Wine Tasting in Oregon’s Willamette Valley

Lenne Estate in Yamhill Oregon

Raptor Ridge Pinot Noir

Raptor Ridge Pinot Noir

In the Oregon Willamette Valley wine region of...

In the Oregon Willamette Valley wine region of the Dundee Hills (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Oregon is the third largest wine producing state in the US. There are 16 AVAs in Oregon with 450 wineries and 850 vineyards. Oregon and Idaho share an AVA in the Snake River Valley. Oregon and Washington share two AVAs; the Walla Walla Valley and the Columbia Valley. The wine industry contributes $2.7 billion to the state’s economy and Wine Tourism contributed $158 million to Oregon’s economy in 2012.

Foris Pinot Noir

Winemaker Tony Rynders, former winemaker of Do...

Winemaker Tony Rynders, former winemaker of Domaine Serene, samples pinot noir during the 2008 Willamette Valley harvest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first AVA’s in Oregon were: Columbia Valley, Umpqua Valley, Walla Walla Valley and the Willamette Valley. The Willamette Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) was founded in 1984. This AVA has two-thirds of the state’s wineries and vineyards. It is home to more than 200 wineries; with initial plantings in 1966.

Pinot cluster in the Oregon Willamette Valley ...

Pinot cluster in the Oregon Willamette Valley wine region of the Eola-Amity Hills going through early color change. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This designated grape growing region can be distinguished by specific geographic features. The region covers 5372 square miles of land from Portland to Eugene. Smaller AVAs have been created within the northern portion of Willamette Valley’s 3,438,000 acres.

Pinot noir grapes growing in the Willamette Va...

Pinot noir grapes growing in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are six sub-regions (AVAs) within the northern portion of the Willamette Valley AVA with distinctive elevation, soil and climart. The sub-regions are:Chehalem Mountains AVADundee Hills AVA

Eola-Amity Hills AVA

McMinnville AVA

Ribbon Ridge AVA

Yamhill-Carlton District AVA

An interesting chain of events catapulted Oregon’s fledgling Willamette Valley wine region into the stratosphere. At the 1979 “Olympics of Wine” that was held in Paris, a Yamhill County Pinot Noir from The Eyrie Vineyards placed 3rd in a blind tasting of some of the world’s finest Pinots.

“Burgundian wine producer Robert Drouhin could not believe the results, and in early 1980 staged his own tasting in Beaune. The Eyrie’s 1975 South Block Reserve Pinot Noir placed second against a Drouhin 1959 Chambolle-Musigny. It was not to be believed!” Today, Domaine Drouhin Oregon produces Pinot Noir in the Dundee Hills.

In 1983,  another sensational vintage propelled Oregon’s Pinot Noir wines into the international spotlight. Vineyards continued to be planted in the valley. I am a Pinot Noir snob so I couldn’t wait to explore the Willamette Valley. Then, in 1987, Robert Parker (the famous wine critic) and his brother-in-law Michael Etzel, purchased a run down pig farm on Ribbon Ridge and began developing a small vineyard. Their Beaux Frères Winery, produced its first wines in 1991. The Winery is located at 15155 N.E. North Valley Road in Newburg. www.beauxfreres.com

English: Fog hovering over Eugene and other pa...

English: Fog hovering over Eugene and other parts of the Willamette Valley in Oregon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Willamette Valley contains most of Oregon'...

The Willamette Valley AVA is the largest in the state and has most of the state’s wineries (about 200). Geographically, it stretches from the Columbia River in the North on the Oregon/Washington border; to Eugene in the South. It covers the Oregon Coast Range in the west to the Cascade mountains in the east.

The Oregon Coast Mountain Range creates a rain shadow effect east of the mountains in the Willamette Valley. There is less rain in the Willamette Valley than in the coastal region of the state. This area is recognized around the world for its luscious Pinot Noir. This grape is a cool-climate varietal and the Willamette Valley is well suited to cool climate grape growing because it is protected by the mountains and a series of lower hill chains. These grapes are grown on lower hillsides, not on the hilltops.

Winemaker Patty Green of Patricia Green Cellar...

Winemaker Patty Green of Patricia Green Cellars in Newburg, Oregon of the Willamette Valley speaking at the 2008 International Pinot Noir Celebration (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Small distances in the Willamette Valley yield wines of distinctly different characteristics. To acknowledge the unique characteristics of the smaller growing hillsides inside the valley, an AVA designation was requested for six areas in the northern valley. This area  “contains 66% of the currently planted acreage of the Willamette Valley. These new AVAs have minimum elevations around 200 feet; some also have a maximum of 1000 feet.”

