If you aren’t already familiar with Oregon wines, it’s a prime time to begin that education. We attended a wonderful wine tasting in San Francisco last week sponsored by the Willamette Valley Wineries Association so we can recommend specific wines to seek out (at local wine stores and/or restaurants) that are tasting delightful right now. We also encourage you to consider traveling to the Willamette Valley wine country yourself and visiting some of these wineries in person.
The region is currently celebrating the 50th anniversary of their first Pinot Noir plantings (by David Lett and his wife Diana in the Dundee Hills) and today, more than 85% of Oregon’s Pinot Noir is grown here. At last week’s wine tasting, Pinot in the City, these were our favorite Pinot Noir wines:
Archery Summit – 2013 Premier Cuvée Pinot Noir, 2013 Red Hills Estate Pinot Noir
Beaux Frères – 2013 Beaux Frères Vineyard Pinot Noir
Bergström Wines – 2013 Silice Pinot Noir, 2013 Bergström Vineyard Pinot Noir
Colene Clemens Vineyards – 2012 Adriane Pinot Noir, 2008 Colene Clemens Pinot Noir
Domaine Drouhin Oregon – 2012 Laurène Pinot Noir
Domaine Roy & Fils – 2013 Maison Roy Incline Pinot Noir
Domaine Serene – 2012 Yamhill Cuvée Pinot Noir, 2012 Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir, 2001 Yamhill Cuvée Pinot Noir
iOTA Cellars – 2012 Pelos Sandberg Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2011 Pelos Sandberg Vineyard Pinot Noir
Nysa Vineyard – 2008 Leda’s Reserve Pinot Noir
Panther Creek Cellars – 2013 Schindler Vineyard Pinot Noir
Patton Valley Vineyard – 2012 Estate Pinot Noir, 2012 10 Acre Pinot Noir
Shea Wine Cellars – 2012 Estate Pinot Noir
Sokol Blosser Winery – 2012 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, 2012 Big Tree Block Pinot Noir
Soter Vineyards – 2010 Mineral Springs Brut Rosé, 2013 Mineral Springs Ranch Pinot Noir, 2002 Beacon Hill Pinot Noir
Stoller Family Estate – 2013 Pinot Noir, 2012 Reserve Pinot Noir
Tendril Wine Cellars – 2012 White Label Pinot Noir
The Willamette Valley is Oregon’s leading wine region and encompasses 3,438,000 acres between Oregon’s Cascade Mountains and the Coastal Range. This scenic area is home to 440 wineries (over two-thirds of the state’s wineries) and 647 vineyards. One of the premier Pinot Noir producing areas in the world, the Willamette Valley also successfully grows other cool-climate varietals such as Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling.
At the recent tasting event, we loved these white wines:
- Bergström Wines – 2013 “Sigrid” Chardonnay
- Chehalem – 2014 Ridgecrest Vineyards Grüner Veltliner
- Domaine Drouhin Oregon – 2013 “Arthur” Chardonnay
- Domaine Serene – 2013 Evenstad Reserve Chardonnay
- Harper Voit Wines – 2014 Surlie Pinot Blanc
- Hyland Estates – 2013 Gewürztraminer
- Lange Estate Winery – 2014 Reserve Pinot Gris
- Maysara Winery – 2014 Arsheen Pinot Gris
- Shea Wine Cellars – 2013 Chardonnay
- Stoller Family Estate – 2013 Reserve Chardonnay
- WildAire Cellars – 2014 Old Vine Riesling
The Willamette Valley is a lovely travel destination and contains small towns such as Carlton, Dundee and Newberg as well as the larger city of McMinnville. The valley is brimming with charming inns, world-class dining, and attractions such as art galleries, museums, gardens, farmer’s markets, nurseries and hazelnut farms.
If you venture that way, these are some restaurants we strongly encourage you seek out (as well as some of our favorite dishes from past experiences):
- The Blue Goat (Amity) – Sunchoke Soup, Dungeness Crab Cakes, Smoked Chicken Pesto Pizza
- Carlton Bakery (Carlton) – Vanilla Bean Macarons, Lemon-Lavender Shortbread, Apple & Cherry Fruit Tart
- Red Hills Market (Dundee) – Wood-Fired Margarita Pizza, Roasted Turkey Sandwich
- Nick’s Italian Cafe (McMinnville) – Meatballs, Beet Salad, Roasted Eggplant Tagliatelle
- Ruddick/Wood (Newberg) – Grilled Steak Sandwich, Hand-Cut Fries with House-Made Ketchup
When you’re ready to plan your own excursion to the area, you’ll want a copy of the Willamette Valley Wineries Association’s bi-annual winery guide and touring map. Timing-wise, you may also want to know that the WVWA-sponsored Wine Country Thanksgiving (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) and Memorial Weekend in Wine Country (Saturday, Sunday, Monday) are the two oldest and largest wine touring events in Oregon (and each typically includes wineries that aren’t normally open to the public).
Whether you actually travel to the Willamette Valley in Oregon for a wine tasting excursion, or just armchair travel from your living room with wines you bought at a wine store, you’ll be glad you made the trip.