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.