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Willamette Valley Vineyards Gewurztraminer 1997
A combination of determination and extraordinary people has brought Willamette Valley Vineyards from an idea to one of the region's leading wineries, earning the title "One of America's Great Pinot Noir Producers," from Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
Founder, Jim Bernau, purchased the Estate site in 1983 and cleared away the old pioneer plum orchard hidden in scotch broom and blackberry vines. He planted Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. In the beginning, he hand watered the vines with seventeen lengths of 75' garden hose.
Numerous classes at UC Davis, and seminars from here to France, sharpened Jim’s viticultural skills and in 1989 he was ready to build his dream--a world class winery in the Willamette Valley--and make cool-climate varietals, especially Pinot Noir.
Jim's vision of organizing the support of wine enthusiasts to grow world-class wines through shared ownership has resulted in over 9,000 owners. The winery's Common (WVVI) and Preferred (WVVIP) are traded on the NASDAQ.
Willamette Valley Vineyards has collaboratively grown its estate vineyards through partnerships like the merger with Oregon wine industry pioneer, Bill Fuller of Tualatin Vineyards (established in 1973), the O'Briens for Elton Vineyard (established in 1983) and Loeza Vineyard (planted in 2016). The winery now sources all of its barrel-aged Pinot Noir from its estate vineyards, practices environmentally sustainable farming and were part of the founding of the Low Input Viticulture and Enology (LIVE) certification.
One of Pinot Noir’s most successful New World outposts, the Willamette Valley is the largest and most important AVA in Oregon. With a temperate climate moderated by a Pacific Ocean influence, it is perfect for cool-climate viticulture—warm and dry summers allow for steady, even ripening, and frost is rarely a risk during spring and even winter. Mountain ranges bordering three sides of the valley, particularly the Chehalem Mountains, provide the option for higher-elevation, cooler vineyard sites. The three prominent soil types here create significant differences in wine styles between vineyards and sub-AVAs. The iron-rich, basalt-based Jory volcanic soils found commonly in the Dundee Hills are rich in clay and hold water well; the chalky, sedimentary soils of Ribbon Ridge, Yamhill-Carlton, and McMinnville encourage complex root systems as vines struggle to search for water and minerals. The silty loess found in the Chehalem Mountains, somewhere in between the other two in texture, is fertile and well-draining but erodes easily, creating challenges for growers but necessitating careful vineyard management.
The celebrated Pinot Noir of the Willamette Valley typically offers supple red fruit, especially cranberry, without the powerful punch often packed by its California counterparts. Elegance is paramount here, and fruit flavors are balanced by forest floor, wild mushroom, and dried herbs—much more in line with Burgundian examples of the variety. Chardonnay too takes its inspiration from the French motherland, focusing on tart, crisp fruit and minerality, rarely relying upon heavy new oak. Pinot Gris here is fleshy and bright, and Riesling is dry, aromatic, and citrus-focused.
Gewürztraminer is an expressive and aromatically distinctive white grape variety. It is considered a noble variety in the Alsace region of France, and can produce beautiful wines in the mountainous Alto Adige region of north-eastern Italy. With the notable exception of the Anderson Valley, most regions of California are too warm for Gewürztraminer’s low potential acidity, but it has done particularly well in more northerly, cooler regions of North America such as British Columbia, Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula, and New York's Finger Lakes.
In the Glass
Gewürztraminer is bold and highly aromatic, with intense flavors of lychee, rose petal, ginger, musk, exotic spice, smoke, pineapple, apricot kernel, and peach. Wines range from bone dry to quite sweet, and its naturally low acidity is offset by high levels of skin-derived phenolics, which in addition to aromatics provide weight and a good structural grip.
Gewürztraminer’s natural spiciness makes it a great ally for flavorful cuisine, such as Indian, Middle Eastern, or Moroccan fare. It is also excellent with dense, oily fish like salmon, swordfish, and mahi-mahi, and works well with a wide range of meats and charcuterie. Gewürztraminer truly shines with classic Alsatian dishes like choucroute, Quiche Lorraine, and anything egg-based.
Because of its floral perfume and tendency towards slight sweetness, Gewürztraminer makes for an excellent gateway wine. For those who have been introduced to wine through Moscato or other sweet wines, Gewürztraminer can serve as the perfect bridge towards an appreciation for dry whites.