Pinot Noir is the most important grape variety in the region and accounts for approximately 70% of plantings. Pinot Gris is the next largest at about 15%, followed by Chardonnay (5%) and Riesling (4%). Since Pinot Noir will be the primary focus of the event, I asked three of the participating winemakers what differentiates Willamette Valley Pinot Noir from Burgundy and California's Russian River Valley? The consensus: expect very fruit forward wines with an acidic backbone.
Harry Peterson-Nedry of Chehalem Winery:
First and foremost differences are climatic, with Oregon’s Willamette Valley a bona fide cool climate and therefore similar to Burgundy, but like California dry during the growing and ripening season. Soils for all areas are different, so show nuance differences. More tightly wound and acid structured wines can be seen in Oregon and Burgundy, more overt fruit in Oregon and California. Oregon’s fruit is vibrant, fresh fruited and forward, with acids for great ageability and for the table.David Adelsheim of Adelsheim Vineyard
The short, simplistic answer is that no other place in the world has the combination of intense fresh fruit, backbone of acidity, and the specific flavors and tannins of the various Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs.Alex Sokol Blosser of Sokol Blosser Vineyards
The main differences are the soil, sun, and growing degree days. We have very similar growing degree days as northern Burgundy but less than Russian River Valley. We have very similar sun hours as southern Burgundy and different than the RRV in CA.
of Oregon Wine
Like Virginia and Maryland, wine tourism is a growing component to Willamette Valley wine sales, yet it can't rely on casual or day-trip tourists from neighboring metropolitan areas. Instead, the Willamette Valley is becoming a wine destination attracting tourists who spend several days touring various wineries. This is a result of the high quality of the wines, or as David Adelsheim states, "the Willamette Valley first developed around very high quality wines; tourism came much later".
I've been thinking of planning a trip to Oregon wine country and I'm sure Pinot in the City will entice me further. I recommend readers do the same - at a minimum you will taste some extraordinary wines. Cheers.