Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

If you’re unfamiliar with Oregon Pinot Noirs, it can be tempting to approach them with California in mind—and in fact, there are similarities. Both California and Oregon are younger Pinot-producing regions where innovative winemakers have found their stride, and both states now produce not only some of the best examples of Pinot Noir, but the most affordable, as well.

However, it would be a mistake to expect the same kinds of juicy and fruit-centric Pinots that have drawn so many drinkers to California’s examples. Oregon Pinot Noirs, in fact, tend towards the more Burgundian style in that they tend to be a little more austere, a little more serious, and have the kind of earthy quality that the French love. Oregon Pinot Noirs also tend to be more delicate and lighter in body with fruit notes that are reminiscent of dried strawberries and blueberries rather than the raspberries and dark cherry flavors of California.

Most of the Pinot Noir from Oregon comes from the Willamette Valley AVA. There are six smaller AVA’s within this larger area, and each is known for its distinct characteristics and effect on the wine grown and produced there. Below is an overview of the wines we tried on Vine Talk, along with some suggestions re: Pinot Noir from other regions we think you’ll enjoy.

VT Tasted: A to Z Pinot Noir 2008
Try: An everyday Pinot Noir that lends itself especially well to accompanying a meal. Try a Pinot Noir from California’s Central Coast— you’ll find big fruit that goes down easy.

VT Tasted: Domain Drouhin Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2008
Try: A classic Burgundy Pinot Noir that’s made for sipping all on its own with a silky texture, exotic spice on the nose, and a pronounced earthiness.

VT Tasted: Boedecker “Stewart” Pinot Noir 2008
Try: This Pinot Noir is steeped in ripe dark fruits with an emphasis on oak. If you are looking for a wine with similar characteristics, try a Pinot Noir from Napa Valley.

VT Tasted: Scott Paul Audrey Pinot Noir 2008
Try: This example of Oregon Pinot Noir comes from the prized smaller AVA of Dundee Hills that lies within the Willamette Valley. Pick up another bottle from the Dundee Hills AVA if you’re looking for a long, smooth finish and notes of strawberries and earth.

VT Tasted: Benton Lane Estate Pinot Noir 2008
Try: A Chilean Pinot Noir—simple and straightforward, this example of Pinot Noir has a focus on fruit and an intense floral nose.

VT Tasted: Adelsheim Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2008
Try: A Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara. These are among the most elegant examples of Pinot Noirs produced in California. Santa Barbara Pinot Noir tends to stand apart for being less fruit-forward and more subtle with a lingering finish and balancing spice.

Photo of the Pinot Noir grape courtesy of the Oregon Wine Board.