In the Oregon wine region of Dundee AVA in the...

In the Oregon wine region of Dundee AVA in the Willamette Valley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir (Photo credit: naotakem)

International Pinot Noir Celebration Seminar a...

International Pinot Noir Celebration Seminar at Soter Vineyards in the Willamette Valley, Oregon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let’s explore the 6 sub-regions of the Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Wine Tourism Wonderland.

I have included some of Pinot Noirs that I enjoyed in the Willamette Valley:

Oregon Wine

The entrance to Willamette Valley Vineyards

The entrance to Willamette Valley Vineyards (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Blakeslee Vineyard

Blakeslee Vineyard from the Chehalem Mountains of Oregon

1. CHEHALEM MOUNTAINS were granted AVA status in 2006.
I liked the 2010 Blakesless Pinot Noir and I also liked the owner of Blakeslee Vineyard Estate because he looked so much like my father.
Blakeslee Estate

Blakeslee Estate

Chehalem Mountains Landscape

Chehalem Mountains Landscape (Photo credit: p medved)

The Chehalem Mountains are southwest of Portland in the northern Willamette Valley. The Chehalems are the highest mountains in the Willamette Valley. The highest peak in the Chehalem Mountain Range is Bald Peak, rising to 1,633 feet. The mountains extend 20 miles in length and 5 miles in breadth, stretching from southeast to northwest.

This is the home of many interesting Pinot Noir wines. “Within the almost 70,000 acres of this AVA are over 1600  acres of grapes, grown in over 100 vineyards, and 31 wineries.”  www.chehalemmountains.org

2. DUNDEE HILLS were granted status as an AVA in 2005.

Try the Domaine Drouhin Laurene www.domainedrouhin.com. Maison Joseph Drouhin is a French wine producer based in Burgundy France, founded in 1880. Today both Maison Joseph Drouhin and Domaine Drouhin Oregon are owned and operated by the great grandchildren of Joseph Drouhin.

Oregon Wine

Owned by Burgundy producer. Hand crafted wines by 4th generation winemaker Veronique Drouhin-Boss

Pinot Noir grapes at Domaine Drouhin in the Wi...

Pinot Noir grapes at Domaine Drouhin in the Willamette Valley wine region of the Dundee Hills (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pinot Noir grapes at Archery Summit in the Wil...

Pinot Noir grapes at Archery Summit in the Willamette Valley wine region of Dundee Hills (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first grapes in the Willamette Valley were planted in the Dundee Hills. It remains the most densely planted area in the state. There are more than 1700 acres of grapes planted in approximately 50 vineyards.

Erath Pinot Noir from Dundee Oregon

.erath.com Erath Pinot Noir from Dundee Oregon

Erath is one of Oregon’s pioneering wineries. The tasting room is located in the Dundee Hills with an exceptional Vino con Vista!.www.erath.comThis area is approximately 30 miles southwest of Portland and 40 miles east of the Pacific Ocean.   www.dundeehills.org

In the Oregon Willamette Valley wine region of...

In the Oregon Willamette Valley wine region of the Dundee Hills AVA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3. EOLA-AMITY HILLS were granted AVA status in 2006.

The Oregon Willamette Valley winery, Cristom, ...

The Oregon Willamette Valley winery, Cristom, in the Eola-Amity Hills region. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These hills are close to Salem Oregon adjacent to the Willamette River. The Eola Hills are on the southern end of the 45th parallel and the Amity Hills are on the northern spur. This region is about 40,000 acres with more than 1300 acres of grapes.  www.eolaamityhills.com

A view of the vineyard in the Oregon Willamett...

A view of the vineyard in the Oregon Willamette Valley wine region of Eola-Amity Hills. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chardonnay vines in late October in the Oregon...

Chardonnay vines in late October in the Oregon Willamette Valley wine region of the Eola-Amity Hills (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4. MCMINNVILLE was granted AVA status in 2005 and hosts the annual International Pinot Noir Celebration.

