More to Try and Love in Oregon’s Willamette Valley Than Pinot Noir

Oregon Winery
Formaglini Vineyards family, Willamette Valley, Oregon

Wine regions like Napa Valley and Oregon have earned their stripes by specializing in the grape that grows best in their soils. Napa Valley = cabernet sauvignon. Oregon = pinot noir.

A few years ago, I spent a fabulous summer day tasting wines throughout Oregon’s Willamette Valley. I fell head-first in love with these wines, the authenticity of the people, the beauty of the valley, and the well-preserved small-town essence of the area. But after a dozen or so pinot noir tastings, I was clamoring for a different pour. Our last stop was at Argyle Winery, where they proudly produce a beautiful sparkling wine we could taste. I was giddy for the palate refresher and thrilled to learn of other Oregon wines.

If you love pinot noir, Oregon wines are a must-try. Knowing the quality of the pinot and the talent of its producers, I have happily broadened my Oregon range including these recommended wines:

*Argyle Winery Vintage Brut 2012 – I was thrilled to find Argyle Sparkling available over the holidays at Maestro’s steakhouse in Costa Mesa. These bubbles are produced in the methode champenoise style. 60 percent chardonnay/40 percent pinot noir.  www.argylewinery.com.

*Formaglini Vineyards 2013 Insieme  – This is Santa Ana resident David de Lancellotti’s first red wine blend from his estate vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains of Oregon. It’s 75 percent pinot noir/25 percent lagrein. The 2013 La Quercia Block Pinot Noir recently earned 93 points from Wine Spectator.  www.formaglinivineyards.com.

*Ovum Memorista Riesling Eola-Amity Hills 2014  – This wine is a beauty, showcasing the vineyard’s basaltic terroir and the passion of its winemakers.  www.ovumwines.com

*Ponzi Pinot Gris 2014 – Ponzi pioneered pinot gris in the US with plantings in 1978. Their history and experience with this varietal has made it a flagship wine for Ponzi.  www.ponziwines.com

If the Willamette Valley is on your vacation calendar this year, here are a few of my favorite tasting stops:

  • Colene Clemens Vineyards – its 2012 pinot noir ranked No. 45 on the 2015 Wine Spectator The tasting room is a charming, modern woodsy lodge and the views of Ribbon Ridge are spectacular.
  • Alexana Winery – We relaxed on the big deck, wine glass in hand in rocking chairs, soaking in the beauty of the vineyards below.
  • WillaKenzie Estate – The tasting room and deck are large and the list of pours extensive. WillaKenzie does host tastings in Orange County at least once a year, so join their email last to be in the know.
  • Red Hills Market – This is a true gathering place for local chefs, farmers, residents, and tourists passing through. We ordered a pizza, a bottle of wine, and played bocce with our daughters. The food was spectacular and the genuine hospitality much appreciated.

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