Oregon’s Willamette Valley a must visit for Pinot Noir fans

  • By <I>Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman</I>
  • Tuesday, August 7, 2012 4:17pm
  • LifeHops and Sips

One of the most enjoyable wine regions in the Pacific Northwest to visit is Oregon’s northern Willamette Valley.

While liking pinot noir will help here in the heart of Oregon wine country, it isn’t required. Plenty of wineries not only make such white wines as pinot gris, pinot blanc and riesling, but some also bring in warm-climate grapes from southern Oregon, including syrah, cabernet sauvignon and merlot.

The northern Willamette Valley is less than an hour’s drive from downtown Portland, and it combines tranquil vineyards and tree-lined countryside with enjoyable small towns. It is a fantastic touring experience, thanks to more than 100 wineries and at least 15 B&Bs.

Use the towns of Carlton, Dundee, McMinnville or Newberg as the base for your visit. Carlton in particular has emerged as the wine capital of Oregon. The small town is home to more than two dozen wineries and tasting rooms, including venerable Ken Wright Cellars. The influx of wineries has drawn a number of restaurants and other tourism-related businesses.

The northern Willamette Valley can be broken into six distinct regions, all of which have been approved American Viticultural Areas for a half-decade.

They include the Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, Chehalem Mountains, Yamhill-Carlton, McMinnville and Ribbon Ridge. The latter, at 3,350 acres in size, is the smallest appellation in the Pacific Northwest. All the AVAs are within a few miles of each other, but you can easily spend a day in each.

While planning your visit to the northern Willamette Valley, here are a few examples of great wines from the region.

Amity Vineyards 2009 Crannell Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $35: Here is a fruit-forward Pinot Noir that opens with whiffs of dark strawberry, boysenberry, black cherry and smoky milk chocolate. A sip makes for a smooth drink of black cherry that evolves into cherry pie flavors with lingering lip-smacking blueberry acidity and a late showing of blueberry skin tannin. Enjoy with a pork loin prepared with LaBarge Gourmet Spice’s Rib Rub.

Carlton Hill Wine Co. 2009 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton District, $50: This wine opens with aromas of black currant candy, elderberries, blueberries and vanilla. On the palate, it reveals flavors of currants, black cherries, blackberries and chocolate orange sticks.

Luminous Hills 2010 Estate Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton District, $28: This remarkable Pinot Noir opens with aromas of saddle leather, a whisper of smoke, mint, mocha, tobacco leaves and dried blackberries, followed by flavors of black olives, dark chocolate, black raspberries, elderberries and a nice cigar. It’s a mouth-filling wine backed with bright acidity and moderate tannins.

Raptor Ridge Winery 2011 Pinot Gris, Oregon, $18: This remarkable wine hints at Squirt soda and Granny Smith apple with just a whiff of toasted wheat bread. On the palate, it’s loaded with apricot, apple, mouthwatering lemon and gooseberry. Enjoy with a plate of oysters.

Redman Wines 2010 Redman Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir, Ribbon Ridge, $35: Inviting aromas of strawberry-rhubarb jam, raspberry, cherry and milk chocolate are realized inside. Supporting flavors of fresh fig and cranberry tie the structure together in a pleasing fashion.

Seven of Hearts 2010 Coupe’s Cuvée Pinot Noir Dessert Wine, Willamette Valley, $21: This fortified dessert wine leads with aromas of raspberry fruit leather, woodruff, fresh mint and cigar leaf. Flavors turn slightly toward strawberry fruit leather, backed by Red Hots candy. It offers pleasing sweetness at 6 percent residual sugar, which is balanced by good acidity.

Stoller Vineyards 2009 SV Estate Chardonnay, Dundee Hills, $28: This speaks of Chardonnay right off the bat with aromas of butterscotch and brioche intertwined with Asian pear, lemon and honeycomb. On the palate, it plays both ends of the spectrum nicely with flavors of pineapple and Granny Smith apple leading into zingy lemony acidity and grapefruit peel on the midpalate. Hints of hominy, butterscotch and lime hang in the finish.

Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman are the editors of Wine Press Northwest magazine. For more information, go to www.winepressnw.com.

More in Life

Bob Jepperson’s Wild Love Story

A perfect circle of sounds, pictures and storytelling from the Anacortes author.

‘Shape of Water,’ ‘Big Little Lies’ lead Golden Globe nominations

“The Post” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” also collected a number of nominations.

Mukilteo Police Chief Cheol Kang is known for his people skills

The city’s top cop’s calm demeanor and holistic approach earns him the nickname “Yoda.”

Three posh places to escape this winter in north Puget Sound

Whether it’s wine country, backcountry or the seashore, a relaxing retreat is close at hand.

Getting a glimpse of what’s coming as we age

Everett Public Library reading to help you understand the changes ahead in your elder years.

This author is throwing a virtual party for book lovers

Jennifer Bardsley is hosting a Facebook get-together for young-adult book authors and readers.

Leanne Smiciklas, the friendly lady who served customers of her husband’s Old School Barbeque from a schoolbus parked in front of the Reptile Zoo east of Monroe, has died at 64. (Dan Bates / Herald file)
Without her, beloved BBQ hotspot in Monroe can’t go on

Leanne Smiciklas, who ran the now-closed Old School BBQ along Highway 2 with her husband, died.

Taylor Johnston waters a philodendron at her home on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Three guidebooks to help the novice houseplant gardener

Indoor plants are popular again — and we’re not talking about your grandma’s African violets.

Bustling Dublin offers big-city sights and Irish charm

The dynamic city has a great story to tell, and people who excel at telling it.

Most Read