Sunday, May 2, 2010

Say YES To Willamette Valley Vineyards!

I really wish I could say I was more up to speed on Oregon wines and wineries. But I'm not. I'm barely starting to tap into this wonderful area for wines. I'd like to learn more...A few months ago, after posting a note about the upcoming Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla, I received a message from Christine Collier, the Social Marketing Coordinator at Willamette Valley Vineyards in Oregon! She was interested in having me sample some of their wines. A few weeks later, I received three samples and a nice set of information.

Willamette Valley Vineyards is a beautiful winery located in Turner, Oregon. The estate site was purchased in 1983 by founder Jim Bernau and he had a lot of work to do. The land was once the home of an old plum orchard laden with blackberry vines that needed to be cleared away before anything else could be planted. With some diligence and hard work, he began planting Pinot Noir (Pommard and Wadenswil) and Chardonnay clones (Dijon and Espiguette) along with Pinot Gris. The vineyard he had started to plant had no irrigation system, so Jim began by watering everything by hand using a garden hose! In 1989, the land finally was ready for Jim to begin realizing his dream! The vineyards are now tended to carefully and with much attention to detail. From using the highest quality fruit to responsible vineyard management, Jim and his team are committed to sustainable practices in their vineyards and all of their vineyards are certified sustainable. Their Estate Pinot Noir block is certified organic.

Seems Jim has a come a long way since those days and the winery slowly grew into one of the region's leading wineries earning many accolades along the way. The Wine Enthusiast Magazine named Willamette Valley Vineyards "One of America's Great Pinot Noir Producers." Rightly so. I understood this point immediately when I sampled the wines. Rich, balanced and handcrafted, these are very classy and elegant--- wines of distinction.

The first wine I sampled was the 2008 Willamette Valley Vineyards Riesling. Now mind you, I am used to the almost bone-dry but still flavorful Rieslings so this one caught me off guard. It is stylistically similar to a lot of the semi-sweet German-style Rieslings out there. It had some tropical notes such as pineapple and peach and not so much of the apple flavor I notice in this varietal. It was really refreshing and had quite a long finish. I would pair it up with Asian dishes such as sushi and spicy stir-fry. I would also recommend this wine for novice white wine drinkers who are not quite ready to sample anything very dry. Delicious! $12.00.

There is a lot of Pinot Noir out there now and some of it is questionable. Sometimes, all it can take is a magazine article, word of mouth or even a movie to turn something into a cash cow. I have been shying away from Pinot Noir for this reason. Pinot Noir can be pricey and you must have your facts in line before spending the money these days or you may end up with something not so good. With Oregon wines, there is no need to panic! I sampled two of Willamette Valley Vineyards' Pinot Noirs and both were exquisite and great buys for the price point.

The first one was the 2007 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir. This one is what I call their "Entry-level" Pinot Noir. This was a light and very juicy wine--bursting with red fruit. Cranberries and tart cherries, spiciness and earth. Very nice long finish. Really enjoyable. I paired mine up with roasted salmon and it fared nicely. $25.00.

The next one I took with me to a restaurant one evening. The 2007 Willamette Valley Vineyards Tualatin Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir. What a beautiful wine this was! This was single vineyard Pinot Noir at its finest! I close my eyes and smile when I think of the experience! This was a full-bodied melange of raspberry, cranberry and pomegranates, smoky and spicy with toasted graham cracker and cinnamon flavors. So heavenly! Lush but tough enough to stand up to my grilled filet mignon. This wine will pair well with pork, lamb and gamey meats. So rich and powerful.$40.00.

With such handcrafted wines and careful attention and commitment to excellence, this winery has it all! They will continue to strive to be the Best of the Best! I have to say, I am pretty excited and impressed by them and am really looking forward to meeting with Christine at the conference. I hope to sample some more of their wines and maybe actually visit the winery in the near future. Thanks to Christine Collier and the winery team for bringing such nice wines to my attention!

For those of you who are interested in purchasing these wines, the first two are generally available in fine wine shops and markets nationwide. The single vineyard Pinot Noir is currently available for order. Please check them out!


  1. Grace,

    What a great post. I am so glad you enjoyed our wines! The 2008 Pinots will be released soon- 2008 is being called the best vintage in Oregon's history- so I will have to have you try them to get more familiar with Oregon :)

    See you in Walla Walla!


  2. Grace I love wine from Oregon. I've had the pleasure of Pinots from Archery Summit, Syrahs from Owen Roe and Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot and loved them all. Its an outstanding area for wine and I hope to taste even more from Oregon. Cheers Dan