March is Washington State Wine Month, and before that hits, I wanted to give its neighbor a fighting chance. Oregon wines are comparable and yet very different than Washington wines. Whenever I think of Oregon, I think of Pinot Noir. This is because this grape, with its roots in France, drives the Oregon wine industry. Its economic impact adds $3.3 billion dollars a year, which is up from $2.7 billion in 2010. It has created over 17,000 jobs with the hundreds of wineries and almost 1000 vineyards it has supplied. People need to know the good news about Oregon wines!
Oregon is the country’s fourth largest wine producing state behind California, Washington and New York. Just about the entire state is covered in vineyards, over 20,000 acres; the vast majority of production is in the north Willamette Valley, less than an hour from Portland. Over 40 different varietals can be found here but in this region, Pinot Noir is king! The reason for this is the climate. Pinot Noir thrives in cooler climates such as in Champagne, Burgundy and certain parts of Germany. In California, you’ll only find good Pinot in regions such as Carneros or Russian River Valley… why is that? Cooler climate. You will rarely find it in places like Paso Robles, Lodi, Southern Italy or Spain. Oregon is well-suited for Pinot because of the cool nights and luke warm days. Because the climate is not perfect, the best Pinots are grown by rivers which help to stabilize the weather. Some of the best Pinot Noirs from Oregon that I’ve tasted are as follows:
Stepping Stone 2012 Willamette Valley
“Supple, ripe and expressive, unfurling ripe blueberry, plum and spice flavors on a bed of velvety tannins. Finishes with persistence and elegance” -WS 94 pts.
Maysara Asha McMinnville 2008
“Tight and juicy, yet gentle, with a savory edge to the cherry, mineral and spice flavors, lingering effortlessly against refined tannins.” WS 91 pts
Boedecker Yamhill-Carlton District Shea Vineyards
“Taut, focused, light, lively and inviting, with pepper and clove accents around a vivid core of cherry and raspberry fruit, dancing easily through the long and expressive finish.” WS 94 pts.
These are to name just a few. As you can see, I like to quote the Spectator because they are just more elegant in their descriptions than I can be. These wines and many more can be found in your local ABC Fine Wine & Spirits location so stop by and expand your palate.
George Ryan, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits wine consultant
Follow me on Twitter @abcwineGeorgeR