Beginning in the 1970’s a small group of curious wine producers focused their attention on the unique growing conditions of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Almost immediately, Pinot Noir was deemed appropriate to be planted in the vineyards that make up what has become a very important American Viticultural Area (AVA). Today, a multitude of other European varietals have been installed in the region and careful borders drawn to differentiate the many terroirs of the zone. While it may always be known for the famous red Pinot cultivar, it is clear there are other intriguing varieties to explore in the Willamette.
This August we explore six wines from the Willamette Valley that demonstrate the potential and promise of this Oregon outpost. This is an explorer pack that provides pleasure and intrigue in equal portions.
The wines are in stock and your 6pk awaits at $150 per set.
2020 Elk Cove
Sourced from 5-20 year-old estate vines planted on several different hillside plots, the 2020 Elk Cove Pinot Blanc was just bottled in February of 2021. The hand harvested fruit for this bottling is fermented and aged briefly in stainless steel in an effort to emphasize the bright fruity character of this wine. The 2020 Pinot Blanc offers green apple fruit and distinct stony aromas and flavors.Well balanced and refreshing, it is finished with nominal residual sugar.
Pinot Gris has become the white varietal darling in the Willamette Valley, as the coolness of subzones such as the Chehalem Mountains offer the right combination of moderate sun, warmth and rainfall. These climatic conditions allow for the heady Pinot Gris vine to retain acidity and freshness while also displaying it’s exotic pear and nectarine aromas and flavors. Round and rich, the 2019 Chehalem is also crisp enough to remain refreshing.
2019 Arterberry Maresh
Oregon Chardonnay is overlooked for a variety of reasons though perhaps mostly for the perception that it is neither as tropical and full as it’s California counterparts nor as regal and mineral driven as the finest white Burgundy. Seems a shame, as many Oregon producers, especially Arterberry Maresh, fashion gorgeous, distinct examples which offer a gentleness of fruit, acid, and wood treatment. The 2019 Arterberry Maresh is brilliantly balanced and features layers of white fruits underpinned by medium acidity and judicious oak application.
Rose of Pinot Noir
Adelsheim is rightfully one of the best known producers in the Willamette Valley. The winery’s relatively large-scale Pinot Noir bottling has helped to introduce the category to many casual consumers. The 2020 Rose is composed of 100% Pinot Noir and features aromas and flavors of strawberries and cream. The vintage was marked by a wet spring followed by a warm and mostly dry summer. While wildfires were a concern prior to harvest, growers of Adelsheim’s caliber were careful to test for any evidence of smoke taint and have fortunately produced nicely concentrated wines such as this Rose.
Pinot Noir “Willamette Valley”
The Stoller vineyard is one of the largest contiguous Pinot Noir sites in Oregon. The fruit for the Stoller family’s Willamette Valley bottling is culled from their home vineyard along with other fruit sources throughout the area. The 2019 rendition shows the cooler, blue fruit side of the area, with aromas of incense and autumn leaves. The palate is very berry – blueberry to be precise. Intended for immediate consumption, this outstanding value is outgoing and energetic.
2018 Penner Ash
Pinot Noir “Willamette Valley”
The Penner Ash winery was founded in 1998 by Lynn and Ron Penner Ash in the Yamhill Carlton district of the Willamette Valley. There is a distinctive power to the wines from this producer – with their Pinot Noir’s possessing impressive weight and dimension. The fruit here leans towards dark red and black tones all neatly refined by oak. Neither bombastic nor delicate, the 2018 carries its muscle with grace and style.