Oregon’s Fabulous Pinot Noirs

What is it about Oregon Pinot Noir that makes it special? Wine experts could argue endlessly about this question. One thing is clear. When it comes to Pinot Noir, only a handful of regions in the world have consistently demonstrated exceptional results with this ancient grape and Oregon is definitely in that small club.

Pinot Noir’s Story

The history of Pinot Noir begins in the Burgundy region of France and dates back to at least the first century A.D., but may have been cultivated in other places even before that. Wherever it originated, it is in Burgundy where Pinot Noir flourished in spite of its tendencies toward being difficult to grow, low-yielding and subject to various maladies. The wines of France including Burgundy, Bordeaux and Champagne set the world’s standards for great wine and remain among the leaders in the global market today.

Picky Pinot Noir

In the Bordeaux region of France the two most widely grown grape varietals are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. These two varietals, often combined with other grapes, make up the spectacular blends that we know collectively as Bordeaux. Over time, many regions in the world found that it was easy to grow sturdy, thick-skinned Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes with good results. In Burgundy, the rather finicky, thin-skinned Pinot Noir grape was a different story. Although it would grow in other places, the results were nearly always disappointing.

Oregon – New World Burgundy

The Oregon Pinot Noir industry has its roots in California with frustrated winemakers unable to produce outstanding Pinots in their warm, dry climate. In the mid 1960’s several headed north to the cooler, wetter growing conditions of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. By the mid 1970’s the industry was firmly established and even the French took notice and began investing in Oregon. Over time California has discovered some cooler-climate growing regions that are highly favorable to Pinot Noir, but in Oregon the grape produces results that are more akin to Burgundy than anywhere else in the world. It is this quality that sets Oregon apart.

What Makes for A Good Oregon Pinot?

Pinot Noir is a light to medium weight red wine with silky tannins and a variety of complex flavors. Styles can vary greatly, causing some confusion. Everything from elegant and restrained to opulent and hedonistic versions can obtain good reviews, depending on the preferences of the reviewer. Great pinots offer intense berry flavors, a sweet heady aroma, moderate weight on the palate and a soft finish that lingers pleasantly. It’s best served with foods like grilled salmon, roasted chicken or lightly grilled red meats without complex sauces. The ideal way to learn about Pinot Noir is to enjoy a great meal with friends and compare several or even better, explore Oregon wine country for yourself.