The Willamette Valley is the heart and soul of Oregon’s agriculture country. Tucked into its lush, rolling hills are over 200 wineries which produce some of the best Pinot noir, Pinot Gris and Riesling in the country.Over the last 10 years, the Willamette Valley has developed a world-wide reputation as a premier Pinot Noir wine growing region.
Each vintner has their story, and we learned some have cleared walnut farms, pig farms to plant their vines. Pioneer wineries have been harvesting grapes and cultivating their vineyards for decades, while others have recently purchased their land in the last 5 years and are selling their wine from their garage or barns. From small boutique wineries with some producing a few hundred or up to a few thousand cases per year, to larger producers of up to 40,000+ cases per year, the Willamette wineries are primarily known for their Pinot Noirs but offer a range of other noteworthy wines.
But first, it’s important to know the answer to What makes Oregon Pinots so wonderful?
It’s not an easy wine to create. Its finiky, it craves well drained soil, they like hillsides, not too low on the hillside that frost sets in and not to high that cool temperatures linger and hinder the ripening fruit. It calls for patience. The soil in this area of the valley has minerals and fossils in it from Canada and Montana. Several million years ago there was lava flow and then glacier activity that deposited soil and carved the valley, creating the most fertile soil for pinot noir grapes in the area. It’s also quite picturesque some mornings when you see the fog lifting and revealing the vines.
The wine world has taken notice of the very high quality of the Pinot that is produced here, but there is more to this place than wine. The beauty and charm of the countryside and its many quaint historical towns are equally delightful.
Get off the beaten path…Why not take in the wineries by horseback? http://www.equestrianwinetours.com
This will be an experience of a lifetime in Carlton OR. Why not take in Mother Nature between wineries. Stroll along the vineyards and rolling hills and watch the fog rise or the sunset between wine tastings. You don’t need to be an expert equestrian, just a love of horses and an adventuress spirit.
For a map of Willamette Wineries, visit www.WillametteWines.com
Here are some wineries we visited during the recent harvest. Please see notes about some of these wineries from their website below:
Adelsheim, www.Adelsheim.com Rare Pinots – Amazing Space – Insightful Staff
From their site: Established in 1971, our family-owned and operated winery and estate vineyards are located in Oregon’s northern Willamette Valley. Company co-founder, David Adelsheim leads a current generation of passionate staff devoted to producing and selling wines of ever-higher quality with each growing season. We use sustainable farming practices and take great care to bring out the best in each of our unique vineyard sites. In the winery, we combine traditional and modern techniques, crafting wines in a style that centers on elegance, complexity, and richness in flavor and texture.
Carlton Cellars, www.carltoncellars.com
Home of Roads End Oregon Pinot Noir, their new Estate Pinot Noir Cape Lookout, and the Willamette Valley Blend: Seven Devils.
Beaux Frères, www.beauxfreres.com
In 1987 Michael Etzel and his brother-in-law, Robert Parker, purchased a run-down pig farm on Ribbon Ridge and established Beaux Freres. Since the first vintage, the philosophy remains the same- to produce world class Pinot Noir that captures the essence of the vineyard.
Patricia Green Cellars, www.patriciagreencellars.com
A small Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc winery. One of the owners will show you through their wines and cellar. They try to make it a great time with very good wines. Please give them advance notice so they can schedule an appointment with you.
Now open to the public. In the heart of Ribbon Ridge, visit the tasting room and the contemporary art gallery while you taste their celebrated Pinot Noir and Riesling. Also you can try their limited edition Artist Series wines available only at the winery.
Penner-Ash Wine Cellars, www.pennerash.com
Worth a visit to see the views! Penner-Ash Wine Cellars embodies the spirit and commitment of small producers focusing on Pinot Noir in the Northern Willamette Valley. A sustainiable, gravity-flow winery sited within our estate vineyard welcomes visitors to embrace our unique sense of place.
Lemelson Vineyards, www.lemelsonvineyards.com
Lemelson Vineyards produces complex, elegant Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling from their seven certified organic estate vineyards. Their commitment to sustainable agriculture and quality at every stage assures that their wines speak clearly of their origins.
Ponzi Vineyards, www.ponziwines.com
In its fourth decade, Ponzi Vineyards continues to thrive under the 2nd generation. Burgundian-trained winemaker Luisa Ponzi crafts limited production world-renowned Pinot Noir and other cool climate varietals.
Laura Volkman, www.volkmanvineyards.com
Laura Volkman produces elegant Estate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines with intense fruit aromas and flavors. Painstaking vineyard practices and harvest decisions are critical to producing wines with distinguished varietal character.
Privé Vineyard, www.privevineyard.com
Privé specializes in Pinot Noir. Their private events are by invitation and they encourage you to join the mailing list on their website. They welcome private tastings for new friends. Their boutique winery produces 800 cases of premium wines, 300 from their old vine estate Pinot Noir.
Owen Roe, www.owenroe.com
At Owen Roe, their goal is simple: to produce beautiful wines from superior sites in the Pacific Northwest, where fruit ripens slowly and fully, with excellent acidity and balance.
Cristom Vineyards, www.cristomwines.com
Their warm and inviting tasting room overlooks the estate vineyards and gorgeous perenial garden. Bring friends and enjoy a picnic under their portico while you take in the view of Mt. Jefferson and sample their extraordinary Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Viognier and Syrah.
Ken Wright and Tyrus Evans: http://www.kenwrightcellars.com
Ken Wright makes lovely single vineyard pinot noir wine and his tasting room is in Carlton Oregon’s old train depot. The depot was built in 1924 and you can still see the old train tracks out back. This is also the tasting room for Tyrus Evans wines. This is the middle name of Ken and Karen Wrights two sons. They produce Syrah, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Claret and worth the all the attention. Some of these grapes are sourced from Red Mountain AVA, Washington.
Le Cadeau http://www.lecadeauvineyard.com
The drive to this vineyard is breathtaking. Rolling hills, dusty dirt roads and don’t miss the turn just past the red barn. Le Cadeau wines are produced exclusively from estate-grown fruit. The hillcrest vineyard is situated in the southwest corner of the Chehalem Mountains AVA in the north Willamette Valley of Oregon. Diverse slope aspects, extremely rocky soils, and carefully selected clones give our Pinot Noir wines their distinct personality.