American wine doesn’t end with California. Perhaps you’ve heard a lot about the wine regions in the Pacific Northwest lately. These northern wine regions encompass the state of Oregon and Washington. We’ll jump into what makes Washington wine great in a later post, but first let’s talk about what to seek out and sip from Oregon. Specifically we’re talking about their star-grape, Pinot Noir, and it’s white grape relative, Pinot Gris. Fun fact: Oregon is the only wine region where Pinot Gris is the 2nd most planted grape.
The two main wine regions in Oregon are, in the north, the Willamette Valley AVA and more south, the Southern Oregon AVA, each of which have their own sub-AVAs, or smaller regions within them.
The Willamette Valley region is arguably the most famous wine region in Oregon, situated along the Willamette River and in between the Cascades and Coast Range mountains. This region is the coolest and rainiest wine region in the state, and this mix of moody weather and river valley geography are two key “ingredients” in these Willamette wines. Pinot Noir from this area is often described as showcasing tart cranberry flavors, as well as a sought-after earthiness. Meanwhile Willamette Pinot Gris are often described as fresh, aromatic with clean fruit-notes of melon or pear.
The Southern Oregon AVA encompasses two major areas, Rogue Valley and Umpqua Valley. While both of these have differences in soil and microclimates, they are both warmer and drier than the Willamette Valley, and feature different rivers and tributaries running through their more hilly terrain. As a result, some wineries in these regions grow a larger variety of grapes, however, Pinot Noir is still one of the most sought out. While there is a bit of variety, Pinot Noir from Southern Oregon vineyards are often a little more lush or fruit-forward than those from the rainier Willamette vineyards.
Give it a swirl:
Featuring Southern Oregon AVA grapes, this easy-going Pinot Noir is a great representation of the Rogue Valley. A little fragrant and spicy, a little juicy, this wine is seriously drinkable.
This Pinot Noir features a mix of Willamette Valley and Umpqua Valley grapes, for a Pinot that’s the best of both worlds. Flavors of bright cherry and pomegranate make for a fruit forward wine, that is still soft and elegant.
This 100% Pinot Noir Rosé also blends both Willamette and Umpqua Valley grapes. In the glass, this wine is fresh, with bright raspberry (Willamette influence), and cherry aromatics and enough body to match a variety of meal pairings (Umpqua influence).
This wine perfectly showcases the cool climate Willamette Valley, with delicate floral aromatics, and fresh notes of citrus and pear. Drink super cold on a hot day, or anytime you are feeling summertime nostalgia.