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An Introduction to Oregon Pinot Noir

Since moving to Australia a couple of years ago, I’ve become more familiar with the wide range of wonderful Australian wines, and have learned to love a great many of them. Before moving here from the States, though, I drank mostly French wines – I’d always been partial to them, and avoided many New World wines and I found them often too big for me (remember, this is before really knowing the whole gamut of Aussie wines!). This shifted for me, though, when I started getting into Oregon Pinot Noir.

Only in the past decade or so have Oregon Pinots really gained the recognition they deserve. The cool, wet climate of the northwestern US is an ideal spot for growing wine grapes. Oregon produces a number of beautiful varietals, from Syrah and Cabernet to Viognier and Pinot Gris, but its Pinot Noir is really where it’s at. If you’re new to Oregon Pinot or curious about it, here a few top-line points to get you started:

Climate and Conditions

  • Most Pinot Noir in Oregon hails from the Willamette Valley – this cool-climate valley, nestled between the Cascade Ranges, the Oregon Coast Ranges and the Calapooya Mountains, is very damp with rich soil
  • Growing conditions, climate and terroir in Oregon are similar to that of Burgundy – it’s no surprise that winemakers opted to grow Pinot here! Plus, there is more wiggle room in Oregon to experiment with winemaking, versus the strict, traditional regulations that Burgundians must adhere to
  • Wine making in Oregon (compared to say, California) is more geared towards small scale, artisan producers and small-batch growers; there is often a focus on sustainable farming and production as well (in case finicky Pinot wasn’t challenging enough to grow!)

Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA

Taste

  • Pinot Noir from Oregon really can vary depending on where and when it’s grown; commonly present fruits range from tart red cranberry and ripe strawberry through to dark blackberry
  • Compared to its Californian neighbour, Oregon Pinot Noir tends to be more acidic, fresher and less fruit-forward
  • Oregon Pinot Noirs are often earthy, dry, spicy and herbal with underlying red or dark fruits  – more heavily oaked wines are even spicier, with notes of cinnamon and vanilla

Top Picks

  • A few Willamette Valley wineries to check out:
    • Big Table Farm
    • Adelsheim
    • iOTA Cellars

Rich soil and heavy rainfall make the Willamette Valley a uniquely great spot for growing wine grapes

There isn’t a whole lot of Oregon Pinot floating around in Australia, but if you see it on a list or are Stateside, it’s well worth exploring. If you want to try it at its best, 2008 and 2014 are recognised as a standout years. In terms of food pairing, opt for a big hearty roast, smoky meats and root vegetables.

To learn more about wines from around the globe, check out our articles on other international wine regions.

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Jill Haapaniemi

Jill Haapaniemi

Jill is a lover of all things food and wine. As a food blogger and recipe developer, she is passionate about sharing meals with others, never without a bottle of something to enhance the experience. She spends her free time at her partner’s family winery just outside of Melbourne, and can usually be found drinking Oregon Pinot, wines from the Rhône Valley or Victorian Shiraz.
Jill Haapaniemi

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