The McMinnville AVA is closer to Salem than Portland. There are nearly 40,500 acres due west of Yamhill County’s seat in McMinnville. The soils are uniquely shallow for winegrowing.  Approximately 600 acres are currently planted here.   www.mcminnvilleava.org

5. RIBBON RIDGE was granted AVA status in 2005.
English: Trisaetum winery in the Ribbon Ridge ...

English: Trisaetum winery in the Ribbon Ridge AVA of Oregon’s Willamette Valley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ribbon Ridge is at the northwest end of the Chehalem Mountains. Ribbon Ridge is contained within the larger Chehalem Mountains AVA. There are approximately 500 acres planted on the ridge, within 20 vineyards.

www.ribbonridge.org

6. YAMHILL-CARLTON DISTRICT was granted status as an AVA in 2005.

Try the Lenne Estate Pinot Noir www.lenneestate.com. Lenne was started in 2000 by Steve and Karen Lutz. They have a 20.9-acre vineyard at 18760 N.E. Laughlin Road in Yamhill. The Karen’s Pommard Pinot Noir is from the vineyard’s Pommard blocks and is named after the owner, Karen.

Lenne Estate in Yamhill Oregon

Lenne Estate in Yamhill Oregon

North of McMinnville and south of Gaston, the foothills of the Coast Range create an AVA of nearly 60,000 acres between Carlton and Yamhill. The Coast Range to the west creates a rain shadow over the entire district with additional protection from the Chehalem Mountains to the north and the Dundee Hills to the east.
Try the 2009 Cape Lookout Pinot Noir from Carlton Cellars at 130 West Monroe Street www.carltoncellars.com
Cape Lookout Wine from Carlton Cellars in Carlton Oregon

Cape Lookout Wine from Carlton Cellars in Carlton Oregon

Anne Amie Vineyard in Carlton Washington

Anne Amie Vineyard in Carlton Washington

 
I also enjoyed the Pinot Noir and the Pinot Noir Blanc at Anne Amie Vineyard in Carlton at 6580 N.E. Mineral Springs Road. The charming labels represent the faces of the estate owners daughters. www.anneamie.com
Prisme Pinor Noir Blanc from Anne and Amie in Yamhill

Prisme Pinor Noir Blanc from Anne and Amie in Yamhill

 

Try the Elk Cove Pinot Noir. The winery was founded in 1974 and winemaker Adam Campbell gets my vote of confidence. I loved the La Boheme and the Elk Cove 2009 Shea Pinot Noir! www.elkcove.com

Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Noir

Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Noir

Elk Cove Vineyards in the Northwest Willamette Valley

Elk Cove Vineyards in the Northwest Willamette Valley

I also loved the David Hill 2009 Estate BlackJack Pinot Noir that was released on August 12, 2012 and the 2008 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir. The David Hill Vineyards and Winery is a designated historical landmark . The farm is 140 acres with Pinot Noir grapes planted on 50% of the 45 acres of vines in Forest Grove Oregon. This estate dates back to 1965 and has the oldest Pinot Noir vines in the Valley. You will love the 1883 farmhouse. www.davidhillwinery.com

David Hill Pinot Noir in Forest Grove Oregon

David Hill Pinot Noir in Forest Grove Oregon

David Hill Pinot Noir in Forest Grove Oregon

David Hill has the oldest Pinot Noir Vines in the WIllamette Valley

David Hill has the oldest Pinot Noir Vines in the WIllamette Valley

Columbia Valley AVA

Columbia Valley AVA

more information visit: www.yamhillcarltondistrict.com

Make plans to attend the North Willamette Harvest Trail on Saturday October 6, 2012. There will be a full-day harvest tour with wine tastings andharvest activiteis at 3 wineries. Attend the Grand Tasting with pairings from dozens of wineries. TIckets are $79 and include a wine country lunch. www.NWVitners.org

There’s also a North Willamette Thanksgiving Celebration. This is an annual weekend Open House.

When you finish touring and tasting in the Willamette Valley, head over to the scenic Columbia Valley AVA.

Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Travel Guides and Apps @ www.vino-con-vista.com

Oregon Wine Grapes

Oregon Wine Grapes (Photo credit: dklimke)

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2 Comments

Filed under Italy Travel Guides, Wine Tasting in Oregon's Willamette Valley

2 responses to “Wine Tasting in Oregon’s Willamette Valley

  1. Very good overview. Next time you visit the Willamette Valley please stop by to experience our grand hill, vineyard, and Inn setting atop the hills with the best views in the valley and some great wines.

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