Rich Cushman grew up in Hood River, Oregon, trained at University of California-Davis and Germany, then spent two decades making wine in the Willamette Valley prior to returning home and elevating the Columbia Gorge wine industry. (Richard Duval Images)

Rich Cushman grew up in Hood River, Oregon, trained at University of California-Davis and Germany, then spent two decades making wine in the Willamette Valley prior to returning home and elevating the Columbia Gorge wine industry. (Richard Duval Images)

Northwest Wine: Pinot noir an ideal wine for Thanksgiving

The state of Oregon has become world-famous for its work with the red grape.

Of the myriad red wines available to Pacific Northwest consumers, pinot noir is perhaps the best choice to pour with that Thanksgiving feast, as well as Christmas, if the holiday table features roasted turkey or other bird.

Why is this? The noble grape of France’s Burgundy region tends to provide fruit flavors that are more gentle and tannins that are more demure than varieties such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah and malbec, which carry attributes that tend to be more harmonious with roasted meats. Pinot noir has a structure that is based more on food-friendly acidity than tannin, and its fruit flavors tend to be more delicate and elegant than many reds.

Fortunately for Northwest wine lovers, we have plenty of pinot noir choices, whether you choose wines from the Willamette Valley, Southern Oregon, the Columbia Gorge or Washington’s Lake Chelan. Here are several examples we’ve tasted recently. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.

Le Cadeau Vineyard 2016 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $35: Winemakers Jim Sanders and Steve Ryan collaborate on these five blocks on the Mortimers’ Le Cadeau Vineyard estate with kaleidoscopic views in the southern Chehalem Mountains. The yields are blended into a youthful and cheerful expression of pinot noir that focuses on fruit. Its enjoyably complex structure moves from raspberry syrup and strawberry jam to cherry-skin tannins.

Zena Crown Vineyard 2015 The Sum Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills $75: When Jackson Family Wines acquired one of the North Willamette Valley’s gems in 2013, it signaled the California giant’s first land purchase beyond the Golden State. It’s no coincidence that trailblazing winemaker Lynn Penner-Ash pulled from Zena Crown for some of her top pinot noirs. (Jackson Family Wines bought Penner-Ash Wine Cellars in 2016). The Sum is one of four examples of pinot noir that JFW winemaker Shane Moore produces in McMinnville under the Zena Crown brand. Baking spice from the 18 months in 59 percent new barrels melds with cherries and a bit of raspberry in the aromas. Dark cherry and a bit of pomegranate lead its flavors. It finishes with sport-on acidity that extends its depth of fruit.

King Estate Winery 2016 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley $29: This past summer, the King family promoted head winemaker Brent Stone into the newly created role of chief operating officer at their Eugene-area winery, and his team shows a deft touch with one of the Pacific Northwest’s largest bottlings of pinot noir. Smoky aromas of cherry and cranberry swirl together with white pepper and rhubarb. The nose is only a preview to the concentrated flavors and balanced elements of this delightful pinot. There is a wonderful balance of tart flavor with bright acid, and then a velvety mouthfeel.

Brandborg Vineyard & Winery 2014 Westbrook Vineyard Pinot Noir, Umpqua Valley, $30: One of Oregon’s unsung stars with pinot noir is Terry Brandborg, who is tucked away in the quaint community of Elkton. This is a wine with a nose of cherries, mint and spice, then flavors of cherry, raspberry, plum and spice. It finishes with crisp acidity and smooth tannins.

Stave & Stone Wine Estates 2016 Estate Artúr Legacy Pinot Noir, Columbia Gorge, $62: Stave & Stone Wine Estates proved its mettle with pinot noir by drawing from the Apple House Block on its fascinating Broken Boulder Vineyard for the Artúr Legacy. Columbia Gorge product Rich Cushman, one of the Northwest’s most underrated winemakers, shows off cherry and raspberry aromas and flavors, leading to a smooth finish with elegant tannins and river rock minerality.

Panther Creek Cellars 2015 Schindler Vineyard Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, $50: A number of Washington red wine producers have opened tasting rooms in the Oregon’s Willamette Valley. This year, one of Oregon’s iconic pinot noir brands created a presence in Woodinville. A 20-acre planting at 300 feet elevation west of Salem that’s nicely into its second decade of life. The expressive nose of boysenberry, cola, coffee and sage leads into enjoyable blue fruit flavors reminiscent of marionberry and blueberry.

Christopher Bridge Cellars 2015 Satori Springs Estate Vineyard Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $55: The Carlberg family has transformed its multi-generational Westwind Farm south of Oregon City into 20-year-old Satori Springs Vineyard, and educator-turned-winemaker Chris Carlberg uses 100 percent free-run juice for this crowd-pleasing pinot noir from the warmest vintage on record. There’s little sign of oak influence, allowing for a young and vibrant array of plum, pomegranate, blueberry and ground pepper aromas. Bing cherry pie crust and cranberry sauce arrive on the palate, along with orange oil and clove, making for a lengthy finish.

Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman operate Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning media company. Learn more about wine at

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