Once thought of as a marginal growing region beset with climatic challenges and tremendous vintage variation, Oregon’s Willamette Valley has in recent years shown a pronounced consistency of quality that many growers and winemakers attribute to climate change. Warmer temperatures and longer growing seasons have helped them achieve a string of excellent Pinot Noir vintages. In fact, Oregon Pinot Noir vintages 2014 through 2017 have been rated from 94 to 97 points by Wine Spectator. It’s too early to have a picture perfect view of 2018, in which September rainfall helped vines recover from a very dry summer, but early indications are promising, and some wines are already available.
Oregon wines have achieved worldwide recognition, but it wasn’t always so. A handful of hardy, iconoclastic – and sometimes cantankerous – pioneers blazed the trail that others would follow. These include Dick Ponzi, David Lett, and Dick Erath, among others. Developing their wineries in the 1960’s, they worked in near obscurity. But they discovered one another and, in the finest tradition of winemaking communities everywhere, lent assistance and advice, discussing successes and failures, and never giving up. They shared a rebellious streak and an attitude of, “We don’t care if the whole world says we’re crazy; we will find a way to make this work.”
Have they ever! Those trailblazers and the ones who came along later have taken Oregon to world class status. While all of the state’s appellations are worth examining, in this post we’ll focus on the Willamette Valley, and Oregon Pinot Noirs in particular. Here are a few worth trying from recent vintages.
Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir 2016 – The Oregon outpost of a well-known Burgundy producer, Domaine Drouhin crafts consistent winners that show expressive charm.
Siduri Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2018 – Siduri makes a great many Pinot Noirs, including numerous California versions. This offering is fresh, bright and juicy.
A to Z Pinot Noir 2016 – The winery states that this “highlights the ripeness and concentration of the vintage with an uncommon grace and style.” We agree.
Ponzi Tavola Pinot Noir 2017 – Lovely aromatics and a smooth mouthfeel.
We could go on and on; the state offers a wealth of fine wines to choose from! Whether you’re new to this varietal or an experienced Pinot lover, Oregon is well worth exploring.