Why You Should Stock Up on Willamette Valley Wines
Look out, California: Over the past two decades, wines from Oregon’s Willamette Valley have skyrocketed in popularity, and it’s no mystery why. Known for its soaring altitudes and unique Jory (volcanic) soils, this Burgundy-reminiscent region is putting out some of the most bright and balanced wines from the West Coast today. For those who prefer their wines on the earthy and restrained side, this region will be a new favorite. However, as always, knowing a bit about its history, and which producers to buy from, is essential. This is what to know about this versatile region.
Where Is the Willamette Valley, and Which Subregions Does It Contain?
The Willamette Valley is located in the northwestern part of Oregon. The valley spans 150 miles long and borders the Cascade Range, Oregon Coast Range, and Calapooya Mountains. It has nine smaller AVAs within its borders: Eola-Amity Hills, Laurelwood, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge, Tualatin Hills, Van Duzer Corridor, and Yamhill-Carlton District.
This Oregon wine region is producing Burgundy-style bottles at much gentler prices.
How Is Willamette Valley Wine Made?
Willamette Valley wines are made in a variety of styles (both sparkling and still) and colors (red, white, and rosé). Most producers tend to harvest their fruit at an optimal ripening point without sacrificing acidity, and when oak is used, it’s generally neutral and restrained.
Which Grapes Are Used in Willamette Valley Wine?
Many grapes are cultivated in the Willamette Valley, although pinot noir is undeniably its claim to fame. Chardonnay and pinot gris are also making a name for themselves across the region. These three grapes account for more than 90% of the Valley’s plantings. Additionally, gamay and riesling are also on the rise.
What Does Willamette Valley Wine Taste Like?
The exact flavor profile of wines from the Willamette Valley differs according to the producer, although generally speaking, these wines are known for their bright acidity, soft tannins (in red wines), and fruit-driven approachability.
Which Foods Should I Pair with Willamette Valley Wine?
Due to their fruit-driven nature, brisk acidity, and approachable tannins, wines from the Willamette Valley are incredibly food-friendly and quite versatile on the table. Willamette Valley pinot noir paired with roasted veggies, grilled meats, or charcuterie boards is a match made in heaven, whereas chardonnay comes to life with poultry, seared fish, and lobster rolls. Willamette pinot gris is excellent with foie gras and salmon, and a bottle of Willamette bubbly promises to please alongside all things fried.