Beyond Pinot Noir - Oregon Wines
Updated: Nov 24, 2019
Kicking off the week with some world class Pinot Noir from Oregon was the perfect way to end a Tuesday. Producers from the Willamette Valley Southern Oregon all flocked together in Toronto to celebrate their wines and to showcase what this region can do.
FACT: There are two major wine growing regions in Oregon. The Willamette and Southern Oregon. Each region has its own appellations and can produce very different styles of wine.
Oregon is very known for producing Pinot Noir. Some even argue that they produce the best styles in the world (and while some may disagree, they definitely do rival that of France).
While it may be lesser known, they do produce incredible expressions of Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and even Pinot Blanc. Towards the south, they grow more common varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with the warmer climate. And even Tempranillo?
Pinot Noir is so well suited for this climate because its moderate - not too hot, not too cold, just right. (I am starting to feel like I'm Goldilocks) In Oregon, Pinot Noir screams ripe notes of strawberry, red currant, with notes of cinnamon balanced with crisp acidity. (YUM)
So what wines does that mean for us? I tasted over a hundred wines and have listed my favourites.
Watch out for:
Valley View Tempranillo 2014
All I can say is WOW. As a relative novice to Oregon wine this wine had me completely shocked. Tempranillo is a grape mostly grown in warm climate Rioja and famed for producing full bodied red wines with notes of toast and vanilla. Let's just say I was a skeptic, but was blown away.
This expression of Tempranillo is refined, full of both red and black fruit, and is a much more restrained style. More medium bodied than full, it features high levels of acidity that really balance the wine well.
Oregon Tempranillo is relatively unknown in Ontario, so if you see one, snatch it up!
Check out the Tempranillo!
Willamette Valley Vineyards Whole Cluster Pinot Noir Rosé
If you like Beaujolais, you'll love this whole cluster Pinot.
Bright and bursting with red fruit, notes of blueberries, cocoa, a bit earthy and just a touch of bubblegum. This wine is made by crushing the whole cluster of the grape (as the name would suggest) and it imparts more complex fruit and green flavours.
It's like a new twist on Gamay rosé, light, refreshing and perfect for spring.
Find it here!
Rosé D'Or Brut NV
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
Remember how I said I had my socks knocked off by the Tempranillo? I had them knocked off twice. This sparkling is a a mix of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (the grapes of Champagne!), and is one of the most interesting wines I've had. While they let the wine rest on its lees and had extended bottle aging, they also incorporated use of a Solera system.
(Side Note: Soleras are used in the production of sherry. They are made of barrels and add notes of caramel, toast and spice. They are never fully emptied continuously filled over the years, meaning you can have a percentage of very old vintage wine in your bottle.)
Using the Solera in this sparkling gave notes of cinnamon spice, vanilla and caramel to a crisp, toasty and refreshing bubbly.
If you are a fan of Pinot Noir, I urge you to try all three of these wines. As someone with a passion for pinot, these wines really showcased Oregon in its best light.
La Crema Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
La Crema is a gorgeous, soft wine with notes of black cherry, mint, toast and a touch of earthiness. A more refined style than their Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, and excellent value.
Find it here in Ontario!
Phelps Creek Vineyards Cuvée Alexandrine 2014
Cuvée Alexandrine is about as close to a Burgundy Pinot Noir as you'll get from Oregon. This Pinot showcases gorgeous strawberry and red currant flavours, mocha, dark chocolate with just a touch of steminess and delicate vanilla.
If that tasting note wasn't mouthwatering enough, it wouldn't hurt to know that the winemaker from Gevrey Chambertin crafted this wine alongside Phelps Creek. It's only fair they named this after her.
A real gem with the essence of Burgundy, and thankfully a fraction of the cost.
Citation Oregon Pinot Noir 2005
Citation Pinot Noir 2005 was a complete treat. This wine alone showcases Oregon as a leading region in the production of this grape, with huge aging potential.
One of the most incredible Pinot Noirs I have ever had, it had lovely aromas of strawberry jam, raisins, a touch of herbaceousness. The kicker was the notes of vanilla, leather and forest floor on the palate.
The complexity of this wine rivals a lot of Burgundian wines, and is a masterclass wine without a doubt.
The wine industry in Oregon is growing rapidly. In the last year over 300 new wineries were opened. As a New World region, they have definitely mastered many techniques of world class wine making, while making a wine style they can truly call theirs. I can't wait until next year!
If you were to try any of these wines, which ones would you like to try?