The Willamette Valley has set an impressive standard for North American Pinot Noir, on par with the world’s best. If local winery owners have their way, consumers will soon crave not only Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, but also wines labeled from one of its many distinct sub-regions.
Within the last two years the BATF has approved five new AVAs within the valley, with a sixth (the Chehalem Mountains) waiting in the wings. The approval of these AVAs helps consumers make more educated and stimulating purchasing decisions as the valley’s best growing regions are now clearly defined.
The 100-mile-long Willamette Valley is currently Oregon’s largest appellation. It encompasses 5,200 square miles and the bulk of the state’s wineries, which now number over 200. Flanked by the Coastal and Cascade mountains, this appellation has built its reputation on small, quality-oriented producers who are fervently devoted to Pinot Noir. The grape benefits from growing on a variety of hillside slopes and on a range of soils, created by volcanic activity and weathered sedimentary rocks. Increasingly, Pinot Gris is also grown, mostly in the foothills of the Coastal Range.
Willamette’s climate is generally considered cool and wet. This can be a misnomer, as most precipitation occurs outside the growing season. Winters are moderate and summers can be pleasantly warm. To learn more about the Willamette's distinct growing regions see our 'maps and more' section.
Since Thomas Jefferson first tried to cultivate European vinifera in Virginia, the state has been a decided piece of American wine country. Over the years better knowledge, equipment and materials have all contributed to an advancing wine industry, but the more recent decade or two has brought out the real potential that can be found.
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is the Regional Correspondent for Willamette Valley.