Tucked between California and Washington State, Oregon produces the best pinot noir wines in the U.S.A.
Although a relative newcomer to winemaking, this unique state has been able to vint pinot noir to rival the mythical red wines of Burgundy.
It all started with David Lett, who while studying viticulture at University of California at Davis, asked one his professors where he could grow fine pinot noir grapes in Orgeon. The answer was nowhere. Undeterred, Mr. Lett set out to find the most suitable location and hit upon the Willamette valley. His pinot noir wines gained notoriety when one of his bottles won an unexpected award in Burgundy competing with local wines. When Joseph Drouhin, a famous winemaker and owner of the eponymous shipping company decided to buy land in Oregon, the fame spread throughout the world.
Today, Oregon has 5000 hectares under vines, of which 4000 are productive with a n average yield of five tones of fruit per hectare. Considering that California averages double that, you can imagine the flavour concentration of Oregon wines regardless of relatively low ripening temperatures. Of the total acreage pinot noir has the largest share, followed by pinot gris, and lately also chardonnay, riesling and gewürztraminer.
Oregon’s cool climate is most suitable for cool climate grapes such as riesling, chardonnay, pinot blanc, and pinot noir, although of late just above the California border zinfandel has been successful. Some growers planted cabernet sauvignon, merlot and even syrah on an experimental basis and report satisfactory results.
Oregon has six Ava’s (American Viticultural Area) – Columbia, Willamette Valley, Walla Walla, Umpqua, Rogue, and Appelgate.
Orgeon wines reflect the essence of terroir and the people who craft them. The terroir, and the contour of the land are most suitable and warm dry summers and mild winters help produce suitable fruit to make fine wines. Diurnal temperature changes allow grapes to acquire sufficient acidity to yield lively wines.
This state designed the strictest wine label requirements in 1977. Varietal wines must contain a minimum of 90 percent of the variety stated on the label, whereas everywhere else in the U.S.A the laws prescribes 75 and sometimes 85. Oregon wines display individualistic characters of not only the terroir but also the orientation of the winemakers.
The wineries are generous in their tasting rooms, welcoming visitors, and showing their products by enthusiastic and knowledgeable employees. Most do not charge for tasting but some do. Small wineries request reservations for tours.
Travelling in the Willamette Valley from winery to the next is a pleasure amongst