This week we turn our attention to celebrating some of our favorite Oregon wines, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area) in northwestern Oregon. Stretching approximately 150 miles from Portland to Eugene, the Willamette Valley is often compared to Burgundy and, in fact, has a climate almost identical to that of Beaune, France. It is here that Oregon winemakers produce some of the world’s best Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, as well as Chardonnay and other varietals.
The Willamette Valley is Oregon’s largest wine producing region and consists of six sub-appellations: Chehalem Mountains, Ribbon Ridge, Yamhill-Carlton District, Dundee Hills, McMinnville and Eola-Amity Hills. Even though the Willamette Valley lies at the relatively cold latitude of 45 degrees north, unique geographical features help to create stressful, yet some would say ideal, growing conditions, especially for Pinot Noir. With the Cascade Range directly to the east and the Coast Range to the west, the valley is sheltered from the rain and cold coming in from the Pacific Ocean which lies about 50 miles away. The natural barrier that the ranges form, plus careful planting slightly above the frost-prone valley floor, combine to create a climate that allows the grapes to ripen slowly, often creating wines of great character and balance.
The other distinguishing feature about the Willamette Valley is the unique soil composition that can be found there. The soil structure owes its origins to ancient volcanic activity and more recent post ice age flooding that left alluvial soil, known as Willamette Silt, throughout the valley. Additionally, much of the area is covered with a well-drained volcanic and nutrient-poor soil known as Jory. The unique combination of climate and soil challenges the grapes to produce, and the results can sometimes be remarkable.
One of our favorite Oregon wineries is the King Estate Winery, located in Eugene, Oregon. The certified organic winery is famous for its Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, and is the United States largest producer of Pinot Gris. We tasted two of King Estate’s second label offerings, Acrobat Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir and our tasting notes follow.
Acrobat Pinot Gris Oregon 2009
Appearance: pale straw color
Aroma: lemon-lime citrus in the nose
Flavors: citrus peel carries through, with tangerine, green apple notes and a hint of slate
Finishing Notes: well balanced acidity makes this pinot gris crisp and refreshing
Acrobat Pinot Noir Oregon 2009
Appearance: slightly cloudy garnet
Aroma: baked cherry pie with a hint of earthiness
Flavors: turns to a tart cherry on the palate
Finishing Notes: well balanced with straightforward fruit flavors makes this a nice first glass or great food accompaniment
– Pinot Gris: great with Asian preparations, oysters, clams and mussels, tuna tartar, ceviche and salmon, also a nice picnic partner on a warm summer day
– Pinot Noir: great with Asian preparations, tuna and swordfish, vegetable and earthier flavors such as squash, fennel, mushrooms and cooked greens, and Atlantic salmon
Grilled Alaskan salmon with a soy, ginger and sake basting glaze containing garlic, black pepper and a touch of butter
WINE:30 is written by Karl Bradley and Jody Wuollett. Karl and Jody are both long time residents of Door County and are employed at the Mission Grille in Sister Bay. They have both been awarded the first level of certification from the Court of the Master Sommeliers.
Weekly Wine Trivia
Name the three AVA’s that are shared by Washington State and Oregon.
Email your answer to Karl & Jody at [email protected]. The first correct answer in their inbox will receive a complimentary bottle of wine from them. Cheers!
Last week’s question: Which area of New Zealand is the largest producer of Red wine?
Answer: The Hawkes Bay region produces the most red wine, primarily Merlot.