebility.
Other than Pinot Noir, many wineries grow Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. Pinot Gris from Oregon is delightful in its texture and food friendliness. Chardonnay in the valley adapts well to the cool climate and produces lean, elegant wines.
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.