The state of Oregon has established a great reputation among wine lovers and is one of the most promising regions. Although the production levels are not extraordinarily high compared to other regions as California, Oregon is home to distinct interpretations of Pinot Noir and often set side by side to Burgundy region.
Oregon has seven growing areas and 18 AVAs, among where we can find the Willamette Valley, the leading region. It is home to more than 500 wineries and has two-thirds of the state’s vineyards. This area was established in the early 80’s, though its characteristic Pinot Noir grape was first planted in 1965. Nowadays, it is responsible for 72% of the state’s wine production and 81% of Pinot Noir production.
The Willamette Valley is located on the eastern side of the Coast Range, 50 miles from the Pacific Ocean and protected by the Cascade Range mountains to the west. These hillsides are composed of a mix of volcanic, loess and sedimentary soils: that’s why the grapes grown on the valley’s vineyards have a particular style.
This cool humid region has a mild year-round climate, with warm dry summers and cool wet winters. Rainfall occurs in the late autumn and early spring, coinciding with the coldest temperatures. The mountains located both in the west and the east side of the valley act as a buffer to the low temperatures, but it still experiences some of the wettest climates of any wine region.
As mentioned before, Pinot Noir is the biggest variety in the Willamette Valley – 15,643 planted acres in the area. Wines tend to have black cherry and a pepper aroma, with nuances of earth. However, they can drastically change from one sub-region to other – from forest floor and truffles in Dundee Hills to spice and floral notes in Yamhill-Carlton. Although this is the leading variety in the valley, it is not the only one. Producers are also attracted by Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Riesling, among 70 other varietals.