Pinot Noir from Oregon's Willamette Valley: Foods to Pair With, and Meals that Call for, Willamette Valley Pinot

Great Pinot Noir—the Holy Grail of winemakers from France to Australia and the US, and one of the most notoriously difficult grapes to grow. The thin-skinned varietal is susceptible to rot, viruses and diseases and needs a perfectly cool climate and exacting vineyard management to thrive. After the grapes are harvested the winemaker has plenty of decisions to make, including whether or not to fine and filter the wine, how much tannin the final product should have and choosing a precise regimen of oak aging, since Pinot’s delicate flavors can easily be masked by the flavors of wood. It’s easy to make a disappointing, thin-tasting wine from this grape, but really fine Pinot is the stuff of the gods and the combination of ripe fruit and spice flavors, low tannin and high acid make Pinot Noir one of the most food friendly wines in the world.

Best Oregon Pinot Noir: What Is One Oregon Pinot Noir Worth Seeking Out?

IntoWine recently asked its panel of wine experts to recommend one Oregon pinot noir worth seeking out:  

Oregon’s Willamette Valley sits at roughly the same latitude as Pinot Noir’s ancestral home—France’s Burgundy region. While there are significant differences between the two regions in terms of soils and topography, the fact is that both are essentially cool climate, slow ripening regions that are ideal for producing flavorful and balanced Pinot Noir.

Pinots from Oregon tend to have some of the delicacy and minerality that red Burgundy is known for as well as some of the ripe red fruit most typically found in California Pinot. Their alcohol levels are generally much closer to those of France (13% or so) rather than California (typically 14-15%). Many of them also exhibit a savory aroma reminiscent of forest floor or underbrush, what the French call “sous bois.”

For me the most impressive Oregon Pinot Noirs in recent tastings, with wines I rated 92 points or higher, have come from Archery Summit, Belle Pente, Domaine Drouhin, Evening Land, Rex Hill, Roco, Scott Paul and Shea Wine Cellars. The best values among these wonderful examples are the 2009 Belle Pente ($35), the 2010 Evening Land Seven Springs Vineyard ($40), Scott Paul’s delicious 2010 La Paulée ($32) and Shea Wine Cellars’ 2010 Estate ($40).

At an even more affordable price level, look for Coeur de Terre’s $20 2010 Pinot (89 points) and Patton Valley’s $20 2009 “Declassified” (89 points). Richard Jennings, IntoWine.com Featured Contributor and the Founder RJonWine.com.

Pinot Gris: Oregon’s Second Wine

The southern Willamette south of Eugene has a special place in my heart.

My first visit was in 1992 when I house-sat for friends on the mid-Oregon coast in Florence. I took a day trip inland and just for fun decided to drop down south and check out the wineries. My expectations were not high. At that point, I was still a bit of a California snob.

Oregon Pinot Noir Vintage Chart

Oregon Pinot Noir    
2010 89 D
2009 88 D
2008 95
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