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The elegance of Oregon Pinot Noir
Oregon’s Willamette Valley is on the edge of viticultural viability – and that’s where Pinot Noir seems to be most comfortable.
Every vintage, intrepid grape growers and winemakers do everything in their power to bring Oregon Pinot Noir to its optimal ripeness before autumn rains come along. In the case of the crazy 2013 vintage, they were working in between massive rainstorms.
How do they do it? Low yields, impossibly complex use of various clones of Pinot Noir, different rootstocks, experimenting with elevations and different hillsides and, of course, soil types. Once those grapes are in the winery, the use of different yeasts and barrel programs help winemakers guide their wines to the ultimate goal: elegance.
And that’s what Oregon Pinot Noir is all about. Elegance begets complexity, and bottle age can result in something amazing.
The Willamette Valley is a massive American Viticultural Area, stretching from the Columbia River in the north past Eugene in the south. Arguably, the most interesting area of the Willamette Valley is to the north, where six additional AVAs have been carved out in the past decade. Regions such as the Dundee Hills, Chehalem Mountains, Ribbon Ridge, Eola-Amity Hills, McMinnville and Yamhill-Carlton are just a few miles apart from each other, yet each brings its own style of Pinot Noir that, amazingly, is evident across producers.
Let’s take a look at a dozen Oregon Pinot Noirs we’ve tasted in recent weeks.