The Willamette Valley is a wine region in Oregon stretching from Portland in the north to Eugene in the south. The region is 60 miles at its widest point, and it is protected from ocean weather to the west by the Coast Range and protected on the east by the Cascade Range. The valley follows the Willamette River. Its climate is cool and misty. The growing season is long and gentle with warm summers and cool evenings.
Indian summer stretches into fall. The winters are mild, and the springs are long. All of this adds up to a climate that is often compared to Burgundy and Alsace. In keeping with that comparison, the grapes that are grown in Willamette are close in alignment with those French regions including Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay.
Two-thirds of the state of Oregon’s wineries and vineyards, over 500, are in the Willamette Valley. The region is divided up into 7 American Viticulture Areas (AVAs) are as follows: Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, Yamhill-Carlton, Ribbon Ridge, McMinnville, Eola-Amity Hills and the newest AVA as of January 2019 - Van Duzer Corridor. For perspective, the amount of wine produced in Willamette represents about 1% of the amount of wine produced in the state California.
Willamette Valley is one of the premier Pinot Noir producing areas in the world. The grape thrives in cooler climates. It is often said that Pinot Noir is the most expressive grape when it comes to a sense of terroir (place, soil, climate, etc.) Pinot Noirs from Willamette Valley are said to have an old-world structure with new world fruit. The wines have high acidity with flavors of cranberries and earth and are considered nuanced and subtle.
This Saturday afternoon, November 23rd, 2019, City Vino will be featuring 3 wines from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Two wines will be of the region’s most noteworthy grape, Pinot Noir, and the other is an intriguing blend of wine grapes that may surprise you a bit.
The first wine made from Pinot Noir and is the Annie Amie Winemaker's Select Pinot Noir 2017. The wine is made from 100% from the Anne Amie Estate and the Twelve Oaks Estate. The wine was aged on its lees for 10 months in French oak barrels of which 21.7% were new, 19.3% 1-year old, and 59% neutral oak. (Neutral oak are barrels used so many times before that wine aged in the barrel picks up little to no oak flavors.) The wine has 13.6% alcohol and has aromas of red cherry, strawberry, sassafras, cardamom and fig. On the palate, the wine has a long finish with smooth tannins and balanced acidity and features flavors of red cherries, clove, baking spices, fig, cassis and cola. Suggested pairings for this wine include rotisseries chicken, oven roasted vegetables, duck confit (try this with a traditional cassoulet – you won’t be disappointed), lamb, venison, mushroom risotto, and bouillabaisse.
The second featured wine from the Willamette Valley is the Les Brebis Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2017. The winery is a small family-owned winery. The 100% Pinot Noir grapes for this wine were sourced sustainably farmed without irrigation from vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills and South Salem Hills. The wine was fermented in small lots using native yeasts meaning that fermentation occurs due to yeast living on the skins of the grapes and in the air in the winery rather than from the addition of commercial yeast. The wine was aged in neutral French oaks barrels and then bottled without filtering and fining. This wine is approachable and refreshing on the palate wit notes of fresh cherries and strawberries, plums and a hint of earthiness. The tannins are soft and fine with balanced acidity. This wine would pair well with grilled chicken, smoked salmon, seared duck breast, aged cheeses and charcuterie.
The white wine for our tasting will be the Montimore Estate Borealis William Valley. This wine is a non-vintage meaning that wine from more than one year were combined to make this wine. The wine is a blend of 35% Müller-Thurgau (crossing of Riesling with Madeline Royale), 29% Gewürztraminer, 24% Riesling, and 12% Pinot Gris and was fermented and aged in stainless steel. This wine is off-dry with aromas of orange blossom, ripe honeydew, guava and kiwi. On the palate, the wine has vivacious fruit flavors of stone fruit like peaches and nectarines along with Meyer lemon, ripe pear and a drizzle of caramel. Pairings for this wine would include spicy cuisine like some Thai or Chinese dishes, pork, poultry, salmon, spicy tuna rolls, or cheese.