Perfecting Pinot in Willamette Valley

Finding a great wine can be a challenge. Especially a solid Pinot Noir

When a new Pinot Noir vintage tastes like it’s been around the block, or rather, aged for 3-5 years instead of 1 or 2 I feel like I’ve won the lottery.

Take perhaps the almighty Pinot Noir which isn’t as fussy about age as a Cabernet, but getting the layers, the nuances of some of the best can be a feat. It’s the endless search for wine that not only gives you a great value for your dollar, but also one your kids won’t beat you up about because the company is decimating the planet. It requires thought, research and balance.

There is a magical place…

There are serendipitous opportunities where one comes across a great bottle by chance. When those situations occur, the rewards have increased 10 fold and you simply cannot believe your luck.

Take the wine pioneer who was the first, pre-prohibition.

There is a magical place in Oregon, where a magnificent flood occurred before humans roamed the earth. One where the soils of volcanoes, sand and loess were dropped as if a blessing from someone with a grander eye, a more powerful objective. Someone who determined that the most graceful Pinots might come from a place a little colder, perhaps a little wetter. While these key ingredients of making the land more robust and the soil richer are important, it’s the visionary who has their eyes on the prize, that talks less and does more, who truly is the master of the success. The master is the visionary who can see the bounty the richness will bring and cultivates a grape of grapes.

The winery named after the famed valley.

The history behind Willamette Valley is as rich as the soil the grapes are grown in.ake the wine pioneer who was the first, pre-prohibition, to tackle the grape growing and wine making process in the Valley, Richard Sumner.A graduate of viticulture and oenology at UC Davis, he was a visionary who realized the potential of the area and felt Pinot Noir would thrive in the region. A lot has changed since those days and the Pinot Noir that began with his cuttings has been planted by many others and the wine has achieved new heights.


Red fruit on the nose and palate, a light chocolate finish.

Willamette Valley Vineyards famed for Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley Image credit: chiyacat

The winery named after the famed valley it resides in, is Willamette Valley Vineyards (WVV). In 1983 the founder, Jim Bernau, who attempted his first wine as a child and later was educated in the viticulture program of UC Davis, began planting his first Pinot Noir. This required manual watering with the requisite garden hose, but it was a beginning. As the quality of his wine grew, so did the imbibers. Over time he needed to buy grapes from other growers in the region. There was no one he respected more than Bill Fuller of Tualatin Estate. While he wanted to buy Fuller’s grapes, Fuller actually had a better offer. Jim could buy his vineyard. That was the first acquisition for Willamette Valley Vineyards. Today Willamette Valley Vineyards is a force, not only in the production of top Pinot Noir, but in employing  practices to offset environmental impact of the business.


The tropical nuance reminiscent of a Hawaiian holiday.

Perfecting Pinot in Willamette Valley

I recently had the opportunity to taste three of their wines. The first, a 2014 Whole Cluster Pinot Noir. Whole cluster fermentation is much more labor intensive and risky, but once you master and control the variables, the result is truly tasty wine. I found the wine to be fruit forward and silky smooth. Red fruit on the nose and palate, a mild chocolate finish and incredibly delicious.

The 2014 Estate Pinot Gris I wasn’t especially excited about because of my limited knowledge about the region and it’s experience with these specific grapes. It turns out Pinot Gris has been grown in Willamette since the beginning and it shows. Its bright citrus notes and the tropical nuance reminiscent of a Hawaiian holiday really enticed me. On the palate, the white flowers and grapefruit leave the perfect finish.

Who is in for a Willamette tasting rendezvous?

I could hardly wait to open the 2013 Estate Pinot Noir. The Whole Cluster was wonderful, but could the 2013 be better? Indeed it was. If you enjoy Pinot Noir, this is a palate pleaser. While it is similar in nature to the Whole Cluster, the finish is longer, the palate, more complex and it’s a great wine to hang on to for a few years. What I love about these Pinots, is the versatility in pairing. Pinot Noir is a bit of a contortionist when it comes to food.

