Exploring the Wines of Oregon's Beautiful Willamette Valley

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  • By Chris Costales
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Exploring the Wines of Oregon's Beautiful Willamette Valley

Come join us for a tasting tour of the Willamette Valley in Oregon on Friday October 12th at 7:30 at The Wine Country!

Although you may immediately think of Pinot Noir as soon as you hear the name Oregon, the region has a variety of grapes planted, with around 72 currently according to the Oregon Wine Board and climbing. At the tasting we will focus on Pinot Noir, but a few Chardonnay wines and a Pinot Gris will be featured to represent the regions diversity. The Willamette Valley is rich with interesting soils, pioneering winemakers and climatic differences that provide a true sense of place or terroir in its wines.

The Willamette Valley is Oregon’s largest, most well-known and oldest AVA, as it was established in 1984, but wine grape growing goes back to the 1960s. It is world famous for its quality and produces around 80% of all Oregon Pinot Noir. Its unique qualities include being west of the Cascade Mountain Range which is the opposite of its northern neighbors in Washington. Over there the majority of the vineyards are east of the range to protect from excessive rainfall and wet conditions, but the Willamette Valley embraces the colder weather even if it does make grape growing a little more difficult.

 

There are many qualities of the Oregon wine country that allows it to thrive and produce amazing wines. Due to its northern latitude the area receives more sunlight hours which allows the grapes to ripen during the growing season, that is when it’s not raining of course. The Eola-Amity Hills AVA is one sub region of the Willamette with a unique character. Here in the southern part of the Willamette the soils are largely volcanic basalt, shallow and rocky and providing a type of salt and grit minerality background texture that distinguishes it from other wines made throughout Oregon. It is also here that cool fast-moving winds rush through breaks in the western mountain range. This cooling effect is called the Van Duzer Corridor and it helps to retain high amounts of natural acidity in the grapes while also imparting a darker hue to the wines due to grape skins thickening to combat against the increased wind pressure.

Oregon’s commitment to quality shows in its labeling regulations as they have higher standards regarding grape origin and varietal percentages than other wine regions.  If labeling Oregon on a wine, 100% of the grapes must be from the state and if labeling a single AVA such as Willamette or Yamhill-Carlton, 95% of the grapes must be from the AVA named.  The three shared AVA’s between Oregon and Washington are exempt from this rule.  

 

In addition to this, Oregon’s most popular varieties such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc must be at 90% of the stated grape. For consumers this ensures the specific region they love with its unique terroir is captured as well as the purity of the grape and its varietal character.

 

It’s going to be a lot of fun for me to taste through some Oregon wine and find some unique examples to showcase at the tasting. Call and make reservations if you haven’t already to find what this great wine region has to offer!

 

DOMAINE DROUHIN ROSEROCK 2015 CHARDONNAY

EOLA-AMITY HILLS, OREGON

I got to spend a few days up in this gorgeous vineyard area this summer and was blown away by the quality coming out of the valley. I was expecially excited to meet Veronique Drouhin, winemaker of Domaine Drouhin, as their wines have always impressed. I was just in time to sample the new Rose Rock wines. Wow! Domaine Drouhin does it again: Their inaugural releases of both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay of the recently acquired Rose Rock Vineyard are incredible values, and easily made my top picks for 2016. This Chardonnay is also perfect because of its purity of fruit: perfectly ripe yellow apple, fresh meyer lemon, and a hint of Bartlett pear combine with fresh cream, cinnamon, and the slightest touch of jasmine. This Chard is silky on the palate, with juicy acidity and a long, savory finish. Expertly crafted and ‘goldie locks’ in style, this is the perfect dinner party Chardonnay for the holiday season.

$34.99 per bottle

 

NORTH VALLEY 2016 CHARDONNAY, WILLAMETTE VALLEY

This delicious Chardonnay has a little bit of everything for everyone. Sourced from high quality vineyards across the Willamette Valley, primarily from the Eola-Amity Hills, this wine is both bright and lively while still maintaining a depth and richness. On the palate green and golden apple alongside pear and lemon peel provide an electric mouthfeel. Complexity is gained through French oak barrel fermentation and eight months aging on the lees. Partial malolactic fermentation provides a creamy texture that pairs wonderfully with its racy acidity. 15% new oak will impart subtle background spice notes that coaxes another sip.

$30.99 per bottle

 

GRAN MORAINE 2015 PINOT NOIR, YAMHILL CARLTON, OREGON

 The 2015 vintage brought a warmer than usual summer followed by one of the coolest Septembers on record in Yamhill-Carlton. The result of all this should show in your glass as mature ripe fruit combined with ample fresh acidity. The sourced vineyards here contain some of the oldest marine sedimentary based soils of the Willamette Valley.  Cellaring includes 10 months in French oak barrel with 41% new oak. This Pinot packs plenty of elegant black cherry and black raspberry flavor along with a pleasant cocoa powder mouthfeel.

$49.99 per bottle

 

NICOLAS JAY 2015 PINOT NOIR, WILLAMETTE VALLEY, OREGON

 Nicolas-Jay is a partnership between decades-old friends Jean-Nicolas Meo of the famed Burgundy estate Meo Camuzet and Oregon visionary Jay Boberg. Sourced from the best ‘Grand Cru’ vineyards in the valley, this Pinot is the pinnacle of elegance: pitch perfect acidity combined with the most ethereal notes of cherry blossom, ripe pomegranate, red raspberry, greengage, and dried shitake mushroom. The finish lasts and lasts, and the layers continue to evolve as the glass sits. This is Oregon fruit with a Burgundy soul. Worth every penny!

$64.99 per bottle

 

LEMELSON 2015 PINOT NOIR "THEA'S SELECTION", WILLAMETTE VALLEY

Eric Lemelson has always made some of my favorite Oregon Pinot at such a great price, and the new 2015 Thea’s is no exception. He really hits the mark this vintage with a lovely, medium bodied and friendly wine showing all the right raspberry, soft plum, black cherry, violet, and fresh earthy truffle notes that I love in a good Willamette Pinot. A subtle spice note complements the full package, and all I can think is wild mushroom risotto with almost any protein as a perfect match!

$32.99 per bottle

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