Willamette Valley Wine Guide: Everything You Need to Know
by Mark Stock
“Oregon’s Willamette Valley is one of the most exciting regions on the global wine map, period. Long known for Pinot Noir, the roughly 100-mile expanse stretching from Portland to Eugene is also home to a growing number of other varietals, produced in varying styles to much and well-deserved praise.
Often deemed the Burgundy of the New World, the Willamette Valley shares a number of traits with the famous French wine zone. The two are positioned alike in terms of latitude and boast similar climates and growing seasons. Unsurprisingly, what does well there (most famously Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) thrives here. But the valley’s diverse terrain, impeccable soils, and temperate weather are a warm invitation to many other grapes. It’s often said that if you can’t grow it in the Willamette Valley, you probably can’t grow it at all.
The present intersection of established producers and a more experimental new generation of vintners means there’s something for everybody. Better still, the Willamette Valley is coming into its own. Vintners are adding to the valley’s map, showcasing new appellations through stunning wines that simply couldn’t exist anywhere else. And the region is doing all of this while — for the most part, anyway — maintaining its signature hospitable demeanor.
Given the quality of the juice coming out of the area, Willamette Valley winemakers are entitled to a bit of ego. But it just doesn’t feel that way, which is part of the attraction. Tasting here feels like being invited to an old friend’s house for dinner. Sure, some big players have swooped in and the valley is experiencing some growing pains. But it remains a largely collaborative, dynamic, and downright magical wine region.
Riesling fans will love the work of Brooks near Salem, established in 1998. Illahe has been at it for a while but just gets better and better as its vineyard ages. The late great Patricia Green and her eponymous label are treasured by industry and enthusiasts alike while Bergstrom beautifully walks that fine line between power and grace in its esteemed wine lineup.
Argyle launched in 1987, revealing the valley’s vast sparkling potential. Founder Rollin Soles is now at ROCO, another worthy stop. The Shea name has become synonymous with world-class fruit while St. Innocent touts a vastly experienced winemaker in a just-upgraded facility.”