At this point I don’t know how much longer I can wait to visit the region. If you’ve already been, please leave a comment about some of your favorite experiences in Willamette Valley and your favorite wines from the region.

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All I want to do... is have some fun @tressabores #NapaValley check them out. Absolutely outstanding down to earth vibe and wine that`s better for you and planet earth. Sustainable, organic & truly killer wine! #certifiedsustainable #certifiedorganic ...

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~ Anais Nin

The words say it all. Magnificent drink. If you can get it. @turleywine 2015 Napa Valley Library Block Petite Syrah
Dark, brooding with a side of magnificent freshness.

And now back to Paris for a formidably fabulous Friday! Michelin-star restaurant- check! Fabulous dark and exquisite library for enjoying cocktails, a breathtaking entrance of a French hideaway from years ago...

Stunning Michelin star restaurant and beautiful bibliothèque with Parisian friends.

Bookmark this spot! I don’t often share where I dine unless I am out of the country, but because so many people ask 💋🍷💋#TheWineSiren I am going to change that. Take my favorite brunch and Fried Chicken spot! @southsidenapa offers not only some of the freshest most inviting dishes in Napa, they also have a wide array of coffee, tea, wine and bubbles to pair your dishes with.

Its one of the few #petfriendly places with great food and an inviting team. Lots of talent here in the food arena and the outdoor seating area is equipped with swinging chairs, a fire pit and comfortable seating inside and out.

Fried Chicken you ask? Yes! Pairs perfectly with your Napa Valley Sparkling and #Champagne.The best in Napa Valley. Make sure and call ahead, they often sell out.

Hours are 8am-2pm
Breakfast served all day and an expanded lunch menu.

With over 30 years of sustainability under their belt, Domaine Carneros has a big headstart in the way of sustainability. They built the first significant solar installation, recognized as the largest in the world at the time. Far beyond complacent, Domaine Carneros continues to push the limits and try new techniques and strategies to improve their abilities.

Domaine Carneros

An incredible indulgence and the ultimate experience.

It’s in my neighborhood. Two miles away door to door. Why do I find myself returning again and again? Because this is one of the most stunning destinations in Carneros and Napa Valley. Stunning in both taste and views.

The skies, the ultimate blue, the vineyard hills throughout the landscape. It’s a breathtaking pinch yourself situation no matter how often you visit.

The team is so welcoming and the sparkling wine is world class and made sustainably. If you’re ready to step up your sparkling wine game this is where you need to be.

The wines tasted:

2016 Estate Brut Cuvée (late disgorge) ripe pear, white flowers, creamy, beautiful structure.
2019 Brut Rosé Pinot Noir & Chardonnay, incredible well poised, citrus, red berries, almonds and floral notes
2015 Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs Tête de Cuvée The dream. A signature must taste from the most prized blocks of Chardonnay. Evocative of citrus curd, pie crust, a nuance of ginger and tart lemon. I could drink this all day every day!
2017 Ultra Brut Tropical fruit, lime, lemon zest, crisp, lovely palate and exquisite finish.

The ultimate indulgence, featuring three of Tsar Nicoulai’s finest caviars:
Classic, Select, and Golden Reserve
Served with potato chips, toast points, and Cowgirl Creamery crème fraîche.

Make your reservation today! and ask for the caviar experience!

#TheWineSiren #DomaineCarneros #CertifiedSustainable #NapaValley #WinePairing #SparklingWine

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Perfecting Pinot in Willamette Valley

5 Responses

  1. This is my favorite place to go for wines. I have been goin for about 15 years. These Pinots are the best!
    My favorites are:
    Patty Green
    Ken Wright

    You really can’t go wrong at any winery.

  2. We went in September of 2013 for a week and it was great. Went to: St Innocent, Sokol Blosser, Domaine Serene, Domaine Drouhin, Cristom, Eyrie, Bethel Heights, etc. All were great!

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